Overcoming Autistic Burnout

What is Autistic Burnout?

Autistic burnout is when someone with autism has intense exhaustion that can be physical, mental, or emotional. It often comes with a paralysis of being able to function in any way.

Before burnout they may seem “normal” but afterward they can do nothing.

What causes Autistic Burnout?

So many things cause autistic burnout for neurodivergent people. This world was not necessarily created for people with autism, if it was, life would be much more simple. Life would be much easier with no time stressors and peaceful surroundings, fewer cars, less noise, and no overstimulation.

Burnout is something that I have felt all too much. Burnout feels degrading and depressing because when you are used to going 100 miles an hour one minute and the next minute, you can do nothing. When this happens to me I get so frustrated with myself for not being able to push through it. I question why I can’t go anymore. I am a software developer who hyper-focuses on projects and tasks. I can easily get in the zone and keep going, if I am working on a project in a crunch time I hyper-focus and work myself almost to death.

Before my diagnosis as an adult, I couldn’t understand why this was happening. What was I supposed to do? I often was so “sick” I couldn’t go to work (not the kind of sick that I was throwing up or I would work over the weekend and not be able to work the next week.

Here is a post about getting diagnosed with Autism as an adult: https://aspiedude.com/posts/getting-an-autism-diagnosis-as-an-adult

Since my autism diagnosis, I am learning to be more kind to myself. I have learned to give myself some grace. I try to do some things to help my days go more smoothly:

  • Work fewer hours

  • Take frequent breaks from work

  • Set timers for breaks (or I won’t take them)

  • Pet the dogs

  • Go for a walk

  • Go outside for a few minutes during the break

  • Take out the dogs if you work from home

  • Set alarms for lunch (this is something I often forget when I am hyperfocused on completing a task)

Some tips for Autistic Burnout?

  • Have a consistent morning routine (try not to deviate)

  • Stay hydrated

  • Work in chunks

  • Take breaks

  • Make sure you have eaten

How to Overcome Autistic Burnout?

One of the most helpful things that I have ever done is to have a morning routine. When my morning routine is thrown off, often my day isn’t as good, sometimes it’s no good at all. My morning routine is the most important step in helping me get a good start and have a good day with less burnout.

Other than being consistent in the mornings, I also think finding activities that can completely turn your brain off is important. These activities should provide a way to stop thinking about any tasks you are working on completely. For me, I might pick up a game or two of chess during the day. This can help with brain breaks. My mind still has to process and think, but it allows me to stop thinking about anything else because it requires so much thought. Another activity that works for me is playing Xbox. The reason Xbox works so well is that I have to focus on the screen and my hands, so I can’t think about anything else. It requires all of my focus.

However, these options only really work for daily stressors. Long-term burnout that lasts months is another beast. What works best for me is taking an entire day off from everything provides a hard reset. My cycle goes like this:

  • I get burned out and can no longer focus on anything. My exhaustion and stress are so overwhelming that I can’t think about what I’m supposed to do next.

  • I plan and take one ENTIRE day and don’t do anything except lay in bed and watch TV. The reason it’s important not to do anything is because it creates boredom. Boredom mixed with being unable to do anything creates an environment where the only option is rest.

  • I usually wake up the next morning feeling refreshed with a clear head. I may still feel burned out, but at least I can start tackling my issues with thought and clarity.


Take it slow. Be kind to yourself. No one understands you better than you, and you should not let their opinions control you, because you will burn out. It doesn’t hurt them. It only hurts you.

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