ADHD Strategies to Avoid Burnout

9 October 2023

October is ADHD Awareness month which is held to raise awareness, educate the public and organisations, and remove any stigma associated with ADHD. My work coaching neurodivergent clients within organisations is to help them leverage their strengths, so they can thrive and optimise within their professional and personal lives.

A common experience for individuals with ADHD is burnout, as ADHD brains are curious, exciting, and busy environments. They are constantly whirring, making connections, and solving problems in innovative and creative ways. These are superpowers that can be harnessed when they are nurtured and protected, but when they aren’t it can lead to an unhealthy, repetitive cycle of intense periods of activity followed by a hard crash. This cycle is painful as it impacts mental and physical health in a range of negative ways – anxiety, insomnia, lack of energy, focus and motivation, weakened immune system, increases in impulsive eating and spending, social withdrawal, to name a few.  The great news is it can be avoided with a range of strategies that I recommend as follows:

Routine is key to optimise performance and avoid burnout – create a stabilising routine that includes key anchor behaviours – sleep, eating, exercise and relaxation. Whilst flexibility is required with all routines, don’t stray from the core.

Prioritise – Know your key priorities, have a current, up to date to do list so you avoid unnecessary and draining detours during the day.

Digital Tools: Use digital tools to help you focus and stay on track – set reminders (on multiple devices), alarms, block distracting Apps and websites on all your devices, I use:

Warning flags – There are lots of warning flags to let you know that you are heading for an ADHD crash, if you know what to look for. Once you spot them you can respond quickly, step back and refocus on nurturing yourself to avoid the crash.  You will have your own unique warning flags but look out for any of the following – feeling more overwhelmed and overstimulated than normal, an increase in anxiety, a louder, harsher inner critic, an increase in procrastination, difficulty focusing and getting motivated, craving ‘comfort’ to soothe yourself – food, shopping, gaming, scrolling.  These are signs you need to step back and slow down, ignore them at your peril.

Pace yourself – just because your brain is whirring at speed it doesn’t mean your behaviour has to respond without question and keep pace with it.  Be mindful of what you ‘choose’ to do in response to your thoughts and impulses – yes, I know the bathroom needs decorating, but it doesn’t have to be done ‘right now’. Resist the impulse and instead take a moment to consider, plan and set time aside to do it when it can be done at a pace that is manageable and enjoyable.

Less is More – pushing yourself harder, without breaks doesn’t lead to better results. We need to take regular breaks and to check-in with ourselves throughout the day to make sure we are meeting our basic physical needs, focusing our energy and attention on the right things, regulate our emotions and maintain a healthy perspective.

If you have any questions relating to this article, I’d be delighted to talk with you or your team, please contact me at [email protected]