Ep #10: Catastrophizing

The Autism Mom Coach | Catastrophizing

Do you find yourself time-traveling to the future and imagining a worst-case scenario for yourself or your child, even when it there doesn’t seem to be anything going wrong in that particular moment? Well, this is called catastrophizing, and you’re not the only person that does it.

While catastrophizing is 100% normal for human brains, it is never actually useful. We spend time picturing the worst possible outcome, we completely forget about how we and our children are resilient and resourceful, and it gets us nowhere. So, what can we do to see when we’re catastrophizing and work towards stopping it?

Tune in this week to discover a simple way to reframe your worst-case scenario thoughts and break the cycle of catastrophizing. I’m sharing why your brain loves to catastrophize over things that aren’t even certain, why ignoring it or telling yourself you’re worrying over nothing is never the answer, and how to instead meet yourself with empowering thoughts.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. These self-care packages include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and plenty of other goodies to help you relax and indulge in those moments when you need it most. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why our brains jump to focusing on possible negative scenarios and reacts to them as if they are real.
  • What catastrophizing might look like in your day-to-day as the parent of a child with Autism.
  • Why simply telling yourself not to worry about it never really helps.
  • The importance of separating the act of catastrophizing from the thoughts you’re having.
  • How to stop believing your brain’s catastrophizing stories and give more airtime to other possibilities.

.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!
  • Ep #4: Negativity Bias

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 10 of The Autism Mom Coach. Catastrophizing.

Do you find yourself time traveling to the future and imagining a worse case scenario for yourself or your child? This is called catastrophizing. And while catastrophizing is a 100% normal, it is not useful. When we catastrophize we imagine a worst possible outcome while simultaneously developing amnesia about all of the ways that we and our children are resilient and resourceful. Keep listening to learn a simple way to reframe your worst case scenario thoughts.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with Autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with Autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with Autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you are here and I hope you’re doing well. Today we are going to talk about something I think we all do which is catastrophize. We think of worse case scenarios in our head and then we put ourselves into a full blown panic thinking about them.

Before I get to the topic though I want to share a review from GC Mom titled A Supportive Hug. GC Mom writes, “I’m so glad I found Lisa’s podcast through The Autism Mom’s page. I’m always eager to listen to the next episode when it launches. Lisa is real and I love that she gives examples from her own life and clients.” Well, thank you so much, GC Mom for the review and I am really glad that you find the stories helpful. I also hope that you entered to win one of the self-care packages that I’ll be giving away for folks who review the podcast.

Listen up, the giveaway ends today. So, if you’re listening on the release date of this podcast which is Wednesday May 11th, you still have time to review the podcast and enter to win one of the self-care packages I’m giving away. You can enter to win by going to theAutismcoach.com/podcast launch.

Alright, onto the topic for today. So, let’s say you get an email from your child’s teacher and immediately you start worrying that your child has done something wrong and they are going to get kicked out of school. Or after a few months of speech therapy, you tell yourself that your child will never speak, they will never be able to communicate and their lives will be terrible. When you do this you are catastrophizing. So, let’s just start with a definition.

Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion that prompts people to imagine all of the possible negative scenarios that could happen and emotionally react to them as if they are real. Now, catastrophizing is incredibly common. Remember from episode four, Negativity Bias. Our brains are hardwired to focus on the bad stuff this is because once upon a time the tendency to focus on the bad was essential to our survival. And now thanks to evolution our brains are still constantly on guard and scanning for danger.

The problem isn’t so much the catastrophic thoughts themselves, but the fact that we tend to buy into them. Remember, we believe our own stories and when we believe them we ruminate over them even when no actual threat is present. And the fascinating part is our brains don’t know the difference between an actual and imagined threat. Your brain just knows what you tell it. And when you think about the worst case scenario happening your brain actually thinks it’s happening. This is why your heart starts to race and your throat catches a bit.

Your brain is releasing chemicals into your body, cortisol and adrenalin which are the stress hormones. And then your body, it actually feels like something is happening to you because it is, you’re having a chemical reaction to the thoughts that you are having about something that’s not even happening.

Before I share with you how to handle worse case scenario thoughts I want to tell you what I don’t recommend. I don’t recommend that you tell yourself, just don’t worry about it. It probably won’t happen. And this is for two reasons. First, I don’t know, maybe it will happen. Maybe you’re catastrophizing about your child getting older or getting bigger, or your child’s life when you are no longer around. And chances are hopefully all three of these things will happen.

Your child will age, they will grow, and they will outlive you. And even for the things you may be catastrophizing about that aren’t certain to happen, telling yourself it won’t happen usually doesn’t work. It feels like empty reassurance and your brain is likely to pop up with, well, but it could. It happened to someone else I know. And then your brain goes out searching for all the ways that it could possibly happen and you’re back in that loop.

The second reason I don’t say, assure yourself it won’t happen is because whether the thing you are catastrophizing about happens or not, is really not the issue. The issue is that you think catastrophizing about it is useful in the first place and it’s not. It is really just a way to scare the shit out of yourself now in hopes that this will make it less painful in the future or that by scaring yourself now this will somehow prepare you or maybe even prevent the thing from happening in the future.

Okay, so here is what I do recommend for you when you are having worst case scenario thoughts. First, notice the worst case scenario thoughts and name it. In this step we want to separate the act of catastrophizing from the thoughts you are having. So, let’s say you find yourself spinning about how awful it will be to find another school for your child if they are removed from their current school setting. As soon you notice the thought, stop and name it. I am having a worst case scenario thought about whatever it is, in this case the school placement.

So just to give you an example I do this every day with my son with his OCD loops. And OCD loops and worst case scenario thoughts are very similar, if not actually the same thing. They are really similar because what happens when you’re having an OCD thought or a worst case scenario thought is that your brain is telling you, this is really important, this is urgent. You must think about this now. So let me give you the example for my son.

Let’s say he is looping over whether he said sorry to one of his friends. He will ask me over and over, he will try to tell me the story again and again, giving me more and more context each time. So, here’s how this plays out. I pause him and I say, “Ben, what’s happening here?” Now, Ben knows the routine so he will usually reflexively respond, “OCD.” Then launch right back into the loop.

And so again just slow him down, stop him and say, “What’s happening specifically?” And Ben will respond with something like, “My brain is telling me it is important to tell you this and to get an answer and then I will feel better if I keep talking about it.”  That is OCD. And this is the distinction we are working to make because really it doesn’t matter what he’s looping about. The issue is, is that he’s looping about it in the first place.

Second, now that you have named it, decide, do I want to hang out with this thought or is it time to redirect my brain? Here’s how it plays out with us. I will say to him, “Okay, now that we know that this is OCD and your brain is trying to tell you this is important, what are our options? Do you want to redirect your brain or do you want to hang out with these thoughts?” Sometimes he’s able to redirect himself to one of his strategies rather quickly like distracting himself or just saying, no. But sometimes he wants to hang out, it feels real, and it feels urgent, and it feels important to him.

And this might happen to you too especially when you first start practicing the skill. So okay, fine, let’s hang out with the thought. But here are the rules. If you want to hang out with your worst case scenario thoughts you have to play them out all of the way. This is because when you are catastrophizing your brain doesn’t actually take the scenario all the way. What usually happens is it ruminates about the thought that you find the scariest or the saddest and it just loops there. It doesn’t play it out. So that is what you need to do.

