Penny is an artist who uses her creative side and imagination to express herself. She’s now using this opportunity with ASDNext to not only do that through art, but also blogging. For much of her life, she felt like the “quirky sidekick” stereotype in a movie, always doing what others expected of her. When she was diagnosed with autism later in life, that all began to change. This news was life changing and she knew it was time to rewrite her story. She’s no longer on the sidelines of this so-called movie that is her life, she’s the director, leading-lady, or whatever other part she needs to play to figure out who she REALLY is! Every small step toward authenticity is now a victory for her in this new stage of life.View all posts
Battling Burnout by Embracing Rest
Have you ever felt like the world around you is too much to handle? This experience is not uncommon for me. As someone on the spectrum, I often find myself drained and overwhelmed by the neurotypical world. I’ve noticed that my sensory processing differences make me more susceptible to burnout. My brain is calm and collected like a parked car on my best days. Other times, I turn the key, and suddenly, all my senses light up the dashboard.
Even the most minor things add up to overload my senses. I start feeling anxious when there is too much noise or chaos, and I don’t have enough personal space. Observing and understanding the emotions and social norms of others requires a lot of focused effort (if you’re one of those people who does this effortlessly, I’m envious!). Frustration in not understanding instruction while desperately trying not to be a nuisance is aggravating for everyone involved. Eventually, my body feels tired, and my brain is entirely out of steam.
Yet, I feel so guilty for taking a break as the world turns around me. The general population continuously dodges life’s pitfalls, cartwheels away from troubles, and sticks their landing to receive “10’s” across the board. They show up to things on time, tend to their offspring, and even find time to go out and socialize. They can consistently leave the house on time, brush their teeth, wear clean clothes, and conquer their day. That bar seems low, but when you account for sensory processing issues, these tasks can sometimes take me triple the time to complete.
I feel a heavy cloud of guilt above me as I struggle along. This hustling, bustling world convinces me I should be doing more, not less! After all, I have fewer responsibilities than most individuals my age, as at max, the lives I am directly responsible for are mine and my dog’s. In a way, this makes me feel less allowed to park my brain and take a break.
Not to mention, a break would mean missing out on so much, including social interactions. Skipping out on too many events makes me feel like I will be forgotten. What if the next time I see a friend, I am on the outside of the latest inside jokes? Will they start to forget about me if I turn down too many invitations? My thoughts get set on unproductive, spiraling loops.
Vocalizing my limitations allows me to enjoy myself fully without worrying about the expectation of being 100% “Perfect Penny” all the time. I can be honest and reach out to my friends for support, express myself, and fight the instinct of simply declining or ignoring invitations. Sometimes, all it takes is good conversation and getting the big feelings off my chest to help me recharge.
Other times, my brain can barely focus on holding a conversation, and I don’t want to be around people. Even though I may enjoy working out, having coffee, or playing games regularly with others, even one of those activities can feel overwhelming on my most overstimulated days. On those days, I can’t walk, crawl, or drag myself to another place. Those days, I am better off just staying at home to recharge. Home is a sensory-safe place. At home, I can always count on rest for both my senses and my mind. Cuddling up with something soft and dozing off to a podcast helps me relax. Eating light meals or snacks saves me from exhausting meal preparation. I also love playing chill games like Animal Crossing or Skipbo to entertain myself. Once I have enough rest, everything becomes tolerable again. I no longer feel missing in my own life. So, even though sometimes it can be hard to take a break, I know it’s worth it!
Autistic or not, it can be challenging to keep up with the crazy pace of this world. Rest may be a four-letter word, but that doesn’t mean it should be offensive. Each one of us has our own set of responsibilities and challenges to deal with. As we enter 2024, I am excited about the opportunities and experiences ahead. However, I have also decided to prioritize realistic expectations and acknowledge the need for a break and rest when I feel burnt out. The world can be chaotic and draining, but that doesn’t mean I have to be. In the end, no one knows me better than myself. And my best efforts are quite enough.