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How to Reset After Autistic Burnout | The Neurodiverging Podcast

how to reset after burnout

In this series, we delve into a personal journey—Danielle’s recent experience with (almost) autistic burnout—and explore practical strategies that facilitated their surprisingly swift recovery.

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Show Notes

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Transcript: How to Reset After Autistic Burnout

Hello my friends, and thanks for tuning in again this week. We are now on part three of my series exploring my recent almost-burnout and talking about what I did to pop myself out of it relatively quickly, in the hopes that the conversation will be helpful to some of you, who have been dealing with similar things.

So if you haven’t listened to the previous two episodes, I would encourage you to go back and do that. But briefly, I had a health event towards the end of the summer that precipitated an almost burnout, where I started to dip into what I thought was grief, ended up being the beginning of an autistic burnout, and I would was thankfully and gratefully able to notice that’s what was happening relatively early and take some steps to pop myself out of it relatively quickly.

And so now as a recording it is March 2024. The event in question happened in August 2023. And so we’ve just passed the six month mark where I am not only not burnt out, but recovered from the previous almost burnout, which in my personal history is unheralded, has just never happened before. Previous burnouts have lasted years and have taken a very, very, very long time to recover.

I talked about what happened in the first episode and then last episode I talked a lot about how burnout affects executive function and why I think it’s important to know about that. Today, I want to talk about the actual practical, what did I do? Once I recognized that I was slipping into burnout, what are the actual strategies I employed to pull myself back up in the hopes that some of these will work for you?

Before I dive into that, I do want to thank my patrons over at You are especially close to my heart in terms of this series of podcasts, just because you were so, so, so supportive. supportive during the difficulty of last summer and fall and winter. And I couldn’t be here without you. I couldn’t be doing what I love to do without y ‘all. So I’m grateful for you and I appreciate you very much.

If you listening are interested in becoming part of that amazing group, please check us out over at You choose a monthly amount of money that you would like to give give to the Neurodiverging Podcast and to our low-income clients. And in return, you get some really great perks like our accountability group. We have a new monthly social hour. We have a monthly parent hour. We do group coaching and discounts to upcoming courses and all sorts of things. So, if you’re interested,

Around the new year, 2024, I’ve started to feel a lot better. I had given myself a huge chunk of time to rest and recover and be a lump in bed and let my brain do whatever it needed to do to start to feel better.
And I did start to feel better. I wasn’t like at 100 % for sure, but I was able to engage with people more without getting tired. I was able to keep up on the housework better. I started feeling like. like I could make decisions about things like food and chores and stuff again. I realized that it would be a good time to reset.

It’s pretty common for me to get overwhelmed with various things or to take on a big project at work and dive into it headfirst and spend hours and hours and hours for days and weeks on end doing it. Then I come out of that hyperfocused fugue state and realize that everything around me has gone to pot and we need to do a reset. But the reset after a burnout is not just a physical environment reset, but also an emotional and mindset reset. Mindset reset, mindset reset, that’s kind of fun.

So once I started to feel better consistently, I decided to do a top-down audit of where everything was and what I wanted to make changes in, and then to start thinking through, “Well, what are the things I can handle dealing with now, and what needs to be handled later?”

The way I did this is I took many, many notes and poured all of my ideas on the paper and then split them up into categories and approached it that way. But one way that we’ve done this with clients in the past, which might be more successful for most people is doing what’s called the wheel of life exercise. There’s a bunch of the free ones online, so you can Google it.

Most of them look like a big pie chart. Each triangular slice of pie section is a different piece of your life. So on your big circle of life, there will be your family life, your work life, your partnership. or relationship, like anything that’s important to you, your garden, your sewing business, your house organization project, your moving, whatever you’re doing that takes up a significant amount of your energy and excitement and attention is a slice of that pie.

You can follow the directions on whatever sheet you want you do, because everybody does this a little bit differently. But basically, let’s just use your work as an example.

I came back to Neurodiverging after many months away, and I made a chunk for Neurodiverging. And I said, “Okay, what’s going really well, that we can kind of leave alone? What did we pause when I went into burnout that we might want to pick up again? What’s fallen to bits that needs immediate attention or that is urgent? What’s gone to bits and it’s kind of okay, it’s not so much of a priority?”

