“Autistic burnouts leave me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted,” a person with autism said. “They remind me of Tetris puzzle pieces falling so quickly you don’t have enough time to line them up before they hit the top and the game is over.” Ronnie Sandison
I’ve gone through a lot of autistic burnout due to relationship stress, scholastic stress, job stress, and general life stress. I’ve gotten better at identifying the causes of my burnouts. Overcommitting, feeling anxious, changing routines, getting little sleep, and sensory overload are a few of the things that seem to set off my burnouts. I get physically and emotionally exhausted when I suffer an autism burnout, and my brain goes blank, making it impossible for me to articulate ideas or make judgments. We become less productive and lack drive to accomplish our goals and take care of ourselves when we are autistic burnouts.
Among the causes of burnout, Amelia Blackwater, an autistic Super Contributor to The Mighty, explains, “Autistic burnout is typically ascribed to prolonged masking or emulating neurotypical behavior. However, stress, lack of sleep, illness, and excessive sensory or emotional stimulation are additional factors that might contribute to burnout.
I had an autism burnout in the beginning of August because the hospital where I had worked for 14 years changed from 8 to 12 hour shifts. I felt emotionally spent and overburdened by this change in routine. I started to fear how this shift in routine would affect my life. I had a few terrifying thoughts, such as “What if my body can’t handle 12-hour shifts and I suffer a leg injury from being on my feet for so long?” and “What if I can’t emotionally adapt to the new routine?”
I soon realized that working 12-hour shifts gave me extra days to take my daughter Makayla to the playground, the pool, and speaking engagements. I used to work five days a week, but now I only work three. I went on vacation for a week to unwind and prevent burnout since the hospital gave us four months’ notice to prepare for the schedule change. Seven techniques to avoid burnout were taught to me by this change in habit.
1. Avoid burnout in autistic people by taking vacations and having fun.
I frequently overcommit to work and speaking engagements. I teach theology, publish books and papers, give 70 speeches a year, and am a full-time employee of a hospital. The result is an extremely hectic life. A pleasant trip helps me decompress and diverts my attention from life’s stress. I visited Pictured Rocks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in June. My family and I liked witnessing the magnificent waterfalls while on the picturesque boat tour. Even Bigfoot got to meet us. I’m thinking about going to Minnesota for a week next summer and riding the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at the Mall of America.
2. Avoid social media like the plague to avoid autism fatigue.
I try to restrict the amount of time I spend reading social media posts and watching the news since I can feel my blood pressure and anxiety levels rising. In particular, read articles about governmental policy or watch footage of calamities or injustice. Instead, I read books about topics I’m interested in and unwind by watching comedies with my dog Rudy and enjoying popcorn. Your anxiety will decrease if you use social media less, and laughing is healthy for the soul.
3. Avoid burnout by not worrying about things that are beyond your control.
Remember that you are not God, therefore resist the urge to alter the course of the world. Because they refuse to accept the things or circumstances they cannot change, too many persons with autism are miserable. This causes unneeded disappointment, irritation, and mental health problems. Use your energy on things you have the capacity to alter, as my father advises me. Stressing about things you can’t control will only result in disappointment and a premature death.
Workplace rules, traffic, other people’s opinions and happiness, the past, and the weather are some factors we can’t really change. Focusing on the things we can alter, such as our attitude, education, health, and work ethic, will help us lessen worry. We will feel better about ourselves and our working condition and experience less anxiety over the unknown future if we maintain a positive attitude, eat well, and have a strong work ethic.
4. Avoid burnout by establishing a spiritual or religious connection.
My anxiety decreases as a result of practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation, and I feel at rest knowing that God is in charge. I feel renewed and inspired to provide a hand to others after reading the Bible. I adore inspiring scriptures like Isaiah 58:10-11, which states that “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.” The Lord will continually direct you, satiate your spirit during times of famine, and strengthen your bones; you will resemble a well-watered garden and a spring whose waters never run dry.
5. Spend time with nature to avoid burnout.
I enjoy strolling along the nature trails while taking in the sounds of the birds and the creek’s flowing water. I enjoy observing the red fox that built his burrow in my parents’ yard when I drop Makayla off there in the morning. It’s rumored that this fox sneaks peeks at homes and steals hamburgers from my daughter’s picnics. The therapeutic therapy that nature provides for the spirit and psyche.
6. Unmask and stimming can help prevent autistic burnout.
By disguising our autistic quarks, filtering our thoughts, and imitating neurotypical behaviors, we consume a lot of energy. Masking makes you tired. We can replenish our low energy via stimming. By practicing my Bible memorization in my Saturn Ion before work, I feel renewed. After speaking, Temple Grandin strengthens herself by stimming for 30 minutes in front of a mirror. An adult teenager who jumps on her trampoline after work is one of my favorite stimmings.
7. By pursuing your interests and passions, you can avoid autism burnout.
Speaking and writing renew my energy. After giving talks on autism and selling books, my motivation skyrockets and I become into the Energizer Bunny. Give your interests and passions 30 minutes each day. Turn off your electronics and concentrate on the present during your recovery period. Anxiety will be released, and new inspiration and motivation will result.
Make a list of the things that make you burn out and make a list of coping mechanisms you can use when you’re stressed.
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