Avoiding Mental and Emotional Burnout at Work with ADHD

Doctor burned out

Feeling tired and unexcited about work these days? You may be stressed, or you could be suffering from burnout. But how can you tell these apart, and what will help you feel better? Understanding how stress and burnout relate can help you keep energized and centered for work, home, and relationships.

Persistent Stress Leads to Burnout

When people with and without ADHD are stressed, they wonder about finding some trick to figuring out how to get their lives under control. They experience physical symptoms and search for a magic solution to make it all disappear. Whether dealing with persistent work changes, constant demands, or all-consuming projects in the office or at home, you’re simultaneously juggling and solving various issues. Things can feel overwhelming. 

Persistent stress can lead to burnout over time. It indicates that you are giving too much until there’s nothing left to give. Remember, stress and burnout are on two ends of the energy spectrum. Stress occurs when there are too many pressures on your mind and body: it’s a matter of too much

Burnout reflects a deficiency, a feeling of not having enough. You lack energy or resources because you are depleted. Your fuel tank is empty.

When people are burned out, they experience more emotional symptoms such as hopelessness, a lack of motivation, and exhaustion. You’ve been multitasking and overworking for too long, exhausting your brain and body, and you feel like nothing is left. The candle that you’ve been burning at both ends has no wax left.

The Key to Lowering Stress

Lowering stress and addressing burnout also require different interventions.

The key to lowering stress is reducing your commitments and slowing down stimulation.

For folks with ADHD, these options can be unappealing and boring. Who wants to limit fun activities or do only one thing at a time? Because the ADHD brain craves novelty and struggles with managing intense emotions, it can be especially tough for you to do the activities that will assist you in managing stress.

Pause and Give Yourself Time

Reducing overwhelm by pausing or giving yourself time before agreeing to do something, scheduling adequate downtime to integrate and process information or experiences, and doing more of what you enjoy will help you feel less stressed. Setting up routines for eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, cleaning laundry, and spending time with friends reduces the sense of drowning–an important aspect of stress. You want to aim to decrease the ‘too-muchness’ of your life. This is why picking ONE habit to change will launch you towards progressing instead of aiming for three or four.

Learn How to Set Limits

Recovering from burnout differs because the issues relate more to feeling empty, overburdened, or unsatisfied. Isolation, shame, and self-criticism are common denominators for folks who experience burnout. Burnout is often the result of an imbalance in the work-life ratio in your life, which can include the extracurricular activities/school life ratio of kids for parents. How can you set limits on these? Think about something that makes you happy (no matter how small) and bring that into your life. Active self-care and a healthy lifestyle are key to recovering from and preventing burnout. 

Tips to Reduce Mental & Emotional Burnout

Follow these tips to reduce mental and emotional burnout at work:

1. Reduce Isolation

Talk to caring friends, partners, relatives, or professionals. This is tough to do because you often lack energy for connections when burnt out. But you need support right now to pivot into self-care.

2. Incorporate Pleasure Into Daily Life

You need a reprieve from your routine. What can you do, outside of work, to fill your bucket? Something that you enjoy and can put into your routine. If you don’t like running, even though it’s good for you, then it’s not that. 

3. Look at Work Differently

Reducing burnout means setting limits on what you do, how much time you spend on it, and how often you think (or obsess) about it. Who can assist you with figuring out how to set limits and what to say? Can you make a friend or two at work to increase comradery and support? This can reduce the drudgery–monotony–of an unfulfilling job. 

4. Plan for a Break

Take a few days off or a longer vacation to recharge. If you have it, use your sick time. After all, you are sick and tired, right?! Perhaps shake things up and make a day trip or two if you can’t afford to go away. Separate yourself from your environment. 

5. Explore What Contentment Looks Like

Your personal standard for sanity and success is yours and can’t be based on someone else’s ideas to heal burnout. Reconsider your priorities; nurture a hobby; spend time outside; watch a favorite movie; hang out with caring friends. 

6. Follow a Healthy Lifestyle

Start to exercise daily. Any form of physical movement will increase the endorphins in your brain and improve your mood. In addition, get enough sleep. Set up a regular bedtime and use alarms so you follow them. Eat fewer refined foods, and saturated fats, avoid nicotine, and use alcohol or marijuana sparingly, if at all. 


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