So, going back to the example of the phone call from school, let’s just say your child gets kicked out of school, now what? Do you say, “Okay, thanks”, and read up on homeschooling? Or is it possible that you would contest the decision? Maybe you hire an advocate. Maybe you enlist the school to identify another appropriate environment for your child. Would you probably manage to find another school? I’m not saying this is a pleasant situation, trust me, I’ve had this experience a couple of times.

But a child being removed from a school usually is not the end of the world. And in fact, it can be an opportunity to find a school more suited to the child’s needs. Not only that, but if your child did get removed from their school and your thoughts are, I can’t handle this, then that’s what you’re going to make come true. Remember The Little Engine, if you think you can you will. If you think you can’t you won’t?

Either way you are right, this is because if you think I can’t handle it, it’s going to produce a feeling of hopelessness. Then you’re not going to take any action to help yourself and you are way more likely to end up with no options. Whereas if your thoughts are, I’ll figure this out, then that’s what you’ll do. Your thoughts will create your reality because they will motivate you to take the actions that will create the result that you want. Or let’s just say your child doesn’t speak, this is the case for some children with Autism. They remain non-verbal, does this mean that they will never communicate?

Might they be learning ways to communicate in speech therapy? Might you obtain an AAC device or make use of PECS, sign language or some other modality for supporting non-verbal communication? Is there evidence in the world of people living lives without speaking? Might your child be one of them? Again, this is hard, it’s not what you expected and it is scary but what I’m saying is if you’re going to hang out with these worst case scenario thoughts, plug it all the way out and get concrete.

Don’t just accept your brain’s story that this is clearly a life ending disaster or that you are powerless.

Next, I want you to give equal airtime to other possibilities. When you are spending so much time with your worst case scenario thoughts you’re not even considering other possibilities. And guess what? If you’re not opening up yourself to other possibilities you may never even let them in. Remember, our brains search for evidence to confirm what we believe to be true, this is called our confirmation bias which is another cognitive distortion that we’ll talk about in a later episode.

So, if we spend all of our time in worst case scenario land, our brain will be looking for evidence to confirm whatever stories we are telling ourselves and filtering out evidence to the contrary. So, if you’re going to let your imagination run into the future, which is really all just a fantasy, let it tell you another story as well.

For example, if you’re telling yourself that your child getting removed from their current school is a terrible thing, consider that they might not get removed in the first place. Consider, you may identify a school you prefer over the current placement. Consider a different placement might serve your child better.

So again, accept the premise, it might happen but don’t accept the premise that it’s automatically a disaster. Accept that it might happen and then follow it all the way through mentally to see what you actually need to do. What actions would you need to take? What would you need to decide ahead of time? This is going to free you from all of the anxiety and fear about the catastrophizing.

So, to recap, notice and name it, decide am I hanging out with this thought or am I going to redirect my brain? And then if you’re going to hang out, plug it all the way out and give equal airtime to other possible outcomes. Now, remember it is human to go to the worst case scenario so don’t be surprised when these thoughts pop up because they definitely will. This is okay and the more practiced you get at redirecting your brain and playing the scenario all the way out the more automatic it will become and the less overwhelming these worst case scenario thoughts will be.

Alright, good luck and I’ll talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theAutismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #9: This Should Not Be Happening

The Autism Mom Coach | This Should Not Be Happening

None of us really knows how life is supposed to go. But when it comes to parenting your child with Autism, do you find yourself thinking, saying, or shouting, “This should not be happening?” If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. This situation comes up for myself and many of my clients. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Things not going the way we think they should is unavoidable, and when our expectations and our results clash, it can be really painful. So, as well as showing you how to process this pain, we first need to discuss where the belief that things are supposed to be a certain way comes from, because understanding is going to be key here.

Tune in this week to discover why thinking, “This should not be happening” is never helpful. I’m sharing how to get clear on where these thoughts come from, and why it’s time to leave them behind, so you get to enjoy even the most challenging parts of parenting a child with Autism.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. These self-care packages include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and plenty of other goodies to help you relax and indulge in those moments when you need it most. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Where our thoughts about how things should be come from.
  • The conflict and pain that comes up for us when fantasy and reality don’t match.
  • Why nothing is guaranteed in this life, but that doesn’t stop us from having very specific expectations.
  • How to see the thoughts that are causing you difficulty in your parenting journey.
  • What you can do to start changing your expectations, release your thoughts, and spend more time enjoying your parenting experience, even when it’s challenging.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

Episode nine, This Should Not Be Happening. When it comes to parenting your child with Autism do you find yourself thinking, saying or shouting, “This should be not be happening?” If so you are not alone. Keep listening.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with Autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with Autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with Autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. Today I want to talk to you about a situation that I and many of my clients struggle to handle which is when things do not go the way we think that they should, or when things suck because sometimes they do.

Before we get to that I want to read a podcast review from Jamie Gregory Designs titled A Powerful Resource. Jamie writes, “Lisa’s podcast and coaching program is lifechanging for parents raising Autistic children. Two months ago, I was at an all time low during our journey of raising our four year old Autistic twin boys. And I’m so grateful that I discovered The Autism Mom Coach. I really appreciate Lisa’s honesty, sincerity and compassion.

She has helped me tremendously to better understand meltdowns and increase my self-awareness of my thoughts and feelings as a special needs parent. As special needs parents we often feel helpless and isolated. It’s so refreshing to be connected with someone like Lisa who gets it and empowers us to navigate this difficult journey.” Thank you so much, Jamie for taking the time to write that wonderful review.

As you may have noticed from the review, Jamie is a client of my one-on-one coaching program and she has made incredible progress in just a few short weeks that we’ve been working together. Jamie is a mother of twin four year old boys both diagnosed with Autism at the beginning of COVID which I like to tell her is the equivalent of walking uphill in the snow both ways.

And today’s topic is one that Jamie and I recently coached on. She and her husband are training to run a half marathon trail run and just one week before the race the entire household comes down with a nasty stomach bug. I’ll talk more about Jamie’s run in an upcoming episode. But let’s just say that getting sick the week before the race was not how she had planned it, but yet, that’s what happened. When how we plan things or how we think they are supposed to go and then how they actually are a clash, it can be really painful.

Before we get to how to process this pain I want to talk about where this thought or belief that things are supposed to be a certain way comes from. Because personally I don’t believe that any of us knows how life is supposed to go. But we have these ideas about how it should be or at least how we want it to be. And just like any other thoughts, these thoughts come from our upbringings, our families, our friends, our social conditioning and social media, just to name a few. But these are all fantasies because nothing is guaranteed.

Still though we plan our days, and our years, and our lives around our thoughts about how things should be. I think this is especially so for women when it comes to motherhood. We think about the type of mother we will be, the things we will do with our children, the milestones we will celebrate, the schools they will attend, and the vacations we will take. And we all have ideas about how these things should go.

For example, I have two friends both single parents who recently told their children that they will be going to Disney this summer. Both parents had planned these elaborate ways to reveal the vacation that they had been saving up for and planning to their children. The first friend’s kids reacted in exactly the way I imagine he had hoped. They cheered and they hugged one another and everyone was so excited.

