Fighting and Preventing Neurodiverse Burnout
DifferentBrains.org is excited to present our latest virtual panel “Fighting & Preventing Neurodiverse Burnout”. Join us as our panel of experts share their unique, neurodiverse perspectives, while offering tools and tips for recognizing, fighting, and preventing burnout.
- DR. MARSHA D. BROWN (Forensic & Clinical Psychologist / Host of Self-Care Chronicles Podcast / drmarshabrown.com)
- SEAN INDERBITZEN (Autism Self-Advocate / Licensed Clinical Social Worker / Therapist / seaninderbitzen.com)
- BROOKE SCHNITTMAN (ADHD & Executive Functioning Coach / Co-Host of ADHD Power Tools /coachingwithbrooke.com)
- KATIE OSWALD (Autism Self-Advocate/ Founder of Full Spectrum Agency For Autistic Adults / fullspectrumasd.org)
- ALI IDRISS (ADHD Self-Advocate / Writer / Co-Host of ADHD Power Tools)
- SARAI WELCH (Different Brains Intern Board Representative / Writer)
ALI IDRISS (AI): Hello, everybody. Welcome to our Different Brains Speaker Series installment for May fighting and preventing neurodiverse burnout. My name is Ali Idris I will be your moderator tonight and I want to thank everybody for attending. This webinar will have closed caption generated by otter AI. These can be controlled using the CC button on your zoom dashboard. We will start in just a minute but first my fellow intern Sariah is going to share some information about different brands. Hello, everyone.
SARAI WELCH (SW): I’m sorry Welch and I’m an intern at different brains. And I want to tell you a bit about our organization. Different Brains is a nonprofit that strives to encourage understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. Our mission has three pillars, one to mentor neurodiverse adults and maximize their potential for employment and independence, to to increase awareness of neurodiversity by producing media, and three to foster a new generation of neuro divergent self advocates. Here are different brains, we promote awareness to the production of variety of neuro diverse media content, including our multiple web series, blogs, podcast, movies, and documentaries, all available for free at different brands.org. All of our content is worked on by those in the mentorship program, through which we aid individuals in taking the first step towards achieving their goals and finding their voice. To find more information or to make a tax deductible donation, please visit our website at different ways that org back at you, Ally.
AI: Thank you, Sarai. Before we start, I want to invite everyone to send questions using the q&a feature in zoom or by putting questions in the chat box. And now I want to start by having each one of our panelists today give a brief introduction of themselves. Let’s start with Dr. Marsha Brown.
DR MARSHA BROWN (MB): Hi, everybody. I’m very excited to be here. I’m Dr. Marshall Brown. I am a licensed psychologist in private practice, and I teach people to conquer their stress.
AI: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Marsha. We can go ahead with Katie.
KATIE OSWALD (KO): Hi, everyone. I’m Katie as well. I’m an artistic self advocate and the founder of full spectrum agency for autistic adults, which I founded because I was looking for other autistic adults to hang out with and interact with, learn from and I couldn’t find anything in my area. So I started that up. And we’ve been going for over three years now. Very active with lots of activities, social stuff, peer support group, etc. So thank you for having me.
AI: Thank you, Katie. We can go ahead with Shawn up next.
SEAN INDERBITZEN (SI): Hey, I’m Sean. I’m a therapist. I specialize in working with people with autism and trauma. And I’m a sensory motor a level two psychotherapist, I lecture regularly fasci. I teach social work basics at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. I’m trying to think what else? I do research primarily in autism and trauma, specifically in sensorimotor, psychotherapy and neurobiological models of the causes of autism.
AI: Thanks, Sean. And last but not least, Brooke.
BROOKE SCHNITTMAN (BS): Hey, Ali. My name is Brooke Schnittman. I am the co host of ADHD Power Tools with our lovely host Ali. I am the owner of an ADHD and executive functioning coaching company for created adult professionals and students. And my name, the name of the company is coaching with Brooke, we’ve been around for the past four years. We have eight different coaches and love different brains love collaborating with like minded individuals like all of you.
AI: Thank you, Brooke. And I’ll go ahead up next. My name is Ali. I’ve been with different brands for over two years now. Or an ADHD self advocate as I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD at seven years old. I’m also an author doing research with different brains. And like Brooke said, co host of ADHD power tools for almost two years now. I’m also doing my second bachelor’s at FAU, Florida Atlantic University in neuroscience and behavior in ER technician and I aspire to to become a physician one day, but um, go ahead, we’re gonna go ahead and hop in. So um, the first question we want to ask you all is, what is burnout to you? What are some experiences you guys can give us on burnout? And how do you define it?
KO: I’ll go ahead. So how I define burnout is partially influenced by my experience with it. So I have lost a few years of my life to autistic burnout. Because I struggled so much in school all day in K 12. It was just too much sensory for me. And so I ended up not being able to go to college until I went part time when I was 23. And I went full time starting when I was 26. But I needed those few years after having so much sensory burnout, to really feel able to do anything anymore. And it made me feel like people will make you feel like you’re lazy. And it’s not true. So there’s a lot of not a lot, but there’s some research coming out now about autistic burnout, that it’s looking like, it’s you know, it’s very, it’s in line with what I’ve experienced, it’s longer than, you know, it’s showing that it’s longer than the typical burnout, like people will say, Oh, I’m so burned out, I need a week off of work, that kind of thing. So it’s typically three months or longer, and mine was a few years. So. And it’s often accompanied by loss of skill. So I’ve seen this with, you know, if you’ve, if you struggled to communicate verbally when you were younger, but then, you know, you started doing better with that, like, if you go into burnout, that that’s an example of a skill you might kind of regress on and there’s cases where it looks like, you know, sometimes we don’t regain these skills after burnout. So you know, it’s just this, it’s one of the definitions that I’ve seen in autism and adulthood is a great journal that I’ve seen some good information about autistic burnout, that is these accumulated stressors that lead up to, you know, we’re not able to find the help that we need, because people tend to not listen to us and not think that we’re struggling as much as we say we are. And so there ends up being, you know, the expectations of us are more than than we’re able to do, and we just kind of collapse under the pressure. So that’s the definition that I’m seeing in journal a little bit, and it’s very consistent with what I experienced.
