This is a pretty good post by Erin Bulluss, Ph.D., and Abby Sesterka about autistic burnout and the idea of trying to find one’s way to “doing less” in order to conserve resources.
Before our diagnoses of autism, we focused intently on trying to do more: to match the pace of our non-autistic peers; to fulfill our professional and personal obligations to the highest standard; to emulate the busy, full life that seemed so effortless for others around us. We ignored the signs of autistic burnout and continued to push ourselves because we lacked the framework to understand our experiences and to realize why seemingly simple tasks like attending a social gathering could leave us exhausted, unable to complete even basic tasks of daily living for days afterward. Post-diagnosis, and following a deep and thorough reframing of our life narratives, we now actively focus on doing less, which has helped titrate our “whelm” levels and reduce the frequency and intensity of autistic burnout, thus allowing us to do more.
While this may sound counterintuitive and counterproductive, “doing less” fosters greater productivity in our professional lives and more meaningful personal relationships. This has involved a triaging, of sorts. Where possible, we have disengaged from socio-cultural expectations and taken stock of the core tasks, activities, and responsibilities of daily life fundamental to our survival and/or wellbeing. We have scheduled rest periods to punctuate our time—be it hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly—to fulfill our need for rest before we reach burnout. We have determined tasks that can be partially or completely outsourced, and found ways to relieve ourselves of tasks that consume energy better spent on more important matters. The process of paring our daily lives down to the most essential and important tasks has unlocked the energy, resources, and capacity to better and more consistently engage in those activities. Where our capacity was previously spread too thin to allow us to function optimally and consistently, we now have greater capacity to engage in the parts of our lives that matter the most.
What’s missing are specific examples of how these particular two autistic adults did this. What did they reduce, and how? To what degree did the world around them resist or interfere with those reductions?
I did send the authors email asking if they’ve written with more specificity on this, even though specifics aren’t necessarily transferrable from one autistic person to another.