The second friend’s kids, well, they appeared excited at first but they became quickly frustrated when they learned that they would need to wait until June. And then when one of the children found out that he would have to take an airplane to get to Disney, well, that did it. He ran from the room screaming, no, and crying. Not the way my friend had imagined it but that’s how it went. And even in the areas where we don’t have detailed plans or dreams about how life should be we definitely have a lot of ideas about how it should not be.

Our kids should not have Autism. They should not struggle as much as they do. They should not hit themselves, or others, or us. We should not have to call 911 on our children. We should not have to replace another TV, or iPhone, or iPad because, well, you know. So, there is how we think it should or should not be and how it actually is. And when fantasy and reality clash it creates conflict for us. And this is painful.

Another example, so a couple of weeks ago my son and I were interviewed by the local news about our experience at the Autism Unit of The Hospital for Special Care in Connecticut. My son was really proud to share his story and he did such a beautiful job talking about his inpatient and partial hospitalization experiences. I’ll put the link to the interview in the show notes for those of you interested in seeing the interview and learning more about The Hospital for Special Care.

In some ways this interview, it felt like a victory lap, the family at rock bottom and struggling to the family offering their story to others and moving off into the sunset. No, that’s not how it works in real life. Just a few days after this interview my son was readmitted to the partial program for additional support. And the thought I kept finding myself coming back to was this shouldn’t be happening. Now, the experience of seeing my son struggling was painful and that pain was unavoidable. I love him, I don’t want to see him suffer.

But my thoughts, this should not be happening, we are back to square one, these thoughts created a lot of suffering. This is an important distinction because there is a difference between pain and suffering. So, pain is part of the human experience and it’s unavoidable. As human beings who are connected to others, we’re going to feel pain. We’re going to feel negative emotions. That’s part of being human. Suffering, however, suffering is optional. Suffering is what happens when we resist our pain and we push against it.

So, every time I think about pushing against pain I think of having a contraction. So, the pain of a contraction is unavoidable, unless you get that epidural real quick. So just imagine, you have a contraction, it goes up, up, up and then it recedes. And so now you’re between contractions. Imagine between contractions that you hold your breath and you tell yourself, this is too much, I shouldn’t have to feel this way. This is awful. That resistance will cause suffering because again, the pain is unavoidable, it’s going to happen.

Just like the physical pain of having a contraction for example is unavoidable, the emotional pain of a sick parent, or a child who is struggling, or having to cancel plans, that’s unavoidable. But the suffering caused by thoughts like, my dad should not be sick, my child should not be hurting himself, and we are back to square one. All of those thoughts, they are optional. All of those thoughts that cause suffering I like to think about it as pain being unavoidable and suffering being us doubling down on our own pain.

And the way that we double down on our own pain is through the thoughts that resist the pain that we’re experiencing. So, the antidote to resisting reality and the suffering that it creates is acceptance. We can choose whether we double down on our own pain by telling ourselves that this should not be happening or drop into acceptance. Acceptance is allowing what is happening to be there without resisting it. But how? How do we go from fighting reality, this should not be happening, to dropping into acceptance?

Right now, it’s like this, I think this depends. Now, for minor disappointments or irritations, this may be a matter of intentionally shifting your thoughts. But there will be situations where this shift is not as seamless because we are still clinging to our anger, or our grief, or our disappointment. So, what to do. Before we can do the thought work to decide what we want to think and feel, we need to process how we are actually feeling. We need to let it out. Here’s how I do this.

First, round up all of the thoughts that are creating the suffering. You can do this by talking to your partner, trusted friends, a coach, or a therapist, or even a stranger on Facebook, whatever works for you. I have a few close friends I deeply trust and I can share anything with them, even the ugly stuff. But maybe talking to someone does not feel comfortable to you or maybe it’s not available in the moment that you need it. If that’s the case write down all of the thoughts that are bubbling up inside of you. Gabby Bernstein calls this rage on the page. And I love this.

Have your own grown up meltdown on a piece of paper and get all of the ugly out. Don’t filter, edit or judge yourself. Give yourself the gift of releasing all of these painful thoughts onto a piece of paper. I’ll share a few of mine with you. I wish my child with OCD would stop asking me the same question. Now, yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds but that’s what’s inside of me right now and I want to get it out.

I wish my son was more Autistic. Yes, I know, judge away but right now I’m thinking that if he were more impacted then he would suffer less because he would not see the differences between himself and other children. As un-PC or cringe worthy as any of your thoughts are, get them out. I like this process of rage on a page because it gets the thoughts out of my head and it’s part of the process of releasing them from my body of actually processing the emotion.

When I do this I don’t do it in my journal. I take out a blank sheet of paper and I fill it up and then I rip it up or I put it in the shredder. These are not thoughts I want to keep inside of my head, my body or my journal. I want to release them.

Next, get present with the emotions that came up. What does it feel like? Where are you holding them in your body? Breathe slowly and deeply through them, in and out like you are riding a wave.

And then finally, when you are ready, you can do the thought work about how you want to think, and feel, and act about the circumstances in your life, including the things that you don’t believe should be happening. To do this you can begin by asking yourself powerful questions like, now what? What am I going to choose next now that this is the way it is? And how am I going to move forward? Remember, this is not easy stuff, so go slow and give yourself tons of grace.

Before I go I want to remind you that there is one week left to enter to win one of the three self-care packages I’m giving away to listeners who rate and review the podcast. Please go to theAutismmomcoach.com/podcastlaunch to learn how to enter the contest. Thank you and talk next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theAutismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #8: Riding the Wave

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Riding the Wave

Our emotions are a lot like waves. They build up and they break, they ebb and they flow. You can try to stand firm in their way and get knocked over or pulled under, or you can let go, let them flow, and ride the wave until it meets the shore and disappears, and I’m showing you how.

I have the perfect tool for you in this episode for processing your emotions. Now, I know what you’re thinking: you’ve been having emotions your whole life, so why does anything need to change now? Well, most of us never learned how to process emotions, and some were even taught to ignore or resist our emotions. But when you’re parenting children with big emotions, you need a more comprehensive approach for processing your own.

Tune in this week to discover the power of riding the waves of emotion. I’m sharing why trying to avoid emotions coming up for you or your child isn’t helping, and how instead you can allow for the full emotional experience without avoidance or distractions, living and learning through all of it.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. These self-care packages include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and plenty of other goodies to help you relax and indulge in those moments when you need it most. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How I found myself trying to control everything around my son to prevent him from experiencing big emotions.
  • The ways we try to ignore or resist our emotions, or we overreact to them.
  • Why we need a new approach when it comes to dealing with our emotions.
  • How to process your emotions using my three-step NOW method.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

Full Episode Transcript:

Episode eight, Riding the Wave. Emotions are a lot like waves. They peak and they break, they ebb and they flow. You can stand rigid against them and get knocked over or pulled under, or you can let go, let them flow and ride the wave. Keep listening to learn how.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing well and finding these episodes useful. I have to admit that I’ve been holding my breath a bit lately because things are changing. For one, I just learned that my son’s teacher has resigned. And my son will have a new teacher for the remainder of the school year. And on top of that we are researching high school placements. And the one thing that is for sure is that my son will not be in his current school environment next year.