AI: Thank you, Katie. What do you think, Brooke? What is burnout to you? And yeah, give us Thank you.
BS: So similar to Katie. So Katie works for the autistic population. I work with individuals with ADHD and I also have ADHD myself. So burnout has is an ad a is at an all time high. Now with COVID and everything that’s going on, but how it’s seen with ADHD errs is not eating, skipping meals, having sugary foods, stress tension. What can cause it sometimes is you know, our hyper focus and not attending to our personal needs, taking breaks, meditation, all those things that I’m sure we’ll get to. Another thing is, you know, Olli, you know, we can analyze everything and fall into analysis paralysis. And because of that, we can stress over our decision making. And because of that, we can achieve burnout as well, because we’re not putting our personal needs ahead of all the other needs, whether it be the decision making or burnout from work or burnout from not setting boundaries with our friends, because we can be people pleasers. So that’s just a few of the many examples of ADHD burnout in my opinion.
AI: Thanks, Brooke. And what about you, Sean, how would you define burnout?
SI: Well, I mean, I think about burnout is this brother wide reaching phenomenon that isn’t specific to any one population. I think about sort of like in terms of deaths and resurrections, right, like, right now, like, I’m in the middle of a bunch of my projects and things dying, right, because I’ve just been hitting it so hard for the last three and a half, four years, like between COVID becoming a therapist, right, like, being engaged, that falling apart, like it’s just, you know, a lot of death but Right, like it’s making space for new life and sort of right, like, I think about burnout in terms of what is the pace my body is going at, and I’m doing life at vs. Right? Like, what can actually sustain? Because I think it’s really easy right to go into, like, overdrive have and then to completely right, like, destroy our body in the process, right? Like I think of one of my friends, her name’s Buffy. And she is now she’s been working her ass off for the last 30 years. Now he’s having her colon like, dissected, like taken out of her body put back in, right? Because they can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. And I mean, the body is just so responsive to these things. So that’s how I think about burnout.
AI: Thanks, Sean. And Dr. Marsha Brown, I want to ask you, can you give us some insight on burnout from more of a general mental health perspective?
MB: Absolutely. So burnout is just a state of being where a person feels constantly exhausted and overwhelmed and unable to focus on what they need to focus on, they feel completely ineffective. And the exhaustion that I talked about is not just physical exhaustion, so it’s not just your body feeling tired, but it’s also a state where you feel exhausted emotionally and psychologically. And so you reach this point where you feel like you’re sort of spinning, you’re spinning your wheels, but not really making any progress. And I, I use the analogy of it feels like you’re treading water in the middle of the ocean, as opposed to feeling like you’re swimming to shore and making some progress and going in some direction.
AI: Thank you, Dr. Brown. Um, so we want to switch gears a little bit and go into recognizing burnout. How would you guys recognize burnout? And we can go ahead and begin with Sean on this one.
SI: Oh, I mean, I can really speak best to my own burnout, right, which is just, it’s like it’s hard, right? Like, it’s not an easy like, me, like, Yeah, I’m burned out. But like, you just sense it in your bones. Right, which I realize isn’t a very scientific answer. But I think, for me, right, like, it’s about, where’s my energy at? Not necessarily just like, what’s the amount of energy that I have? At a given point, but how does that energy recover? Right? Like, does it take three days for me to come back? From a five day week, right when I only get to? And so I think about it in terms of energy, right, like, and I know that seems overly simplified, but you know, I think right, if you have this general sense of, Wow, I can’t do anything in life, right? Like, or I’m just completely lost. Well, what needs to die
KO: I just wanted to say to Sean, I think that is actually a good way to thinking about it. That’s a trade off the trade off that you have, you know, that you’re giving you only have so much energy to give. So yeah, I think about it a lot like that, too. And so the things that I know that people noticed in me and what I noticed and others Yeah, I see in the chat to Katie that the spoons, how many spoons you have to give it? Yeah, the spoons concept. Exactly. So I know when it’s happening with me, like, I might be like, typically overwhelmed by sensory things like and maybe you appear to be processing things slower in general, but it’s like even more so when I’m on the verge of overwhelm. Or if I’m like going into burnout, I’m just all that more easily overwhelmed by things. You know, my sensory processing might get slower I have moments where like, I don’t know if you guys can relate to this where I call it I lose time, like I’ll be standing somewhere and then just suddenly come back and it’s like, was I just standing here staring at nothing for and how long was I doing that for? It’s like, I just went away. So you know, I might get more quick to anger, meltdowns, it just becomes more challenging to communicate in any way. And I think like, you know, it looks almost like you know, these periods of catatonia like I know that’s like an actually a condition and I don’t want to make like a comparison to that but like that’s what it you know what I kind of think of it as is like, I almost become like catatonic at some points. So that’s how I those are the things that I would like people would need to look for and me to like recognize that that’s going on with me.
