Managing Wellbeing as an Autistic WomanMay 11, 2022
This week's submission comes from Amy Cramb.
This month, I surveyed 140 autistic women about their life experiences. The vast majority of
the women surveyed – 88% to be exact – reported that they struggle to manage their
wellbeing, often getting burned out or not engaging in self-care. As an autistic woman
myself, I also repeatedly fail to look after my own well-being.
Why do a lot of autistic women struggle with this? In short, the human world is not designed
for us. We are constantly faced with situations and environments that do not align with our
social, sensory, and cognitive needs. Therefore, we must work harder just to get by. As a
result, we may frequently get overwhelmed and burned out. So, how do we better manage
Tip 1: Set boundaries for work and social commitments.
Throughout my life, I have been notoriously terrible at setting boundaries when it comes to
work and social commitments.
For example, when asked questions such as these…
You’re invited to my event! Will you be able to make it?
Can you please review my work and give your thoughts?Do you have any more capacity to take on this new project?
I often feel the need to say “yes!”, even when I’m on the verge of my social and emotional
limits. My perfectionistic nature and drive to please others get in the way of saying what I
ought to sometimes say: “no, but thanks for asking.”
It is truly okay, crucial even, to know your limits and set boundaries. Setting healthy
boundaries can look like:
Saying “no” to social events that you are very anxious about or that aren’t important
- Taking full days off work or off people generally. As an example, one weekday a
month, no matter how I'm feeling, I'll take a full day off from all commitments.
Having a weekday off each month, even if I feel that I don't need it, is very
important; because, the chances are, I do need it.
Actively scheduling self-care breaks into your days, including working days. For
example, between certain times each day, I'll turn off my devices and do something
that recharges my energy.
Tip 2: Relax and recharge by engaging in your passions, hobbies, and interests.
Many autistic individuals have strong passions, hobbies, or interests in one or many areas.
Personally, I am very passionate about autism advocacy. I also love writing, nature, and
listening to or creating music. In an ideal world, I would spend the majority of my days
engaged in these activities and that would make me happy. Why do autistic individuals,
including myself, enjoy our hobbies and interests so deeply?
The survey that I conducted on autistic women indicated that the main reason we enjoy our
hobbies is because they bring therapeutic benefits. These benefits include, but are not
limited to, a sense of calmness, relaxation, peace, and joy. Fundamentally, these activities
can be recharging for us in a world that often drains our energy.
So, if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, play your guitar. Write in your diary. Put your
headphones on and drown out the world. Take a walk in nature. Or, do whatever it is that
you truly love doing and are passionate about. It’s so important to make the time for these
Tip 3: Connect with like-minded people.
Connecting with like-minded people that understand, accept, and embrace us is vital. For
instance, one autistic woman I surveyed earlier this month described that…
“It's very important to feel accepted. In situations where I don't feel accepted I tend to burn
out a lot faster and struggle a lot more with my mental health. The feeling of being
equivalent in a group setting, getting the help I need, and being heard is very important…
it’s something I need to thrive in environments.”
Another autistic woman shared that…
“When, I try so hard to push myself to fit in, be like everyone else and be social, I just end up
burning myself out.”
These responses and countless others indicate that when we are in environments that
require us to be something that we are not, we tend to get burned out quickly. This ties into
masking or camouflaging: when autistic individuals attempt to hide or minimise traits to
appear less autistic or more “socially acceptable”. Evidence consistently shows that masking
is exhausting, tiring, draining, and has devastating effects on our wellbeing.
Instead, autistic individuals thrive in environments where we are accepted and can achieve
authentic connection by being ourselves. Often, these environments involve fellow autistic
people who are therefore likeminded – thinking and acting in similar ways to ourselves.
These are the environments that are conducive to our wellbeing because we don’t need to
exhaust ourselves by socially faking it. We can unmask safely and just be.
Take Home Message
Working towards well-being as an autistic individual isn’t always easy, but there are some
things that we can do to help ourselves thrive. We can actively: set social and work
boundaries, make time for our passions or calming activities, and connect more with like-
minded people from the autism community.
About the author
Amy Cramb is an autistic woman passionate about empowerment and advocacy from the
autistic perspective. She uses this passion in her work as a business owner, program
development officer, autism advisor, advocate, writer, content creator, researcher, and
mentor for autistic individuals. Amy’s particular focus is on females, whereby she offers
information and services to autistic girls and women as the founder sole trader of Finding