Autistic burnout can easily occur in a workplace environment if a person is not in an inclusive environment and if they don’t have the proper support in place, both professionally, and in terms of self-care.
Autistic burnout is essentially when autistic people are unable to do certain things we were once able to because of how low our energy reserves have gotten. It is our body’s way of telling us we are overloaded, and that we’ve been so for too long.
Burnout can also happen when we expend a large amount of energy trying to appear neurotypical and suppressing our autistic traits. It might also be caused by doing too much or trying to take on too much at once, experiencing a lot of stress, life changes (such as moving, changes in environment or routine, relationship or employment changes, etc. These changes can be positive or negative and still come with a good deal of stress either way), poor sleep or nutrition, sensory overload, illness, etc.
Burnout impacts all autistic people differently, and it can take a while to regain what might have been lost to burnout. While burnout can go on for a considerable amount of time, it’s generally not a permanent state.
There are times when burnout can’t be avoided, but if you can learn to notice when you need to take a step back and slow down and what personally works best for you, you can sometimes avoid potential burnout.
Signs of Autistic Burnout May Include:
- Poor Memory/Memory Loss
- Inability to Mask
- Lethargy and Fatigue
- Over/Under sensitivity to sensory information
- Increase in meltdowns/shutdowns
- Unable to communicate as usual
- Illness/Digestive Issues
- Lack of motivation or an inability to carry out tasks you used to be able to complete ● Increase in executive dysfunction (staying organized, making decisions, etc.)
How to Reset After Autistic Burnout:
- Rest-try to get plenty of sleep and take naps
- Give yourself some quiet space and solitude, if possible. Wear noise cancelling headphones or ear defenders to reduce sensory input
- Manage spoons and create healthy boundaries for yourself. Try not to take on too much. It’s okay to say ‘no’
- Take scheduled breaks and try to do as little as possible, both physically and mentally during your breaks
- Exercise, stim, and/or get some sensory diet activities into your day
- Set reminders or have other supports in place for yourself to help avoid overwhelm
- Listen to your body, know your own limits, and don’t push yourself beyond them. If helpful, you can tell people or come up with a signal to let them know that you need time and space
- Some people seek creative recharge. If this is you, try engaging in a passion or creative project
- Try to create an easier, more manageable routine
- Drop the mask and be authentically autistic