AI: Thank you, Katie. Does anybody else have any thoughts on that? Brooke, Dr. Brown?
BS: Yeah. For burnout, I would say It creeps very often. And then all of a sudden it hits you. And you’re like, where did it come from? It’s almost like, you know, eating a bunch of brownies. And then eventually the scale is tipping. Like, how did that all of a sudden happen like? So the physical reactions that I get from burnout are like that, as I mentioned that stress in my shoulders, my neck, I start getting sick, I started having really short, I guess, patients for others. And, you know, unfortunately, sometimes take it out on the people that I love the most. I don’t want to take part in the things that I enjoy, like tennis and my outlets, I just want to veg. And yeah, just need a lot of like, introverted time to get myself back to where I was. So for me, burnout is that stress that I feel?
AI: Thank you, Brooke. And, Dr. Brown, do you have anything else to add on to recognizing burnout?
MB: Absolutely, I think everyone’s already said it beautifully in terms of the individual nature of burnout, because I think that everybody can learn to kind of recognize signs when they’re stressed and overwhelmed and reaching burnout. And then there are some symptoms that are a little bit more that a lot of people see. So it’s not just you, you do have to figure out those individual things so that you know what your signs are. But they’re also signs like losing focus, having anxiety, being anxious, nervous or worried, and not really sure what that why that is, problems with sleeping. Either that’s not being able to fall asleep, because you’re you know, trying to problem solve in your head or once you fall asleep, trouble staying asleep, being socially isolated. So if you are a person that usually likes to be around other people to a certain extent, but then all of a sudden, you don’t ever like to be around people. And then being in a situation where you’re, you know, irritable or more cranky than usual. And then something that’s really helpful to see that you know, you may be experiencing burnout is if you get to times when you have times when your normal, like routines, or your normal stress busting activities are less effective, or they start you know, they stop working altogether. Those are some pretty good signs that for you, you might be in a state where you’re, you know, reaching burnout.
AI: Thank you, Dr. Brown. Everything you guys said was amazing. So I want to I want to switch gears and go over to a short question break, I’ll throw it over to survive to coordinate the questions for us.
SW: Oh, thank you, Ali. First question that we have is what is the spoons concept?
KO: I can say I can take that because I think I was the one that that commented on that because somebody had brought it up in the chat. So it’s an analogy kind of, of I don’t know where it came from. I actually it didn’t come from the neurodivergent. Community initially about you have a certain number of spoons in a day to that you’re that you use? Yes, it came from the chronic illness community. Thank you, autumn. And Joe Allen. Yeah. And so the neurodivergent community uses this a lot now. So like what takes one person, like costs them one spoon might take me three spoons, like, get in. It’s basically like, you know that the how much energy something costs you how much mental energy, something costs you and so like getting ready for work. For example, when I used to work full time in an office, my colleagues didn’t understand why I would get up so early to get ready for work, because I hate mornings. They’re like, why don’t you just set your alarm for later and get more sleep? And it’s like, because I need three hours to kind of process going into the world and like kind of getting ready for coping with that. It just costs me more schools than it would cost them. So I hope I’ve explained that. Well, if anybody who has more, you know, has a better explanation in this. Yeah, go ahead in the chat. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So you’re saying you only have a certain number of spoons in the day, whereas a neurotypical doesn’t necessarily have a set number. Maybe they can, they can refresh there, and they have more spoons to start with? Yeah.
SW: Okay, great. Thank you, Katie. The next question that we have is what’s the difference between burnout and meltdown for people on the spectrum?
SI: I can take that one. I don’t really know the But I would. So I think it has to do like they’re both to the body of the same thing. But in terms of timing, they’re different. And here’s what I mean by that, right? So your body, like when it becomes irritable, right enters this state of fight or flight, right? And so, essentially, you’ve left your window of tolerance place where things are hunky dory. Or if you saw a baby, you’d be like, Oh, right. Like, if you got bad news, when you’re in this state, it’s like, that’s not good. And so you might like, really just, I mean, it can look like anything, right? Like it most commonly looks like hitting other people’s stabbing people, right? Like, I see more extreme examples in my practice. But, um, burnout, though, I would say is sort of a more chronic condition of that, right? Like, you keep going into fight flight freeze chronically over and over and over and over again. And there’s no resolution. So really, I think they’re variations of the same thing. But the timing being different, but to the body, it’s all the same.
KO: Right? Yeah, I agree with that, too. It does. It’s, it’s feels the same to your body. And like, the burnout, with the meltdowns for me like it feels like a more temporary version of the burnouts, kind of like the meltdown, like a meltdown can happen, like, in an instant, but then it takes me like maybe a few days or like, sometimes like a week to recover from that. Whereas the burnout is just a much more prolonged version of that, like, like Sean said, from having having that happen so many times. And I think for me, too, there’s a point where, like, during, you know, during what when I’m in complete burnout, that I kind of like, just go numb to where it’s more like a shutdown than a burnout. But I think, yeah, the internal, like, the impact that it’s having on my body is very similar to all of those things. Burnout, meltdown in shutdown.
SW: Okay, thank you guys. The next question that we have is how can people become self aware enough to recognize when they’re burnt out? As Brooke said, I often feel like it comes out of nowhere, I have gap and chronic depression, and a lot of the symptoms all overlap in a messy way that makes it hard to tell.