And this is a bit nerve-wracking. This year has been going pretty well in the sense that the school is a great fit and he is really well supported emotionally and academically. But like it or not this has been a regular part of our experience for the last 12 years. We settle into a good routine, we establish a great rapport with a teacher, or a school and then something changes. And this does not just go for schools, it applies to everything really, doctors, therapist, medications. They work until they don’t.

And this is so challenging because we get attached to our supports. And when something is working it is so natural to want to cling to it for dear life. And this lends nicely to the topic for today which is riding the wave. In this episode I am going to teach you a technique for processing your emotions. Now, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking I should know how to do this, I’ve been having emotions for years. Hold the judgment. The truth is most of us never learned how to process emotions.

In fact, a lot of us were taught explicitly or implicitly that emotions are to be ignored, mind over matter, just plough through and get it done. And now we find ourselves in the position of parenting kids with let’s say big emotions and very big responses to their emotions. So, if we want to stay calm and support our children in processing their big emotions it is important to understand how to process our own.

But first let’s talk about what we usually do in response to emotions that we don’t want to feel. First, we try to control the circumstances. Remember, circumstances, the only line of the self-coaching model that we can’t control? Yeah, this is exactly what we try to control, the one thing we can’t, our children, other people, the environment. And I did this for years and I still do it to some extent. I did not want to feel helpless or out of control so I tried to control everyone and everything around my son so that he would not have a meltdown.

I brought extra birthday presents for him to family parties because when he was younger he did not understand why the birthday child was the only person getting gifts and he was not. And let me tell you, this got a lot of stares from family members and friends who said things like, “You’re spoiling him”, and all that. And yeah, maybe so but really I was trying to control and avoid what I saw as the bigger threat which was him melting down in front of everyone and party being over.

What else did I do? I ordered his food as soon as we sat down at a table to ensure the least amount of waiting. And one time I went so far as to stuff his birthday party pinata with ziplocked bags of treats, with each party guest’s name on it. So that my son would not be upset that he did not get as much candy or the same toys or trinkets as someone else. I mean seriously, I know how crazy that sounds and even at the time I did but again I was like I control the situation or he’ll be out of control and I don’t want to handle that. So that’s what I did.

And despite all of these clever little plans and hacks, most of them didn’t even work. My son would get upset and he would do what humans do and he would have an emotional reaction. And then I would feel so defeated and exhausted because I was trying to control the things I can’t control, which always when I say that, reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is my favorite prayer and really probably the only one I can remember. But it was hanging in my grandparents’ house, when I do think of it, it brings me so much peace because a line, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Well, circumstances are something that in the moment you can’t change and when you’re trying to control them it feels exhausting and you feel defeated when it doesn’t work. So first, we try to control it.

Second, we avoid our emotions. We avoid them by distracting ourselves with just about anything, food, work, booze, shopping, mindlessly scrolling, Netflix, even cleaning which is by the way, one of my favorites. Whatever we can do to occupy ourselves and avoid our emotions. So, after my son was diagnosed I purchased every sensory toy I could find and I created a little classroom in my dining room of learning materials, sensory boxes and educational toys.

What I never did, I never sat with my feelings of fear and sadness. I just ploughed right through them by busying myself with projects.

Third, we resist our emotions, we suppress them, we ignore them, maybe we think we don’t have time. Maybe we view it as self-indulgent. Maybe we are afraid of opening up pandora’s box. But our emotions don’t like to be ignored. So, they get louder, and louder, and more intense until we can’t push them down anymore and boom, we react, we cry, we yell, we scream, we melt down. And sometimes this feels good but most of the time we don’t like the way we show up when we react to our feelings.

Luckily there is a middle ground between stuffing our feelings away and overreacting to them. And this is called processing your emotions. I am going to teach you how to do this using the acronym NOW. N stands for notice and name, notice the emotion in your body and name it. I feel anxious. I feel disappointed. I feel angry. Noticing and then naming the emotion helps us to demystify the experience for ourselves.

O stands for observe, once you notice and name the emotion you can begin to observe it. And this means you describe the emotion in detail like you are describing it to someone who has never heard of it or experienced it before. Imagine that you’re describing the emotion to your child or you’re trying to give them the words to understand the emotions that they’re having in their bodies. Do this for yourself. Is it hot or is it cold? What does it feel like, is it clenching, is it tight? Where is it in your body, is it in your head, or your throat, or your stomach?

The better you get at discerning this for yourself the more language you will have to help your child identify their own emotions, so win/win.

And then the W stands for wave as in ride the wave. Emotions are a lot like waves. They peak and they crash, they ebb and they flow. Now, you can stand up straight and brace yourself against the wave and guess what will happen? It will knock you over or pull you under. So instead of bracing yourself against the emotion, open up to it. Let it flow through you and imagine riding it like you would a wave.

Here’s the important thing to remember, all of our feelings are simply vibrations of energy moving through our bodies. They can’t hurt us. So instead of standing firmly against them, let them flow. And here’s the other thing, our bodies want to return to a state of homeostasis or balance. So, when you find yourself stoked by an intense emotion like anger or fear your ability to open up to it and ride the wave will help it dissipate.

The best advice here is to stay focused on the somatic, that is the physical bodily experience of the emotion and to stay out of your head. Because the thoughts like oh my God, this is terrible, this is too much, these thoughts will keep the emotion going. So instead of dissipating and returning to a state of balance you are actually amplifying the experience with your own thoughts. So, when you find this happening just return to the somatic experience, to enter your body and tune out the chatter. And there it is, NOW, notice the name, observe and wave, ride it.

Alright, that is it for today. Give this a try and let me know how it goes. But one more thing, before I go I want to remind you, if you haven’t already, please take the time to rate and review the podcast. This really makes it easier for other moms to find the podcast and it helps me understand what is going well, what you like and what you would like to see more of. So please go to theautismmomcoach.com/podcastlaunch, there you can learn how to enter to win a prize for rating and reviewing the podcast.

And I promise you, these prizes are pretty good. They are from Duross & Langel in Philadelphia. And I put together some self-care packages that I want to share with three listeners who rate and review the podcast.

Alright, thanks again for listening and I will talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theautismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #7: When You Are Rigid

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | When You Are Rigid

All-or-nothing thinking, or being rigid, is generally defined by pairs of opposites. So, maybe you’re thinking of someone or something as simply good or bad, working or not working. But it can also show up as thinking there are only two choices available in a situation. And this comes up in so many areas of our lives.

While cognitive rigidity is a characteristic of Autism, it is also alive and well in all of us to some degree. In fact, as parents, the more stressful our lives become, the more we tend to rely on the safety of all-or-nothing thinking, becoming more rigid as a result of this thought process. So, what can we do about it?

Tune in this week to discover where rigid all-or-nothing thinking is impacting your parenting, and what you can do to manage it. I’m sharing why our brains love this way of processing the world around us, and I’m showing you how to see the thoughts that are leading you down the path of this either-or mindset.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. These self-care packages include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and plenty of other goodies to help you relax and indulge in those moments when you need it most. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why all-or-nothing thinking is a default for all human beings.
  • How this cognitive rigidity might be showing up in your life right now.
  • The thought patterns that lead to all-or-nothing thinking.
  • What you can do to manage your mind when you find yourself stuck in all-or-nothing thinking.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to The Autism Mom Coach, episode seven, When you are Rigid.

