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How do I Recover from Autistic Burnout?

By Emma Hinze, Professor Tony Attwood and Dr. Michelle Garnett

In our previous blog, What are the Causes of Autistic Burnout, we discussed the concept of autistic burnout and some of the main causes of autistic burnout. In this blog we share fourteen strategies for recovering from autistic burnout.

Recovering from Autistic Burnout: 14 Strategies for Rejuvenation and Recovery

  1. Recognising Burnout: Acknowledge that you are in a state of burnout. This recognition is crucial, and sometimes, it may require the insights of trusted individuals who understand your experiences and can notice signs of burnout.

  2. Becoming a Self-Advocate: Seek guidance and support in advocating for yourself. Explain to those at school or work about the daily challenges you face as an autistic person and the necessary accommodations to reduce stress and aid recovery.

  3. Utilising the Autistic Online Community: Connect with others who have experienced burnout. Learn from their empathy and practical suggestions and gain valuable insights from those who have walked a similar path.

  4. Life Reassessment with Energy Accounting: Conduct a thorough evaluation of your current expectations, lifestyle, and support system. Identify and adjust elements in your life that can conserve and replenish your energy levels. Consulting with a psychologist or life coach can be beneficial in this process.

  5. Energy Restoration: Find ways to restore your energy, such as spending time in nature, engaging deeply in special interests, considering part-time work, and connecting with a social network that accepts your authentic self.

  6. Reducing Demands and Expectations: Lower the demands and expectations placed upon yourself or by others. Reassess and potentially reduce commitments in various areas of your life.

  7. Professional Support: Seek professional help, such as therapy or counselling, which can provide strategies for managing stress and understanding your own needs.

  8. Creating an Accommodating Environment: Adjust your environment to reduce sensory overload and social stressors. This may involve changes in your physical surroundings or daily routines.

  9. Acknowledgment of Personal Limits and Needs: Recognise and respect your own limits and needs. This self-awareness is crucial for managing personal resources and avoiding situations that may lead to burnout.

  10. Building a Supportive Network: Develop a supportive social network that includes family, friends, and professionals who understand and can provide practical support.

  11. Structured Routines and Predictability: Implement structured routines and predictability in your daily life to manage sensory input and reduce cognitive overload.

  12. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine to help manage stress.

  13. Engaging in Meaningful Activities: Participate in activities that are meaningful and enjoyable to you, providing a sense of fulfilment and helping to replenish energy levels.

  14. Regular Health Check-ups: Maintain overall well-being by having regular health check-ups, especially to monitor co-occurring physical health conditions.

 

Word of caution regarding Cognitive-behavioural therapy.

It is essential to be cautious about certain therapeutic approaches. While effective for some, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and behavioural activation might not align with the needs of individuals recovering from autistic burnout and associated depression. The genuine need for withdrawal and downtime in the recovery process may conflict with the core principles of CBT, and reduced cognitive capacity could limit the effectiveness of cognitive-based therapies.

Recovery from autistic burnout is a unique journey; what works best can vary from person to person. Remember that you are not alone, and resources and support are available to help you on your path to rejuvenation and recovery.


Where to from here:

One of our new events for 2024 – Autistic Burnout will be held on Friday, February 23rd, 2023. This half-day live webcast will cover the causes and signs of autistic burnout and how autistic burnout is conceptually different to depression. We focus on the current best-known strategies for recovery and what to do to re-design life after autistic burnout to prevent another burnout.

 

References:

Arnold, S. R. C., Higgins, J. M., Weise, J., Desai, A., Pellicano, E., & Trollor, J. N. (2023). Towards the measurement of autistic burnout. Autism, 27(7), 1933–1948. https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613221147401

Feidner, M. J. (2023). Burning bridges and building new ones: a story of autistic burnout in the workplace. Autism in Adulthood, (20231204). https://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2023.0087

Higgins, J. M., Arnold, S. R. C., Weise, J., Pellicano, E., & Trollor, J. N. (2021). Defining autistic burnout through experts by lived experience: grounded delphi method investigating #autisticburnout. Autism, 25(8), 2356–2369. https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613211019858

Mantzalas, J., Richdale, A. L., Adikari, A., Lowe, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2022). What is autistic burnout? a thematic analysis of posts on two online platforms. Autism in Adulthood: Challenges and Management, 4(1), 52–65. https://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2021.0021