AI: Brooke want to take over that one?
BS: I feel like I keep answering the same question by accident, I guess I don’t. So I think a lot of what everyone already said, you get irritable, you maybe don’t go to the bathroom, or do go to the bathroom too much. You get headaches. You. So those are the After Effects. But how do you I guess the question was, how do you know it’s coming on before it gets too much? I think it’s more of reframing it to are you sticking with the boundaries and the the schedules? And are you being true to yourself about like your wants and your needs and checking in with yourself on a daily basis, and reflect on that day, before you get to that point. So if you start to realize you’re not following the tools that work for you, day in and day out, then, you know, burnout is manifesting. So, once you get into practice the things that work best for you, I believe that you are better equipped for burnout.
AI: Sean, do you have your hand up?
SI: I do. I don’t know that. I agree. I don’t necessarily disagree. I just think of it in a different way. Like I think it depends on what age right is a big piece of executive functioning, development. And then to write like, Have you ever had a state where you’re not in chronic threat? Right, which for some people, right, like is not the case, right? Like there are people who repeatedly Trump does over and over and over and over and over again, like complex post traumatic stress disorder that is just never the case. They don’t know safety and so I think about it more momentary than Brooks describing I think everything she’s saying is true. And just think about it more momentary in the sense that right, like, if you don’t know what it’s not like to be in Fight, Flight freeze, how would you even begin to know what it’s like to not be in fact…
BS: I agree, I agree. And I was trying to be careful about what I was saying. It’s like you, you know, as a coach, I’ve been through a lot of work and I continue to work on myself. and help others. So had I not done that work? I might also, like you’re saying not know the signs of how to manage burnout and recognize it. So I agree with you in that sense.
SI: Well, there Yeah. And I think, right, there’s also just age peace, I think if you’re a teenager, right, like your self awareness is pretty miniscule, compared to if you’re 33, right? Like the exe, even in a normal, like, quote, unquote, normal, like a non neurodivergent. Li developing brain, right? Like male brains don’t develop till 32 or 33. I think it is now. And then female brains developed by 25. Right? So like self awareness, or like all the 30, sometimes 30. Right. And then if you have an executive dysfunction, say ADHD, autism…
BS: Like a three year delay.
SI: Yeah. It’s like a substantive delay.
BS: Yeah, absolutely. But it’s so interesting, because my stepson he is turning nine, and he can recognize, I believe, it really is just how your metacognition works, and how trained you are in recognizing those symptoms. He knows when he’s starting to feel tired, and he wants to go to bed, or if like, his body’s telling him not to do something and push it. So I agree, the older you are typically the better but sometimes, you know, younger people recognize the symptoms as well.
SI: It probably helps to have an awesome ADHD coach, as the stepmom who like gets those PowerPoints and for kids.
BS: Thanks, Sean.
KO: But that’s why it’s so important to to like, have somebody to like because if you don’t know that you need strategies, like because I’ll say to somebody sometimes, like, what strategies are you using now? And sometimes they like people don’t even know that they need strategies, they haven’t even thought about it. And like, the age thing, like, there are some people because of executive dysfunction, I think that, you know, especially if you’re like kind of going towards burnout and haven’t recognized it as such, like, you’re going to need some support, like, you know, a coach or like, you know, we’re we talking about like body doubles, you guys are probably familiar with the I learned that from an ADHD friend of mine. And we’re starting to use that in my autism group, like, you might always like some people might always kind of need somebody there for support to help them recognize like everybody’s going to be in kind of a different place in terms of how they’re able to recognize their body signals isn’t what I’m trying to say. Yeah.
AI: Thank you, Katie. So we’re going to hop into our next section on this top of burnout, more specifically dealing with burnout once it’s happening. And number one of our ADHD Power Tool episodes, we went over boundaries and burnout went over a few tools such as no saying no, identifying your priorities, and just taking a break when needed. I want to ask you guys dealing with brown, what’s happening? What can you guys say about that? Dr. Brown, if you want to hop in, you can go ahead.
MB: Sure, absolutely. So you know, when he gets to the point where you’re already burnt out, you’re likely overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, you have a lot of things going on. So, you know, first and foremost, I think it may be helpful to just stop and sort of disconnect from, you know, all of the things that you’re trying to do all the tasks that you you know, might be trying to accomplish, and figure out, it’s sometimes very helpful to figure out what your sources of stress are. So identify your sources of stress, not just the obvious ones, but the hidden ones as well. So some of the things that you may not realize are stressing you out or taking a lot of your energy. And also, it’s sometimes helpful to assess which activities and people give you energy as opposed to activities and people that suck out your energy.
So, you know, I’m sure that many people can think of certain tasks or certain individuals that when they interact with them, you know, they just need we just kind of need a break from it, right? We need to sort of regroup, we need to stop we need to completely cut ourselves off from all stimulation after these activities or people. And so it’s really important to know what those are. And if you’re in a point where you’re burnt out, just re looking at your sources of stress, reassessing your priorities and boundaries first and foremost to see if you have been, you know, enforcing your boundaries and keeping within your own limitations or your own abilities. I think those are some of the things that are really helpful and reaching out for help. If you have a source of, if you have a support system, if you have people who, you know, support you and can help you through it, so that you’re not dealing with it alone, alone. Sometimes it’s hard to reach out to other people, but really trying to find other resources as well so that you’re not just sort of trying to power through on your own.
