Autistic burnout is not just a momentary feeling of exhaustion; it is a profound and often prolonged state of mental, emotional, and physical fatigue. In this blog post, we will explore briefly what Autistic burnout is, common symptoms, common triggers, and most importantly, the steps involved in recovering from it. For a more in-depth look at Autistic burnout recovery, you'll find a link to the Autistic Burnout Recovery Workbook at the bottom of the page.
Autistic burnout is a term used to describe the overwhelming fatigue, stress, and loss of functioning that many Autistic individuals experience due to the cumulative impact of coping with the demands of a Neurotypical world. It can manifest in a variety of ways, including increased sensory sensitivities, communication difficulties, heightened anxiety, and a decreased ability to perform everyday tasks. It is common for Autistic people to experience overwhelm and become drained due to life demands and overstimulating environments, but this may not indicate burnout right away. When this experience is ongoing and you are unable to regain your energy, or when you become depleted quickly each day, you likely are in burnout. Burnout builds over time and is not easy to shake. It often requires big life changes and a significant amount of time. Because of the 'building overtime,' it can be challenging to know exactly what has triggered burnout. Likely, it is many things in your life, from the environments you spend your time, the work you do, the demands at home, the amount of masking that happens, and even physical health conditions.
As you'll see below, one of the first steps in recovering from burnout is awareness and understanding. Gaining education about what burnout is, reflecting on how it is impacting you and how you got there, and making a plan to change aspects of your life are all part of the beginning stages of burnout recovery. You'll find an overview of this here, and to learn more, engage in exercises, and allow yourself to deeply reflect, check out the workbook at the end.
Here's a brief look at common symptoms of Autistic burnout.
Sensory Overload: Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli, leading to exhaustion and discomfort.
Communication Difficulties: Struggling with verbal and non-verbal communication, with a potential decrease in social interactions.
Emotional Exhaustion: Overwhelming emotions, heightened anxiety, and difficulty regulating mood.
Reduced Functioning: A decline in the ability to perform daily tasks and responsibilities.
And here are a few common triggers of Autistic burnout.
Sensory Overload: Autistic individuals often experience heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, and an overload of these inputs can be emotionally and physically draining.
Social Demands: Navigating social situations that require constant decoding of non-verbal cues and adhering to social norms can be exhausting.
Masking: Many Autistics engage in masking – the practice of camouflaging their autistic traits to fit into Neurotypical society. While this can be a coping mechanism, it is also a significant contributor to burnout.
Routine Disruptions: Changes in routine or unexpected events can be particularly challenging for Autistic individuals, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
Recovering from burnout takes time and looks different for everyone. It often requires slowing down, resting, and making changes to your life demands. Here are some strategies to consider on your burnout journey.
Self-Understanding: The first step towards recovery is self-awareness. Understanding one's sensory sensitivities, triggers, and stressors helps in developing effective coping strategies.
Establishing Boundaries: Learning to set and communicate boundaries is crucial. This may involve saying 'no' to additional commitments, taking breaks when needed, and advocating for personal space.
Seeking Support: Connecting with a supportive community, whether online or in-person, can provide valuable insights and a sense of belonging. Sharing experiences with others who understand can be therapeutic.
Professional Guidance: Seeking assistance from healthcare professionals or therapists experienced in working with Autistic individuals can offer tailored strategies for managing stress and anxiety.
Self-Care Practices: Prioritizing self-care is essential for recovery. This may include activities that bring joy, relaxation, and sensory comfort, such as hobbies, nature walks, or sensory-friendly spaces.
Reducing Masking: Acknowledging the toll of constant masking and working towards embracing one's authentic self can be liberating and contribute to long-term well-being.
Autistic burnout is a real and challenging aspect of being Autistic, but recovery is possible with the right support and strategies. Working with a Neurodivergent affirming therapist, connecting with an Autistic support group, and/or engaging with the broader Autistic community are valuable ways to strengthen support and the recovery process. By understanding your triggers and actively working towards a balanced and authentic lifestyle, sustained well-being is possible. Remember, recovery is a personal process, and it's okay to take the time needed for self-discovery and healing.
The Autistic Burnout Recovery Workbook
To dive into this topic deeper and begin your burnout recovery, consider downloading the digital Autistic Burnout Recovery Workbook. You'll gain a fuller understanding through explanations of Autistic burnout and recovery strategies, exercises to identify your symptoms, triggers, and recovery plan, and reflection prompts to increase self-awareness about your burnout experiences and recovery journey. Follow this LINK to receive your free workbook. Scroll down to find "Autistic Burnout Recovery Workbook" and enter your email address.
If you're interested in starting therapy with me, reach out! You can contact me here. I also offer Autism assessments and a Late Identified Autistic Support Group, where burnout is very relatable and a common topic of discussion.