Updated: Jan 15
Autistic Burnout Guide | Part 2 | 3/12/2021
UNDERSTANDING THE "WHY" AND "HOW" OF AUTISTIC BURNOUT
We investigate the "why" behind autistic burnout in the workplace and practical strategies on "how" to tackle autistic burnout.
This section addresses coping and management strategies for autistic employees dealing with autistic burnout.
WHY AND HOW: COPING AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
1. Transparency and Interaction Being transparent about being autistic is crucial to recovering from burnout. Seek psychological help with any mental health issues that arise.
Being honest and open about your diagnosis of autism can foster understanding and connection with others like you experiencing autistic burnout. It may also create psychological safety in the workplace.
It's also good to interact with other people as a way of managing autistic burnout. Having conversations with friends, relatives and others who provide the right ‘energy’ can boost your sense of wellbeing.
2. Acknowledgment & Acceptance Autistic burnout management is two-sided - dealing with incidence (cure) and mechanisms to avoid it (prevention).If undergoing autistic burnout, a common first rule is to remove yourself from the situation (such as for a room, building and discussion).
Another approach is to put on headphones and listen to music or podcasts. You can vulnerable without fear of judgement or feelings of embarrassment, as well as being mindful of others in the physical setting.
Accept and acknowledge the occurrence of autistic burnout. Take as long a break as necessary, depending on how long the autistic burnout is present.
3. Energy Management Do the tasks or activities that align with your mindset at the time. For example, focus on doing ‘deep work’ when mental capacity exists to think most thoroughly and meticulously. Attempt to tick off simple ‘checklist’ items to remove items from the top of mind.
Managing energy may sometimes require minimising contact to those closest/most essential. This could mean eschewing social media platforms (such as deactivating accounts).
It could also mean reducing exposure to emails, even to the extent of setting up an automated ‘out of office’ message for those who seek to make contact, including where professional opportunity is concerned.
4. Mindset For some, it is good to philosophise that neither the best things are as good as they seem, nor the worst things as bad. Such a mindset can help maintain a ‘level’ state and maintain a sense of perspective during the situation.
5. Pursuit of Outlets Try exercise such as going for a solo walk, walking a dog, or going for a run. They can be transformative self-care strategies, particularly so for those whose autistic burnout has manifested in an emotional or mental form more so than in a physical form. It can be seen as an energy release as well as a way to alleviate life stress.
Finally, consider immersing yourself in creative, even artistic, endeavours. One example is reflective writing, while another is poetry. Such a process can be highly beneficial and therapeutic though, free of excessive external stimulus and underpinned by a sense of control. Ultimately, this is best and most effective when embraced as an organic, unstructured endeavour.
6. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Research suggests that CBT or behavioural strategies to help recover from autistic burnout might actually be detrimental, not helpful for autistic people. Always seek professional advice for your particular situation, as CBT can be helpful for many autistic people. But if you fall in the category of not finding CBT helpful for your situation, you can consider other strategies above.
A FIVE POINT SUMMARY FOR AUTISTIC BURNOUT RECOVERY
Withdrawal from social and / or interpersonal contact and externally-imposed demands, potentially requiring convalescence during an in-patient admission.
Time spent on personal interests
Time spent re-regulating (e.g. stimming)
Time spent reintegrating with self and external world via gradual passive to active engagement in activities e.g. moving from listening to music to playing music; from watching video gaming to playing video games
A gradual return to daily routines, activities and responsibilities.
Higgins et al, ‘Defining autistic burnout through experts by lived experience: Grounded Delphi method investigating’ #AutBurnout (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/13623613211019858)
Raymaker et al, 'Having All of Your Internal Resources Exhausted Beyond Measure and Being Left with No Clean-Up Crew”: Defining Autistic Burnout' (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/aut.2019.0079#:~:text=“Autistic%20burnout”%20is%20often%20used,in%20every%20area%20of%20life.&text=Informally%2C%20autistic%20adults%20describe%20how,pushed%20them%20to%20suicidal%20behavior)