AI: Dr. Brown, I agree with the support system part a lot, you know, just family, friends, those you can trust if you’re a college student, like myself, advisor, classmates just reaching out. I do 100% Agree. Um, and does anybody else have anything else to add for dealing with burnout? Once it’s happening? I’m just gonna,
KO: Um, so I just want to make sure everybody knows that. Like, when I went through my burnout, like, it made me feel like people, I don’t know if they never said anything to make me feel like this specifically, but it was more in the way they were acting towards me is that you may make you feel like, you’re just being lazy, or that you’re somehow a loser. And like, that is so not true. Like, when I was going through that I felt like so useless that I’m like, I’m never gonna make anything out of my life. And I’ve been able to do so many great things since then. So I just want to make sure that everybody knows first and foremost that like, when you go through that, like, that’s not happening to you, because you’re lazy or anything that’s wrong with you, it’s just something that happens, like when we get too overwhelmed, so So to be really just be really kind to yourself. And normally, I’m, I’m all on board with like, you know, looking for those moments to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, everybody says this, you know, you have to, like, you know, try to build, you know, and go beyond your comfort zone. But to me, like when you’re in burnout, that’s not a time to do that. So you really have to be able to take the baby steps and be okay with that. Even if somebody else does something or says something to make you feel like it’s not enough.
So like, if one day, you’re your baby stuff is like getting out of bed for a few minutes. And then like the next day, it’s maybe like, going out to the mailbox to get the mail and then you can work up from there to like, go for a walk around your neighborhood. But then one day, you might have a bad day, and you may only be able to get out of bed for a few minutes again, that’s okay. You know, you try try again the next day, and just take those little those baby steps. Make yourself a snack. I know that I thought and hopefully you guys have a support system, because I know that forgetting to eat and forgetting to do those self care things are something that happens with burnout. And so you know, making sure you have the support system in advance in case something like that happens. But yeah, the Baby Steps texting with a friend maybe rather than like talking on the phone seems too overwhelming. Stuff like that. And for me, I just had to I honestly because I didn’t understand what was happening to me at the time. I just had to write it out. Like there was no like, Man, this I wish I could like tell everybody there’s like some. I’m not saying that there’s not strategies, but oftentimes there’s not like, you know, a magic wand kind of solution. Thanks, Laura. So you, you know, you just have to I just wrote it out and like gave it time, but like I would, I would tell people to like look for those baby steps that you can deliberately take that. Yeah, a done button. There’s no gun button. Looking in the chat. Yeah, baby steps, and don’t push too much.
AI: Brooke, you’re about to say something. You’re on mute. Brooke just heads up.
BS: Thank you. So Katie, I agree with you. I also want to share though, in the contrary, that sometimes even when you’re burnt out, and I know it’s hard to think that way, but like just helping others or being around like giving back in a way where it’s not too much for you can bring you energy as well. So added to that. And Dr. Brown is so on point with what you’re saying like stopping and pausing and evaluating but something you had mentioned about surrounding yourself with the right type of people, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with and, you know, sometimes we have people in our family that we unfortunately, you know, might suck our energy and we know it and that’s like the hardest thing in setting boundaries. But you know, practicing some ways ahead of time, too. Be prepared to set those boundaries with the people that you kind of have to be around.
AI: Sean, would you add anything?
SI: Just feel like I’m contrary to everything Brooks. I just come at it. Yeah, get the van. But no, I come at this from a very different lens, right? Like I come at this from an internal family systems perspective, right. So it might be burnout for one person might not be for another, right? Like for me, right? Like, my burnout is because I pushed myself exponentially, right. Like I’ve achieved some really cool things. I’ve worked with some really cool people done some really amazing projects. And yet it kills me. Whereas for somebody who’s like, depressed, right, like, it might be the opposite, right? Like, it might be that, hey, I need to try taking a step. Like that’s really so like, I just I think it depends.
BS: I don’t think that’s any different than what I was saying, Sean. I think you’re just adding to it. It’s not like the opposite.
SI: I’m not trying to be opposite. I just am like, oh, no, here I go contradicting people again.
BS: No, you’re not contradicting, you’re just adding to it. That’s different.
AI: So we’re gonna go over to the question break right now. Sarai if you want to take over.
SW: Hello, thank you, Ali. Okay, so our first question is, from someone anonymous, Dr. Brown brought up sleep issues, I have ADHD and our circadian rhythm disorder. When I get off scheduled for sleep, I can essentially turn not turn off any ideas for how to get back on track sleep wise, knowing the ideas of quote unquote, sleep hygiene, don’t mean that I can motivate myself to enact them. And so it becomes a vicious cycle with burnout.
BS: Can I go? We should watch Ali and mine sleep revenge, procrastination, ADHD power tools episode, go on Different Brains YouTube. But it’s a lot of planning. And I know that Sean is going to contradict what I have to say right now. But planning before you try to go to bed at a certain time. So it’s like thinking about all the little steps that you have to take before going to bed. And then a sleep schedule. And going to bed and waking up around the same time, day in and day out is helpful as well. But because of, you know, the hyper focus and possibly not following the schedule that we created, we punish ourselves and we, you know, come home late or work late, and then we want to relax and then it messes up the plan time that we’re going to go to sleep. So it’s planning ahead of time and doing your best to stay accountable to it.