While cognitive rigidity, like all or nothing thinking, is a characteristic of autism it is also alive and well in each one of us. In fact, the more stressful our lives are the more we tend to rely on the safety of all or nothing thinking and the more rigid we become. To learn how all or nothing thinking is impacting your parenting and what you can do to manage it, keep listening.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Hello everyone and welcome to podcast. I’m so glad you’re here and I hope you are doing well. We are doing really well here. We have been having such a great time in our new place. We just moved in last week and it’s been pretty busy but all in all it’s gone super well.

And the last thing that I moved from our apartment to the townhouse was the LEGO Death Star. I have a job figuring out how to transport this giant LEGO set. Now, for those of you who are not familiar, the Death Star is from the Star Wars movies. It is the empire’s moon sized space station and it can blow up planets and fun things like that. The LEGO version of the Death Star is 4,000 pieces.

My son had been asking for this LEGO set since he was seven years old. And I always told him, “No, we’re going to wait until you get older, when you have more experience and more patience, that’ll be the appropriate time to do it.” And so sure enough the perfect time came when COVID hit and he was 13 years old. He had put together tons of LEGO sets so we knew he had the skills to do it. And it just seemed to be the perfect thing to do during quarantine. And it was, he was beyond thrilled to receive it and he had so much fun putting it together.

And he was just so proud of himself because he put it together in just a few weeks and that was with me urging him to take breaks. And he was just having so much fun with it so it was overall just a really nice experience. But now two years later this Death Star is actually my Death Star because my son can’t even stand the sight of it. A few pieces fell off, a few went missing and boom the Death Star was dead to him. It was either perfect or it was worthless. And I found this so frustrating and I have a lot of thoughts about it.

And some of these thoughts are, LEGOs never work out. There is always a problem. He can never just enjoy himself. I wasted $500. And this was a fail. Notice anything here? Thought work has been really eye opening and humbling for me, noticing all of my all or nothing thinking, and all of my rigidity. And it’s not just me. I see this in my clients all the time. And it seems ironic at first. We are raising kids with autism, they are the ones with all or nothing thinking. They are the rigid ones, but guess what? So are we. And sometimes maybe even more so.

I want to talk to you about all or thinking, how it shows up and how it makes perfect sense but also what we can do to manage our minds when we find ourselves in these either or situations.

So, first, all or nothing thinking is usually defined by pairs of opposites such as something or someone is good or bad. And this is all over the place in the autism community. Take for instance, ABA therapy, love it or hate it, no in between. Puzzle pieces, that’s a big one for some people, it’s either the greatest thing or the worst thing. Something is either working or it is not, think vaccines, medications, speech therapy. But it can also show up as believing there are only two choices to something.

For example, do you remember the character, Walter from the Muppets movie? This was the 2011 version. In the song, A Man or a Muppet, the character, Walter is having an identity crisis caused by the fact that he sees both sides of him-selves and the belief that he is either one or the other. That is what all or nothing thinking tells us. And when you start looking for it you will find it everywhere. And it’s everywhere because it comes so naturally to the human brain. It provides our brains with certainty. And brains love certainty.

Certainty means safety, it means your brain gets to preserve energy because it does not have to think or ponder. You’re either a man or you’re a Muppet, no identity crisis, simple. So, take a look at your thoughts and see where this shows up. And I’m going to ask you a few questions here just to see if you see yourself in any of these. Are you telling yourself you have to implement a therapy exactly as prescribed or you’re doing it wrong? Do you tell yourself that your child is either progressing or regressing?

Are you telling yourself that you can only feel loved by your child if they say the words, “I love you?” Do you tell yourself that you need to cut someone out of your life because they did something you dislike? Are you telling yourself that you have to give up on living your life because your child has autism? Do you find yourself thinking your child will either be 100% independent or 100% dependent on you? These are all signs that you’re currently in all or nothing thinking. You are being rigid.

And while there is a lot of comfort for our brains in all or nothing thinking, there is a huge downside to it as well. When we view life at the extremes we miss all of the nuance and possibility in between. We cut ourselves off from our own creativity, resourcefulness and resilience when we opt for the comfort of mental shortcuts over the discomfort of shades of grey. And when it comes to our children, when we view their happiness and success as either or, we set ourselves up for heartache and we miss all of the magic in the middle.

Back to the Death Star, if I were to view this with all or nothing thinking here is what I would be letting go of. The excitement I felt when I ordered this for my son. The anticipation I felt when he opened the box. The utter joy of watching him jump up and down and scream with excitement. The pride of watching him diligently building a complex set. And all of the feels of seeing him taking pride in his own accomplishment. All of that gone because why? A few pieces are no longer together. No, thanks, I’ll keep the good and the amazing if it means it comes with some disappointment.

The space between all or nothing is vast. So, the next time you feel yourself in black and white thinking ask yourself these questions. How could the opposite be true? Where could I be wrong about this? What could a third option be? How could both of these things be true? Get curious with yourself, take a look, see where all or nothing thinking is coming up for you and challenge yourself to find a third, or fourth, or tenth option.

Speaking of all or nothing thinking I just realized that I did not read the review that I meant to read at the beginning of this episode. So, I’m going to be flexible and I’m going to read it now. And as a reminder to all of you, if you haven’t done so already, please go and rate and review the show. This makes it easier for other moms like us to find the show and it also gives you an opportunity to share what you like and to make suggestions for things that you would like to see in the future.

Right now I’m going to read a review from CT Mom JS2. And she writes, “Practical encouraging advice from someone who’s clearly been in the trenches. It’s so easy to feel alone as a parent, Lisa talks with the confidence of a mom who’s not pretending to understand.” Well, thank you so much for that review. And for sure you are right, I am not pretending to understand at all. I am there with you in the trenches on our own journey. And although all of our circumstances look a little bit different, I’m a single mom of one child who is verbal and high functioning.

And I know that’s not the circumstance for all of us but there are more things that we have in common than we don’t. And so, I am so glad to offer any support I can to you wherever you are in your journey and to whatever your circumstances are. So again, please go rate and review the show and enter to win the contest. I am giving away self-care packages to three listeners who rate and review the show. To find out more go to theautismmomcoach.com/podcastlaunch and you can get all the details on how to enter the contest.

The contest runs through the beginning of May. So, if you haven’t already, please get your review in. I would love for you to be one of the people who wins one of these self-care packages from Duross & Langel in Philadelphia. This has been my go to place for gifts for teachers, carers, one-on-one aids, speech therapist, OTs, you name it, since my son was three years old. It’s a fantastic place. They have wonderful products. And all you have to do is enter the contest and you may win one of them.

So, with that, thank you for listening and I will talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theautismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #6: The Self-Coaching Model

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | The Self-Coaching Model

Remember the book The Little Engine That Could? Before The Little Engine has the courage to start up the hill, another character tells her, “If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t. Either way, you’re right.” This is the power our thoughts have to create the results we want in our lives.

