Do you feeling tired or drained most of the time?
Do you feel like running away?
Do you struggle with procrastination? Does it take you longer to get things done these days?
These are all signs of burnout, a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that women with ADHD experience far too often. We’re prone to feeling chronically stressed because we navigate our busy lives while coping with executive functioning difficulties, a sensitive nervous system, and a mind that won’t shut off.
Gender roles and expectations also drive burnout. We’re often at the helm of our families and households while juggling our careers and other responsibilities. We’re perfectionists who, consciously or not, try to mask that we’re neurodivergent. We’re rarely compassionate with ourselves about the challenges we face. Instead, we’re always trying to compensate for them.
It’s even worse for women with undiagnosed ADHD, who don’t have the benefit of knowing why they spend days, weeks, even months feeling exhausted, drained, overwhelmed, and despondent.
Our emotionally dysregulated brains, which rarely leave fight-or-flight mode, often prevent us from being able to slow down and rest. But it’s what we need the most. Here’s how to recognize that you’re burned out, and how to take steps to recover.
[Read: ADHD Fatigue Is a Real (Exhausting) Thing]
Burnout has a way of stealthily creeping in. We often don’t know that we’re approaching burnout until it’s too late. But the signs are there. Our body is always speaking to us, and we must learn its language. Signs of burnout include but are not limited to the following:
If your job is the primary cause of your burnout, as it is for so many of us, (the World Health Organization recognizes burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”) ask yourself the following questions:
[Read: “My ADHD Unleashed a Workaholic. ‘Quiet Quitting’ Is Saving Me.”]
Burnout also comes from trying to do it all. Our inner critics force us to set high standards for ourselves and tend to make us feel like we haven’t done enough.
Eliminating the stressor that’s causing you to burn out is best, but not always a possibility. That’s where boundaries come in. Ask yourself these questions to become more intentional about your time and space:
Compared to neurotypical people, we burn a lot more cognitive energy just trying to get through the day, which is why multitasking is not a good idea for us, according to Casey Dixon, an ADHD coach. “By engaging in task switching, you are spending more of your limited energy than you can afford,” she writes. Avoid multitasking to avoid burnout.
Sleep deprivation is a key indicator of burnout. From working late and answering that “one last email” to revenge bedtime procrastination, burnout fuels insomnia and sets off a vicious cycle. Prioritize restful sleep:
Schedule in time to do something that brings you real joy, like going for a walk, texting a friend, watching a funny video that makes you laugh, or reconnecting with an old hobby. Even a few minutes can break you out of the stress zone and help you feel more balanced.
Tapping and breathing exercises are simple activities you can do every morning and throughout the day when you most need it. A bath or even a splash of cold water can calm and reset your system. You don’t have to wait until you’re stressed or overwhelmed to use these tools. You can find lots of calming techniques and tutorials in my Vimeo account here.
Recognize that you are doing the best you can each day under your circumstances. Think to yourself (perhaps as you do a calming exercise): “Even though I’m feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned out, I’m going to send myself some love. I choose to feel calm. I choose to meet myself where I am. I accept how I’m feeling. I choose to believe that my situation will improve.”
Here are other helpful affirmations to help you practice self-compassion as you respect your boundaries and recover from burnout:
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