SI: I’m not going to disagree with you. But I am going to add that I think you have to plan the habits more than you have to manage the timing right. Like I think it’s about how much like National Sleep Foundation has great recommendations on you’re this age do this much sleep, which like some of the time makes sense. And some of the time don’t, right? Like lots of old friends who don’t sleep more than two, three hours at a time versus right like me. I’m like, Oh, 10 hours of sleep. Yes, sir. All right. Like I think there are very well understood in the research habits, right like that can get in the way of sleep or like, like exercise before bed? Like, yeah, not the best because it releases endorphins, right? Like they actually elevate your energy level, not bring it down. And so I agree with pretty much everything Brooke saying just for me, it’s about the habits.
SW: Okay, so our next question is, how do we work with the neurotypical centric HR department managers? Well, we say neurodivergent burnout versus the workplace burnout. If you try to talk to anyone at work to help communicate, if you say burnout, they think it’s work burnout. And they brush it aside, it makes me want to scream, which I do silently and keep it inside and then melt down when I leave work. I think there needs to be a new term or some way to communicate it
AI: Who wants to hop on this one?
BS: I can go. Alright, um, I think it’s all about like, trust. And if you don’t trust your boss, or you don’t trust the people that you work with, it’s really hard to share the information with them and for them to understand. So it all starts there. I mean, you can suggest them for them to read something or you know, when watch something, but ultimately it comes down to how open they are to listening and taking in the information. So I would just be careful about if you decide to release your diagnosis to people in the workforce, and you know, just give it ample thought before going there.
SI: I was just going to say it’s the great resignation for a reason. I think Brooke’s answer is much better than mine.
BS: Oh, Sean.
KO: I couldn’t work with somebody anymore that wouldn’t recognize, you know, like, not everybody’s in that kind of position, though, where they can say like, well, this person isn’t going to take my concerns seriously. So I’m just going to walk away from this job, I made the very difficult decision of walking away from a job. Because I and I didn’t. I didn’t disclose my, my autism at the time, because I didn’t have any feeling that it would help. And I didn’t understand like, I didn’t really understand that part of my life yet. And so yeah, I mean, I think like that is a difficult decision to make to disclose in the workplace. But that that can set it apart from like saying, it’s not just that’s a very personal choice. But then it’s not just like burnout. This is autistic burnout or ADHD, burnout, burnout, neurodivergent, burnout, and then have some resources to point to like, like, recommend gender that maybe they can read up on. So. But yeah, I saw something in the chat, too, that it is. I agree. It’s very unfortunate. Oh, yeah. Susan, very unfortunate that workplace with brush aside any sort of burnout, right, like you would hope that they would want to take that seriously, regardless of if you’re neurodivergent or not. Yeah, that’s that is unfortunate.
AI: So we went over defining burnout, recognizing burnout and dealing with burnout. Now, I want to ask you guys, what What’s your perspective on preventing burnout? Um, we can go and start with you, Dr. Brown?
MB: Sure, yes, absolutely. So I’m making sure to disconnect daily. So engaging in activities that are restorative, and that replenish your stores. And when I say replenish your stores, I mean, your mental and physical and emotional stores, and also setting and enforcing boundaries, it’s helpful to identify, as I said, before identifying your triggers. And if you identify your triggers, you can prepare to encounter those triggers. So when I have a situation where I encounter this thing that’s going to trigger, whatever it is my stress, my anxiety, whatever the case may be putting things into place, so that you have several things that you can do when you are interacting with your triggers that can help to, you know, alleviate some of the stress. And if you can limit interactions with your triggers, or if you have a bunch of things that trigger you maybe not interacting with them back to back to back can be helpful. And listening to listening to our mind and body, I think is really important too.
We all have, you know, so many things going on. And so many things that we’re trying to accomplish that sometimes we’re just trying to get things done and just trying to make it through. So we become strangers in our own bodies. And we’re sometimes not able to identify with what’s going on in our bodies, or, you know, what we’re feeling like what it’s in reaction to or what it’s a symptom of. So really just sort of listening to the body and mind and figuring out what it is that we need in the moment and what will help. And that really is very individual, all these things are very individual. And in terms of figuring out how to deal with triggers, or how to hit the reset button. It’s all really trial and error. Because what works for one person is not going to work for the next person. And so it really becomes just trying different things out and seeing what is successful and what actually works. And that can really help burnout but really starting with the setting and enforcing boundaries and disconnecting daily I think can be really helpful as well.
AI: Katie, would you like to add anything to that?
KO: Yeah, I do. I mean, I do all of those things. Everything that Dr. Brown said for sure. Like that, if I like I know how much in general I can handle in a day. And so I’ve I have quit my job and went to work for myself and now I have the ability to space things out and not have so many meetings in a day. If you’re in a job, and you work for somebody else that might be an accommodation that you need, right? Like, I can only handle like, two meetings in a day, and there has to be a space, you know, naptime to prepare, like for the next one in between. So putting those breaks in between, and like, knowing what your boundaries are, and standing up for your boundaries, which is really hard to do. I mean, right? It’s really hard to like, say, and especially in a workplace, it’s really hard to do. It’s hard to say, to anybody really, in any relationship, but especially to your supervisor, I can’t, you know, I’m not able to do this this way, I need to set these boundaries. But when we’re talking about preventing burnout, I mean, I think we just, we have to be able to do that. You know, if you think about like, I always think about in the workplace like all these people saying, well, you have to do this, and you have to do this networking stuff. And you have to do that if you’re going to be successful in your career.