Last week, I introduced you to the Think-Feel-Act Cycle, which is at the very center of The Self-Coaching Model. It’s a profoundly simple but effective tool we can use to transform our lives, and as promised, this week, I’m showing you how The Self-Coaching Model works so you can apply it in real time when you feel stressed, or your child is having a meltdown and everything feels like it’s crumbling around you.

Join me on the podcast to discover what The Self-Coaching Model consists of, and how to use it in your everyday life. I’m showing you what circumstances and results mean in the context of this Model, and I’m also offering a couple of caveats as you begin practicing and brainstorming new thoughts.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. These self-care packages include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and plenty of other goodies to help you relax and indulge in those moments when you need it most. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The difference between the think-feel-act cycle and the self-coaching model.
  • How the self-coaching model works.
  • 2 things you need to know about circumstances in the context of the self-coaching model.
  • What it means to separate your thoughts from your circumstances.
  • How to shift your current model and results.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode six of The Autism Mom Coach, The Self-Coaching Model. Remember the book, The Little Engine That Could, I Think I Can. I Think I Can? Well, before the little engine had the courage to go up that hill another character in the book told her, “If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t. Either way you are right.” This is the power our thoughts have to create the results in our lives. To learn a simple tool for creating the results you want in your life, keep listening.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Welcome to episode six and thank you for being here. I hope you are doing well and enjoying the beginning of April. As we all know it is Autism Awareness Month. And I’m seeing so many educational posts in my feed from other parents who are taking the time to educate their families, friends and acquaintances about autism. Bravo to all of you. We are the first and the best examples of what autism awareness and acceptance looks like. We model it every day and we do it in the face of all we have been socialized to believe about what parenting should look like.

And we do it in the face of all of the people who don’t get it, or who tell us how they would do it, or who tell us that we’re doing it wrong. We are the living proof of what it looks like to parent a child who does not fit the mold. And I like to think about this when I’m out in public with my son. Instead of looking at other people as judging us, I look at us as educating them. This is what it looks like. Take notes. And this is what each and every one of you are doing too. You don’t need to post about it on social media, or sign up for the local walk, or fundraise to be an example. You already are.

Before we get to the topic for today’s episode I want to read a review from a listener named L. Chenard. They write, “This podcast came along at the perfect time in our family’s journey. There were messages and tactical strategies that I absolutely needed to hear and it was so helpful to better understand the science of what’s happening during one of my son’s meltdowns. It’s also helpful to have someone else put my feelings into words and to know that we are not alone. I look forward to future episodes.”

Well, thank you so much for this review and you certainly are not alone. I’m happy to hear that this information is making a difference for you. And I agree, knowing the science behind a meltdown, even at the most basic level which is what you’re getting from me because I am not a scientist. It has really helped me separate behaviors from all of my judgments about them. And this has been a gamechanger.

So, I just want to say, if you are enjoying the podcast please take the time to write a review. For one, I want to know what is resonating, what you want more of and how I can provide it. And two, your reviews make the podcast more visible and that makes it easier for other moms like you to find it. And last but not least, who doesn’t love a prize? When you leave a review you can also enter to win one of the three self-care packages I will be giving away in an upcoming episode.

Okay, as promised, in this episode I am going to teach you the self-coaching model I was certified in through The Life Coach School. At the center of the self-coaching model is the think, feel, act cycle which we talked about in last week’s episode. And by the way, this is what drew me to Brooke Castillo and The Life Coach School. I didn’t really know anything about life coaching but I did know about cognitive behavioral therapy from years of personal and family therapy.

I understood at least intellectually the think, feel, act cycle. But I never knew how to apply it in real time or to use it to get the results I wanted in my life. The self-coaching model changed all of this. Brooke added two elements, the circumstance which comes before the think, feel, act cycle and the result which comes after. So, the self-coaching model, all together there’s five elements, circumstances, thoughts, feelings, actions and results, or CTFAR as you’ll sometimes hear me refer to it in shorthand.

Here is how it works. First there is a circumstance. Circumstances trigger our think, feel, act cycle. A circumstance happens, we have a thought about it, that thought creates a feeling in our body. And that feeling drives our actions and creates our results, the final line of the model. So, let’s break this down further by taking a deeper look at circumstances and results.

Circumstances are everything out in the world. Everything that is happening now. That could be the weather, current events, marital status, a diagnosis, whether your child has an IEP, the medications your child takes. Circumstances are not only everything that’s happening right now, but they also include things that have happened in the past. So, circumstances could be what happened yesterday, what happened in your childhood and what happened the day before you were born. All circumstances are outside of your immediate control.

In this exact moment you cannot change them. So, you can’t change the weather, your marital status or a diagnosis. Circumstances also include other people and what they say, do and what they don’t say and what they don’t do. Now, here’s the thing about circumstances. All circumstances are neutral until you have a thought about them. Now, the first time I heard this my lawyer brain went to the extremes as lawyer brains tend to do and so my first reaction was, wait, so you’re saying that murder, or rape, or my child hitting me, those are neutral? Are you kidding me?

Two things. First. Things that happen in the world have no moral value until we have a thought about them. This includes the things that most people in the world would label as terrible. They are also neutral until you have a thought about them. And this actually makes a lot of sense. It’s the reason why no two people react the same way to the same set of events. It’s because we are all having different thoughts about them. Second. A circumstance being neutral does not mean it is neutral to you. You get to decide how you want to think about the circumstances in your life.

However, the value in viewing circumstances as neutral is to enable you to begin to separate the facts from your judgments and interpretations of it to see what these are creating for you. And this is because the circumstances don’t create your feelings, your thoughts do. Think of separating circumstances from thoughts like being the objective narrator of your experience.

I think about this when every once in a while one of my cats will sit on our remote just right and turn on the voice narrator. This is kind of amusing but it’s mostly annoying because you’re watching a show and you have this voice saying things like, “Man walks into the room. Lady picks up the phone”, and on and on. But anyhow it’s just a great example of seeing the separation of circumstances, what’s happening from all of the judgments we’re having about it.

And for this I’m going to give a very recent example of the Oscars last Sunday with Chris Rock and Will Smith, or the slap heard around the world. So, the objective facts. Chris Rock said, “Jada, I love you, GI Jane too”, or something like that. Will Smith walked onto stage, slapped Chris Rock and yelled some words. That’s basically what happened, the facts, if you were just observing it and without any judgment or interpretation. Chris Rock said words, Will Smith walks onto stage, smacks him and says other words. That’s what happened.

Now, there’s the interpretation. Chris Rock mocked Jada’s health condition. Chris Rock’s joke was not funny. Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock. Will Smith has anger management issues. Do you see the difference? Facts versus the interpretation. And this is what we want to do when we are trying to pull out from our own experiences what’s actually happening versus all of our thoughts about it because again, it’s not the circumstance that’s creating our feelings, and our actions, and our overreactions. It’s our thoughts about it.

Circumstances trigger the think, feel, act cycle and this produces our results. The result is the outcome from our actions or lack thereof. So let me give you an example from my personal life. The circumstance here is my son’s homework. My thought is this is always stressful. My feeling is I’m stressed. My actions, I avoid it, I’m short tempered with my son, I get easily annoyed with him. And what’s the result? I stress myself out.

