In this blog, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can try to avoid adult ADHD burnout, and how to cope with it should it happen.
What is ADHD burnout?
ADHD burnout is when a person with ADHD feels physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted due to overexerting themselves. Burnout is something a lot of people deal with, specifically at work, even if they don’t have ADHD. But, due to some of the symptoms of ADHD and the challenges it presents, people with the condition are more likely to suffer from it more easily.
People with untreated ADHD may find that they are especially prone to burnout, largely because the symptoms that can lead to overexertion go unmanaged. Some of the symptoms of ADHD that can lead to burnout include:
- Lack of motivation: An initial lack of motivation to complete a task can lead to a rush for completion just before the deadline. In turn, this can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety about projects, fuelling emotional burnout and forcing physical burnout from having to do lots of things with no break in between.
- Inattention: When you’re not focused on a single task, you’ll likely flit between other tasks, some of which are less pressing. This can have similar effects to a lack of motivation and compound productivity issues.
- Anxiety: Anxiety is more prevalent in people with ADHD and can cause a lot of emotional and mental distress, leading to burnout.
In essence, ADHD burnout is similar to general burnout; however, the symptoms of ADHD can make people more prone to it and experience it in a more intense way.
Why do people with ADHD get burnt out?
As mentioned, a lot of the symptoms of ADHD can lead to burnout. One of the main reasons is thought to be overcompensating, especially in people who have predominantly inattentive ADHD (or what used to be called attention deficit disorder / ADD). This can cause problems with listening and staying focused, and can lead to careless mistakes in work and, without a diagnosis, a misunderstanding that you’re not trying hard enough. With this in mind, it’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to feel like they need to overcompensate to try and make up for their executive dysfunction. This is called ADHD masking. Trying hard and never quite reaching the expected goals can be difficult and take a toll, namely in the form of burnout.
Another common reason for ADHD burnout is struggling to plan and organise effectively. This can quickly lead to you overextending yourself and spreading yourself too thin, failing to say no and ending up with an unmanageable amount of tasks which are overwhelming and can lead to burnout and mental exhaustion.
How to manage and avoid ADHD burnout
There are a number of ways you can reduce the chances of getting burnt out, as well as managing symptoms when you do. Here are some of the most common techniques that many people with ADHD find useful when preventing burnout.
Learn to say no
A significant reason why people with ADHD get burnt out is because they bite off more than they can chew, so to speak. This isn’t an inherently bad thing and tends to come from a place of goodwill and people pleasing, but it can mean sometimes, there are too many tasks and not enough people or time to complete them.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to learn to say no to people or tasks that will overextend you, overexert you, or potentially cause something else you’ve already agreed to, to slip. It’s not easy saying no, especially at work when you feel like you have to say yes in order to keep your job, but remember that it’s the quality, not the quantity of work that counts. There’s nothing wrong with saying no to a task if it’ll compromise your ability to do several others, or your ability to maintain your wellbeing.
Repeat positive affirmations
Positive affirmations can really help with self-confidence and can ensure you are aware of and understand your worth. If you’ve let things slide, you might feel guilty, anxious, or incapable of doing your job, but this isn’t the case. You are still valuable, you have your own unique skills, you’re capable of your role, and you have worth.
Repeating such things and taking the time to reflect on what you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come is a good technique to remembering that you are valuable, loved, and good at what you do. Building up your self-confidence can go a long way to helping your mental health and your emotional wellbeing.
Overestimate time allowances
A lot of people with ADHD struggle with organisation and time management. If this is you and you find that a large part of your burnout comes from the pressure to complete tasks rapidly, it might be worth overestimating how long it takes you to do things.
This might sound counterproductive, but it can be an effective way to reduce stress and pressure because overestimation provides you with a safety net as such. It can also be good for people who have difficulty concentrating and who get distracted easily, resulting in time loss.
Learn it’s okay to make mistakes
It’s common for people with ADHD to feel like they can’t make mistakes because they’ll be judged against their neurotypical counterparts if they do. Many children with ADHD face lots of criticism, especially if they’re undiagnosed or don’t have an effective support system that can help them flourish academically, leading to an almost innate fear of failure. This means perfectionism and never being satisfied with your work can be common, only compounding burnout over time.
To try and avoid this, it’s important to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re only human and humans aren’t perfect. No one expects you to be perfect, even if you were made to feel that way beforehand. Double-checking your work is always advisable, but it’s okay to get things wrong sometimes.
Ask for help if you need it
Everyone needs additional help and allowances when doing things at some point, but it’s not uncommon to feel embarrassed to reach out. For people with ADHD, one of the reasons for this might be that they have more difficulty maintaining jobs and careers. In fact, 60% of people with ADHD said that they lost a job due to their ADHD and its symptoms. This in itself can lead to extreme anxiety in the job sector and asking for help.
To try and ease this, it’s always a good idea to reach out and ask for help whenever you need it. Whether it’s asking for instructions to be given both verbally and written down, or asking if you can have a designated quiet place to go to to try and focus when you feel overwhelmed or distracted, it’s important to be honest with your employer and your colleagues and try and implement processes to help you when you need it. After all, ADHD is a mental health disorder and it’s natural that provisions may need to be made to help you thrive.
Schedule rest time
Another core symptom people with ADHD often have is issues with resting and self-care. This can be for several reasons, including feeling the need to overcompensate to avoid being seen as lazy, or because there’s so much to do it feels like you can’t stop. If you’re continually on the go all the time, your body and mind will eventually get exhausted and need a break. As The saying goes, if you don’t listen to your body and take a break when needed, your body will choose to take a break for you. This is where burnout comes in as ADHD fatigue sets in.
It can be very difficult for people with ADHD to commit to resting and feeling okay about doing nothing, but this is definitely something you can work on to try and avoid burnout. For example, if you’ve been really busy at work on a big project, once it’s complete, take some time out to relax and do what you enjoy, whether it’s watching television, meditating, painting, or even sleeping.
This is especially important if you suffer from other mental health or sleep problems, as lots of people with ADHD often do.
ADHD support at The ADHD Centre
ADHD burnout can be debilitating and frustrating to deal with, especially if it’s a regular thing. If you find that you’re often feeling burnt out and at the end of your tether, it could be a sign that your ADHD isn’t being managed as well as it could be. If you’re undiagnosed but identify with some of the symptoms talked about in this article, it could also be a sign that you have ADHD that hasn’t been spotted yet.
In any case, at the ADHD Centre, we offer lots of support and advice for adults with ADHD who experience burnout. We can not only diagnose you, but we can talk you through a holistic treatment plan that is bespoke to you and your ADHD symptoms. For more information on the ADHD support available at our clinics, please contact us today to speak to a mental health professional.
There are a lot of challenges that people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) deal with on a daily basis, but one that isn’t spoken about so often is burnout. ADHD burnout can be debilitating and take a significant toll on a person’s mood and wellbeing – but there are ways you can limit the effects of burnout and try to prevent it altogether.