But that’s easy for those people to say, if they don’t know, like, how would affect you personally. So you as an individual, that we all have to be able to make the decisions for our life that are going to be best for us. Because it’s the person who says, you have to do all these networking events to make it in this field or whatever. If you if you burn out and crumble and you have to quit, like they’re just gonna go on with their life, it’s not going to affect them, you’re the one who’s going to be there to pick up the pieces. So, so you have to it’s about getting knowing yourself well enough and knowing your boundaries, it’s not enough to know what your boundaries aren’t right, you have to communicate them and stand up for them. And I would like to add on top of that, that the broader issue of like society, having a better understanding of neuro divergence, so that we don’t have these situations in workplaces where people are like, Oh, you’re you’re burned out, that’s just you need a week off or whatever. Like, these are misunderstandings. You know, people in society need to understand better about like, what it means to be autistic and ADHD, and other forms of neuro divergence so that when we do start to struggle, we’re not met with this kind of brick wall of like, Oh, your concerns are, are not valid, you must be making it up. And so the advocacy piece is also very important.
AI: Thank you, Katie. Does anybody else have anything to add? Go ahead.
BS: Um, I agree with everything that everyone says I also, to piggyback on what you said, Katie, just you know, evaluating if something’s in your strength or not, if it’s not in your strength that is going to burn you out, it’s going to stress you out and make you depressed. So to see if you could then delegate that to someone or, you know, body double and talk through. On top of that, for ADHD. Diaper focus comes in, we forget to eat. So taking those conscious meal breaks and drinking water, it’s so important for your focus and for your well being. And I know Dr. Brown was talking about like, utilizing like screentime apps. With that being said that like 1000s of notifications a day. So it can be really draining when you’re constantly getting pop ups everywhere. So to go into your settings, and in your phone and your computer and like get rid of all notifications that are unnecessary, because how many times where you’re just constantly like just swiping away. And then, on the contrary, just taking a look at the positives, like making a gratitude list, having you know, two nonword conversations per day with people in you know, the workspace, so you could separate work and personal and breathing. So like deep belly breaths, Dr. Amon talks about that, and how we forget to take those deep breaths. And that can really just be a game changer.
AI: For sure, for sure. Sean, Would you like anything else to add?
SI: Well, I kind of think about like my own boundaries between work and my personal life. Right? And they might seem silly, but like, when you listen to people, I’m sure Dr. Brown can relate to this, right? Like, it’s heavy, right? And so for me, right, like it’s sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast. It’s funny, because I’m just listening to terrible stories all day. Or sometimes it’s like I have a set routine that’s really about like, attacking my amendment, amygdala. So I’ll like usually go on a run or do some intense physical exercise because the more I can access this lower reptilian brain, the less I have to rely on this and the less thinking I have to do, the easier it is for this part of the brain to kind of catch up because this part of the brain right has to sort of be fine tuned when it’s carrying all this stuff.
AI: Yes, yes. So it’s time for questions and answers. Sarai, if you want to take over.
SW: Hi, thank you, Ali. Okay, so our first question is, What experiences do any of you or your clients have with burnout fueled by OCD?
AI: Who wants to hop on that?
SI: I think burnout fueled by OCD is pretty different than burnout fueled by autism, right? Because the repetitive interests are really different function. And I almost wonder about like, scheduling. Like, if you’re really big on scheduling, like Brooke is, for instance, right? Like, actually scheduling some time not to do the thing, right, like to hold space for not doing whatever the task is just seeing how long you can go. And that can be really stressful, though. And so I think, right, even scheduling some time maybe to do the thing. Because it’s about reminding yourself brain that you have the control over.
BS: I agree with that. My husband has ADHD and OCD. And we’re constantly talking about like scheduled things outside of work, because you’re gonna forget to do those things if you are only focusing on work. And it helps, and he has to schedule daily and look at his schedule.
AI: Dr. Brown, would you like to add anything to that?
MB: No, I I agree with what Sean and Brooke said in terms of the idea of scheduling things, I think that is a great idea. Because I don’t know about anybody else. But for me, if I don’t schedule, if it’s not my calendar, it’s not going to get done. And even if I have great intentions of, you know, taking care of myself relaxing, not doing the thing during the thing, whatever. Nothing will get done if it’s not the calendar. So sometimes it’s really helpful to just put it all in whether it’s a nap, whether you’re scheduling time to do nothing. It’s yeah, it can be very helpful, very important.
AI: We can throw it back to Sarai for another question.
SW: Okay, thank you. The next question is, what advice would you have when you feel like your spoons aren’t enough for the demands of any workplace or career, even with accommodations? The second part of that question is, or being patient with yourself and work performance as you learn how to work with your spoons while still meeting work expectations?
AI: Does anyone want to apply this one? Dr. Brown,
MB: Can you repeat that? I’m sorry? Because I know there were two parts of the question. Can we break it down?,
SW: Okay. So the first part of the question is, what advice would you have when you feel like your spoons aren’t enough for the demands of any workplace or career? Even with accommodations?
MB: Would you want me to just jump in here? Or somebody’s going to tell you? Well, I would have more questions, I would want to know whether that belief that your spoons are enough for the demands of any workplace or any career. Are those beliefs from something internal? So are you telling yourself that or have you had external cues or clues or someone else is telling you that because I think that sometimes, when we have, you know, different challenges, we can tell ourselves that we, you know, absolutely will not be able to do something even with accommodations, or even if we try, so I would want to explore that idea more to see if this is actually the reality of it. Or if it’s something that, you know, we’re just telling ourselves and also figure that out with the person who’s struggling with those challenges, but also figuring that out, maybe with somebody who has some expertise in the area of whatever challenges the person is facing, if that makes any sense.