So, a pointer about results and this is really important. You can only create results for yourself. Your result applies to you. You don’t create results for other people and they can’t create them for you. For example, I didn’t create the result of stressing my son out. I can only create results for me. Second. Nine times out of ten the result you are creating is proving your original thought, true. So, my thought, this is always stressful. Well, I made damn sure that that was the case by my actions and inactions.

This seems crazy but it makes so much sense when you remember how the brain works. It wants to be right. Being right means being safe, it means being efficient. So, we go to work finding evidence to prove our thoughts true. Think of the little engine that could. Before the little engine has the courage to start up the hill another character tells her, “If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t. Either way you are right.” And I love this so much because it so concisely captures what’s happening when we commit to a thought, we make it come true and then we are right.

And we like to be right even if it keeps us stuck and feeling miserable. It is better than uncertainty. It is better than exerting effort. And that’s what our brains prefer. So, this is the self-coaching model I use. You have a circumstance that triggers the think, feel, act cycle followed by the result created from the cycle. If you want to start using this as a tool you need to do two things. First you have to identify your current cycle, what you are automatically and habitually thinking in response to the circumstances. You need to pull this out.

And then two, once you understand how the cycle is working you have to identify a shift you can make. How can you change your thoughts to feel differently when the circumstance stays the same? So, again, I want to be clear, this is not about slapping on some positive thinking. It doesn’t work that way, your brain will reject it. You cannot go from feeling helpless to feeling empowered overnight.

But imagine how much better it would be to go from feeling helpless to feeling hopeful, or maybe even a little curious. Imagine how much better that would feel and imagine how you would show up differently just with that small shift. So, what I’m going to do right now is to walk you through an example so that you can see how this works in practice.

So, the example here is going to be a family birthday party. Birthday parties are neutral. They don’t make us feel anything until we have a thought about them. And you might have a lot of thoughts about a family party. There will be too many people. They will not serve the food my child likes. It might be too loud. My child won’t be included with their cousins. What you want to do is to identify the thought that is the loudest, pull that out and plug it into the model and see what it is creating for you.

So, one of those thoughts could be, my child may melt down. And when you think this thought you’re probably going to feel anxious. And when you feel anxious your actions might look like, helicoptering around your child while you’re at the party to make sure that they are okay. You are hypervigilant. You are seeing every interaction as a potential threat. You are not enjoying yourself and you are not connecting with others. And what’s the result here? You are melting down, maybe not externally but for sure, internally.

Now, the party is not making you feel anxious or causing you to helicopter. It is your thoughts, my child might melt down. You have to pay attention to this. And once you see how the thinking is creating how you were feeling, how you were acting and the results you were creating it is only then that you could begin to explore ways to show up differently. Now, you don’t have to change your child or other people to do this. You just have to start with shifting your own thinking. And shifting that thinking, it’s like climbing a ladder. You have to take it one rung at a time.

You’re not going to go from anxious to confident overnight. But you can start to slowly move up the ladder and feel better. And what that will take is brainstorming new thoughts to think about the same circumstance. So, in this case the circumstance is the party. And there are a million things that you can think about going to a party. Your current thought is, my child might melt down. So how might you shift this thought to feel better than anxious or stressed?

So, I’ll offer to you one thought that I use is I know what to do. Just that thought, I know what to do, when you think that, maybe you feel confident or competent. You have a feeling that’s different from anxiety and then the action is different. Maybe you have a plan, you preview the party with your child, you preview the party with other family members. You bring your own food. You make decisions ahead of time about who does what if your child gets dysregulated. And the result here is you know what to do.

The first step in shifting your current model and your current results is to brainstorm the new thoughts you can think about the circumstance. Go slow, you’re not going to go from meltdowns are awful to meltdowns are no big deal, overnight, or maybe even ever. And that’s okay. We aren’t aiming for bliss. We are aiming for a more helpful, more supportive thought and feeling to fuel your actions and create the results that you want. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Before I end this episode I want to remind you that to celebrate the launch of the show I’m giving away self-care packages to three listeners who follow, rate and review the show. Like I said earlier, these reviews help other moms like you to find the podcast. So please take the time and let me know if you’re enjoying the show, what you’re thinking and what you want more of. And to learn how to enter the podcast go to www.theautismmomcoach.com/podcastlaunch. I’ll be announcing the winners in an upcoming episode. Thanks so much for listening.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theautismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #5: Think-Feel-Act Cycle

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Think-Feel-Act Cycle

Whether you know it or not, there is a cycle constantly working in the background of everything you do, including dealing with the challenges of parenting a child with Autism. It’s called the Think-Feel-Act Cycle, and understanding how this process works in my brain and body has changed everything for me, especially during challenging times. 

The Think-Feel-Act cycle is at the foundation of my coaching. It’s a neuroscientific concept positing that how we think creates our feelings, and how we feel drives our actions. This is such a simple and effective tool, and understanding it will change your life forever. 

Tune in this week to discover why the Think-Feel-Act Cycle is always at work, and how it’s driving everything you do or don’t do. I’m sharing how your thoughts interact with your feelings, which drive your actions, and how you can start to influence all of it and use this information to your advantage.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away self-care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review this show. These self-care packages include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and plenty of other goodies to help you relax and indulge in those moments when you need it most. Click here for details on how to be in with a chance of winning this giveaway!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What your thoughts are, and how they’re forming your experience of your life.
  • How to see where you’re thinking something you believe is true, but isn’t actually a fact.
  • What your feelings are and how they’re a great insight into what we’re thinking.
  • What motivates us as humans and why we don’t want to leave our thoughts on autopilot.
  • How we can see where our thoughts influence our emotions and drive our actions.
  • What you can do to make sure your actions are driven by consciously-created emotions.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode five of The Autism Mom Coach. Whether you know it or not your thought, feel, act cycle is constantly working in the background of everything you do, including your decision to listen to this episode. Stay tuned to learn more about the think, feel, act cycle and how it applies to the challenges of special needs parenting.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with Autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with Autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with Autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Welcome everyone to the episode and thank you for being here. I hope you are doing well, enjoying the podcast and benefitting from the tools that I am sharing. Over the weekend I got a chance to catch up on some of the reviews that you have all written and I want to share one with you today. This review is from Mrs. Sherwood’s Babies and it is titled, “Transform Your Relationship with Special Needs Parenting.”

Mrs. Sherwood writes, “As the mom of a five-year-old daughter with Autism, I am determined to take the best care of her and me. And Lisa’s podcast is exactly what I need. The episodes are soothing, easy to listen to and the perfect length of time to take in, process, and learn from, not overwhelming. And sometimes I feel like she’s in my head. I love her approach of not trying to cure or fix our kids. Although she talks a lot about specifically neurodiverse children, many of the informative topics and action items carry over to my neurotypical children as well. I am so excited to have Lisa as a resource.”

Well, thank you so much, Mrs. Sherwood’s Babies for writing this review and I am delighted to be a resource to you and to anyone who’s walking this path. I created this podcast to share these tools really because I wish I had learned them earlier in my Autism parenting journey because they have changed everything for me, especially during the most challenging times. So, I am so glad you are finding ways to apply these tools to your neurodiverse child and to your neurotypical children.

