If you have ADHD (attentive deficit hyperactivity disorder), you know how challenging it can be to slow down. You might feel like your brain never turns off, there is always a constant buzzing in your head, and you always have a never-ending to-do list. To make up for what you perceive as setbacks, you might try to bite off more than you can chew, and find yourself at a breaking point, also known as ADHD burnout. And while it may feel impossible to recover, there is hope, and there are 10 tips you can apply to heal from hitting physical and mental exhaustion.
What Is ‘ADHD Burnout’?
ADHD is more than feeling distracted, impulsive, or hyperactive. It involves negative feelings and anxious thoughts about your identity, self-worth, performance, and relationships. It can also create a cycle of overextending yourself and feeling guilty for not fulfilling your expectations that you experience extreme fatigue, also known as ADHD burnout. When you hit this point, you may notice your house is out of control, your performance at work is suffering, and you have thousands of unread texts. Those with ADHD experience constant stress from prioritizing everything else and everyone around them, leaving no time for rest. When you’re consistently saying yes to everyone and completing a never-ending to-do list, the little voice inside you that says “slow down” is often ignored.
14 ADHD Burnout Warning Signs
The symptoms of ADHD burnout are similar to burnout, with fatigue being the most common and overlooked symptom, but on a deeper level. They are not always visible to the person with ADHD or to others. Here is a list of symptoms and signs to help you or a loved one know when to pump the brakes and recharge;
- Low self-worth
- Poor concentration
- Lack of motivation
- Poor impulse control
- Sensitivity to rejection
- Increased sensory problems
What Causes ADHD Burnout?
Several potential reasons explain why ADHD burnout develops;
- Desire to compensate. Often with a misguided understanding of the condition, many teachers and parents tell children with ADHD that they need to try harder, focus more, and pay attention. Many children internalize this belief and as adults, take on more to compensate for perceived setbacks.
- Not recognizing personal limits. A part of ADHD is not knowing how to plan, manage, or organize your time. This results in many underestimating their workload and committing to too many responsibilities at once.
- Hyperfocus with no breaks. Many become consumed by a task and spend every waking moment without rest. This hyperfocus disrupts their day-to-day and leads to poor nutrition, irregular sleep, and increased stress levels – a recipe for burnout.
10 ADHD Burnout Recovery Tips
1. Learn to say no
Learning to say no is a powerful form of self-care, especially when preventing ADHD burnout. The lack of personal limits with ADHD makes people feel like they have to say yes and take on more and more tasks without resting. It’s okay to say no.
2. Assess your priorities
Those with ADHD often people please and hold themselves to high expectations in fear of disappointing others. It’s self-care to take a step back, reassess what is important to you, and make adjustments to prioritize your health and mental wellbeing.
3. Develop a routine for sleep
Are you up most of the night tossing and turning, worrying you didn’t complete your to-do list? Or stressed out by the disorganization in your home? It might be time to create a healthier sleep routine. Complete an online yin yoga class, read a book or journal your concerns. Allow yourself time to destress before bed.
4. Let go
Is there anything in your life that is weighing you down or causing more stress? Identify what is causing you additional stress and determine whether you can let it go. Rather than taking more on, it is healthier to let go of stress by revaluating what or who brings you joy.
5. It’s not selfish to rest
You may feel guilty for resting or feel stressed by trying to squeeze yet another item on your to-do list. Instead of trying to pressure yourself to make time for self-care, take moments of small breaks where it applies to your day. For instance, you can rest by taking a few deep breaths, daydreaming, closing your eyes and counting to 20, or lying down and listening to meditation music. Any method you choose will allow you time to recharge, no matter how small.
6. Set boundaries
Is your boss, friend, or family member making things more challenging than necessary? If so, it might be time to set boundaries to protect yourself. It’s more than okay to communicate your feelings and explain what you need going forward. Perhaps you need to work fewer hours, limit the number of times your mother-in-law calls you, or the extra tasks you complete for a friend.
7. Recognize your accomplishments
It might be tempting to start a new task after you’ve crossed one-off, but give yourself a brief period to let your accomplishment sink in. You may feel guilty for taking a small break but remind yourself you are doing your best.
8. You are not your thoughts
Our inner dialogue is often not reliable or accurate. It’s a mash-up of our insecurities, vulnerabilities, and false societal programming. You don’t need to listen to every thought you have or allow it to take control of your day. When you hear your inner critic sneaking in, build awareness by stopping it in its tracks and repeating the opposite. For instance, replace “You’re not doing enough” with “Thank you for your input, but I value who I am and I am grateful for all that I am”. This one statement can create a pathway of self-love.
9. Refrain from masking
Many with ADHD try to mask or hide their differences. They pretend they are okay to avoid feeling ashamed or embarrassed. When you camouflage your feelings, you push aside opportunities to receive support. Acknowledge how you’re feeling and practice accepting who you are.
10. Ask for help
Asking for help is not a burden or sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength, resiliency, and self-care. While self-care can feel like another expectation to fulfill, asking for help is a self-commitment to prioritizing your needs rather than those around you. Whether you ask for help through therapy, at work with your colleagues, a spouse, or your friends, receiving support can make a significant difference in your day-to-day.
You’re doing enough, you deserve to take breaks to prevent ADHD burnout, and you are not alone.
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