KO: I don’t know. I’d like to piggyback on that if I can. So yeah, as somebody who has said, I will never work for somebody full time ever again. I can’t do it. There’s a lot of truth to what Dr. Brown is saying, because I had some bad experiences. So I do have like those external things to point to that like, yes, that went very badly for me. So I can’t imagine myself ever being able to or wanting to do that again. But now I’ve had enough distance between those experiences that and I’ve met a lot of really great people that I’m working with, through the work that I do for For myself, and I can see like, there could be a situation in which like, I might be able to, to find success, you know, in one of those types of scenarios again, so we do have to be careful with the internal, you know, messages that we’re sending ourselves, I do still say that to myself every day like go and I see those kinds of jobs, I’m like, Thank God, I don’t have to go to one of those jobs. So I can definitely relate to that. And, but I would also encourage, you know, not not limiting your opportunities. Like, I know, most of us who are newer, divergent have like that natural curiosity about life and like wanting to learn. And so like, if if you do find something that you’re very passionate about, don’t be, you know, try not to be so shut off to the idea of making a career or a job of it that you want to be open to that. Also, society tells us, you know, often that we’re supposed to finish school and go to a full time job where we work for somebody else, and that’s just not going to work for everybody. Like some people need some volunteer work, and then they’re on maybe they’re on disability support, maybe some people work a little bit part time and they get some other support. Others might be able to work full time, I stitched a bunch of different things together for my income, so it might look a little bit different, you know, for everybody, so not everybody is cut out to go for work full time for somebody.
AI: Thank you, Katie. We’ll throw it back to Sarai.
SW: Okay, thank you, Ali. Um, the second part? I don’t know if if we wanted to answer the second part of that question was how do you I think the question is asking how do you be patient with yourself, and work performance as you learn how to work with your spoons while still meeting work expectations?
SI: I have an answer. But I don’t think you’re gonna like it. Because being patient with yourself is really, really hard. And I think that’s right, like you just don’t meet the demands. And I think, right, like, like, someone just said, in the chat behind yourself, because the more judgment you give yourself, right, like, the worse and more entrenched it’s gonna get, because it’s about befriending the strategy, whatever that strategy, adaptive or maladaptive it is, right? Like, you can’t be friends. Right? If you judge it, it’s just going to go deeper and do what it does.
BS: I would also say to not put your whole focus on that one thing, because then you again, are missing, like the things that bring you joy. And then you’re judging your well being based on your performance, which your performance wasn’t where you know, your boss or whomever thought it should be from the beginning. So to be kind to yourself, like it was said in the comments, but also to make sure that your life is centered on more than just that. So you, you know, see yourself in a bigger picture.
SI: I have a friend who is saying, “Be kind to my friend, Sean”, she likes to say it to me, and it really pisses me off. But it’s a really great mantra, right? Like, be kind to yourself.
SW: Thank you, Sean. Okay, so we have time for one more question. Any helpful tips with setting boundaries with family members that you have to live with? You love them, but they just don’t even get, they don’t get even after years of explaining to them these concepts nicely with respect to not when you won. You’re you’re when you’re at your limit, and they still never understand that you respect your request for space choir, etc. I come from multicultural Latin family. And this adds an extra layer to the traditional skills learned when we learn about setting boundaries. So in other words, the question is asking, can you talk a little bit about setting boundaries with multicultural families or loved ones?
AI: Katie, I see you nodding your head unless Brooke, you want to help on this?
KO: Okay, yeah, the multicultural issues are really, I am not sure if I can answer that specific but like, just generally, like when you have people who are pushing back against your boundaries. You know, talk to a little bit about your feelings about it. Like I’m not sure if and probably you’ve maybe approached it this way already. The first thing that I go to is saying, you know those when you look at nonviolent communication, I don’t know if everybody’s familiar with this. Um, This concept, but you say I feel this way, because of this. And so sometimes people are feeling like you’re making, like irrational demands on them. And they don’t understand why you’re asking for that. And so framing it, like if, if you’re framing it as like, I feel this way because of this, and this is what I need. I can help. Also, you know, I, I would say, you know, if they’re open to learning more about neuro divergence, and you know, more specifics about that, there might be different, there’s different understandings about that across cultures, right. So that can be really challenging. And so trying to guide them towards resources that can help them understand things from your perspective. And as a third resource, I would say family therapy. And yeah, I sue was saying in the in the chat, too, like, yeah, sometimes you do have to leave family behind. Those are sometimes the people who are taking all of our students. So you had mentioned that in the question, the person mentioned that you have to stay with that family. So if you can find a way to not have to stay with people who are taking all your schools, that would be fantastic. Yep.
BS: If if you can talk and they actually listen, then sharing the impact it has on you and creating the picture perfect as well.
AI: Keep your spoons. So I think that’s it. And I just want to say, I think it ends for a q&a. We’ll say thank you to our amazing panelists. Thank you sir. I thank you to everyone attending. We will be sharing the links and contact information for everyone in the chat box and on the screen. If you enjoyed this panel, please consider making a donation at different brands.org events like this are only possible with support for people like you from everyone here at Different Brains.