Alright, let’s get onto the business of today. In the next two episodes I am going to teach you the tools at the foundation of my coaching program. These tools changed everything for me in a good way and I’m hoping they do the same for you. In this episode we will talk about the think, feel, act cycle and how it is always at work and how it drives everything we do and we don’t do. And in the next episode I’m going to teach you how to coach yourself using the self-coaching model that I was certified in through The Life Coach School.

We start with the think, feel, act cycle because it is the center of the self-coaching model. Once you understand this the self-coaching model snaps right into place. Okay, the think, feel, act cycle is a concept from neuroscience and cognitive behavioral therapy. The think, feel, act cycle posits that how we think creates our feelings and how we feel drives our actions. So, let’s start with thoughts. I know we’ve talked a lot about thoughts in episodes three and four but this bears repeating because many of us or definitely me, this was all news when I first learned it.

So, thoughts are the sentences in our minds, the language we use to name, judge, understand and assess the world. Thoughts are not facts which is weird. A lot of us think, well, I wouldn’t think it if it wasn’t true. How many times have you caught yourself thinking this? I would not think I was a terrible mother if it wasn’t true. I wouldn’t think my child’s struggles were my fault if it wasn’t true. Spoiler alert, this is false, or fake news, or whatever you want to call it.

Your thoughts are not facts. Your thoughts are an opinion. They’re an assessment. They’re a judgment. Real but not necessarily true. Thoughts are important but not for the reasons we think, not because they are the truth of the universe. They are important because they form the lens through which we see and interpret the world and our experiences of it.

For example, if I have the thought that my son’s IEP team has his best interest at heart I will feel confident in them. If I feel confident in them this will be reflected in how I act towards them and how I respond to their recommendations. By contrast, if I’m thinking they’re hiding the ball that thought will create a feeling of distrust and my actions will look a lot different. Again, this is because our thoughts form the lens through which we see everything.

And the second reason they are so important is because our thoughts create our feelings which is the second element of the think, feel, act cycle. So, let’s talk about feelings. The feeling or the emotion is created by what you are thinking. And I use the words feeling and emotion interchangeably. They are the one word descriptions of our emotional states like happy, sad, mad, lonely, bored, stressed, jealous or compassionate, just to name a few.

So, about feelings. First, feelings are the reasons for all we do and we don’t do. This is what is referred to as the motivational triad. Humans are wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain and be efficient. Animals and humans were all designed with these three principle motivations. Seek pleasure, which basically means eat food, seek connection, all animals do this, all humans do this. We have to do this if we want to live and if we want to continue as a species. We must be nourished, we must procreate. So, it is built into our wiring.

The second leg of the motivational triad is to avoid pain. We are prewired to avoid things that might hurt us both physically and emotionally. Pain equals death. Fear equals death. Rejection equals banishment from the tribe. We innately know that we want to avoid pain and that avoiding it is helpful for our survival.

And the third leg of the motivational triad is be efficient. We want to expend as little energy as possible, not only with the way we move our bodies but also including with what we do inside of our brains. Think of a pint of ice-cream, bottle of wine or binging a season of Netflix, or all three, instead of filling out the heaps of paperwork for an intake with a new provider. Seek pleasure, the dopamine hits provided by the sugar and the entertainment.

Avoid pain, the paperwork and the difficulty of reflecting on milestones not met, and be efficient, hang out on the couch without taxing your brain with remembering your child’s lengthy medical history. And there you have it, the motivational triad working in the background of your decision to sit on the couch and watch Netflix rather than fill out the paperwork.

The second thing about feelings. Feelings are signals. Remember, most of our thoughts are subconscious or so automatic that we don’t even notice them. So, the feelings we are having are clues back to the thought. Think of a fire alarm ringing, we hear it but we are unsure of the cause so we investigate, burning toast or couch on fire.

For example, I sometimes find myself feeling agitated on Friday afternoons, work meetings are wrapping up and everyone is wishing their colleagues a nice weekend. It was not until I tuned into that feeling at the pit of my stomach and got more present with it that I was able to discover the thoughts. Other people have nice weekends. Weekends are not relaxing for me. I hope this weekend isn’t too hard. I was not consciously thinking these thoughts but it was below the surface. And it took listening into the feeling in the pit of my stomach to uncover what was going on inside of my mind.

Finally, feelings are the fuel for our actions. They are the why and the how behind what we do. If you are feeling panicked your actions will be to rush, to act first and to think later. If you are feeling calm your actions will be deliberate and thoughtful, not reactive. This brings us to actions. Actions, inactions and overreactions, this is what you do and what you don’t do. And they don’t just mysteriously happen. They’re always motivated by how you’re feeling.

Feelings fuel your actions. They drive both what you do and how you do it. In fact, the action can be the exact same with totally different outcomes depending on the thoughts and feelings driving them. For example, maybe you are reminding your child for the hundredth time to dry off in the shower because you are sick of the slip and slide that follows their evening routine. Imagine saying, “Please remember to dry off in the shower”, using a calm voice and a relaxed body. Then imagine saying the same words through clenched teeth with your arms folded. Big difference, right?

And we’ll get more into this in future episodes. Our kids are a tuning fork for our emotions. Maybe they haven’t met all of the milestones of their age but damn can they tell how we’re feeling? And they react to it. Again, we will get to this more in future episodes. But the how behind what you do in my opinion, is more important than what you actually do. The action part of the think, feel, act cycle also includes inaction, the things you don’t do.

For example, if you are thinking that your friends do not understand your child and feeling sad or frustrated, maybe you don’t make an effort to talk to your friends. Maybe you avoid them. Maybe you avoid opportunities to connect with them. The thought, feel, act cycle is always at work. It is always running in the background and it is a great tool for getting more insight into the thoughts and feelings that are driving your actions.

What I like about the think, feel, act cycle is the flexibility. Maybe you are struggling to catch your thoughts, a lot of us do. And not surprisingly if we are conscious of every one of our 60,000 thoughts a day, we wouldn’t be able to do much else. So, take notice of your feelings, the clenching in your throat, the pit in your stomach, your racing heart. What is it trying to tell you? Ask yourself, in these moments what is happening for me right now to see if you can uncover the thoughts.

Or maybe like so many of us, you’re not very connected with your feelings. You live from the neck up. If so, start paying attention to your actions, they’re usually the easiest to catch. For example, you find yourself scrolling on Facebook, ask yourself, how am I feeling? What am I seeking? What am I avoiding?

Challenge yourself to do this work with the curiosity of an investigator. The more you do this the more you can see your own think, feel, action cycle working in real time. The more it will become a meta skill that you are practicing in the moment. And the more you do this the more opportunities you will have and the better you will become at interrupting your default reactions and choosing your responses.

Okay, that’s it for this episode. Next week I will put this all together for you by teaching you the self-coaching model. But before I go I want to remind you of the giveaway. To celebrate the launch of the show I’m going to be giving away self-care packages that include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and other goodies from one of my favorite places in Philadelphia, Duross & Langel soap shop.

I’m going to be giving away three care packages to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. And please do this because the more reviews, the more ratings the show receives the easier it will be for parents like you to find the show and to have it as a resource. So, it doesn’t have to be a five-star review, although I sure hope you love it. I want your honest feedback so I can create a show that provides tons of value.

Visit theautismmomcoach.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I’ll be announcing the winners on an upcoming show. Thanks so much.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theautismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

Enjoy the Show?