We do a top-down audit of the business, the business itself, but also my relationship to the business.
Where do I feel good about it and where do I not feel good about it? Where do I want to put more energy in and where do I maybe want to take more energy out? So you’re also kind of reassessing your boundaries with each piece of your life.

With relationships, it might look like, “What’s going really well with my relationship with my partner or my kids or my best friend? What’s going really well? Where are some places that are not going well?
Do we not have as much time to hang out as I’d like? Do we fight more? Do we disagree about our long-term goals? What is not feeling good and balanced and like it’s refilling my cup and my partner’s cup or my kid’s cup? What’s feeling off?”

And then thinking through, “Okay, well, what can we do to refill our cups? Is that we add a check-in every evening? Is that more date nights? Is that more play time? Is that support from an external person like getting a babysitter or a counselor or a play therapist?”

So thinking through each area of your life and really auditing. I think it’s really important not to judge yourself at all of this process So you’re not saying, “Oh god, everything’s falling down! I suck!” and making a list. You’re saying, “I am coming back and I am resetting. Sweep out the old, just look at what we have. No judgment about how we got to where we are. Just look at what we have and make a couple of decisions and do it one slice at a time.”

Don’t try to make decisions about your relationship with your partner and your relationship with your kids and your house project and your work all at once. You will fall over and it’s just too much. You’ll get overwhelmed. But choose one slice that feels kind of urgent and put your energy there and make some decisions about it and then give it a couple of weeks or a month or two months or a quarter and then come back and tackle another slice.

So when I came back from burnout, that was my first job, was to assess where all my pieces of life were, how I felt about them and what needed immediate attention versus what needed attention eventually but not right now. So either doing the Wheel of Life exercise or doing something to audit where life is, was a really big important first step.

I don’t know that I always used to do this. I mean, I’ve always been kind of a top-down cognitive style thinker. But the reason I started doing this is because I am the kind of person who gets really excited about projects and forgets all about the other priorities I have. So I have found that doing an occasional audit allows me to still be excited about things that pop-up that I want to do, like this executive function challenge we’re doing.

I thought, “Oh, it would be cool to do a 5 day challenge,” in like the beginning of January and then I polled the Patreon and I was like, “We’ll do it in February.” Then I started it and I was like, “Whoa, challenges are complicated, you can’t just like do one.” And so now we’re doing it in March. And that was a thought that seemed exciting that I just grabbed on and did. It was not the original plan for my first quarter this year. But I want to leave myself space.

But as somebody who kind of runs on that enthusiastic just wanting to go sometimes, I also know that I need to have other stuff organized so that when I chase the rabbits, that nothing else is going to fall over, or at least it doesn’t fall over completely. It falls over a little bit and we can redo it.

Having some kind of audit in place — whether you do it yourself, you do it with a coach, you do it with a friend, you do it with your therapist — having something in place where you can check in and say, “What is my goal and what’s working, what’s not working, and what are my plans to fix it?” Even if [the answer is], “I’m not doing that this month or next month, I’m not touching it till October.” It stops you from obsessing over all the things that you have to do because you’ve already made decisions about them.

You’ve already been like, “No, I’m not touching that till October. I don’t have the to worry about it until October. And every time it pops up, you can kind of reassess, well, do I have to touch it before October? No, no, I don’t. So I’m just gonna leave it.”

It really helps that anxiety-driven thing that can happen after burnout, where it just feels like so much has piled up. You’re not gonna be able to handle it all right away. So just agree with yourself that you’re not gonna deal with it all right away and agree what you are gonna deal with first.

I talked about this in my the first episode on burnout, but in my experience personally, and then with a lot of clients, I’ve seen [that] the thing that tips us into burnout ,even if it’s been building for a long time is some kind of big life disruption. You get fired from work or you’re forced to leave your job. You have a huge health change or diagnosis. There’s a loss like a miscarriage or a death or you break up with a partner.

Something happens that is an instigating event. That instigating event causes you to have to rethink and re-envision your whole life forward. In my example, I thought I was gonna have a baby and I had spent significant time and energy and excitement envisioning my life with that baby. Then when the baby died, there was no baby, and I had to rethink my whole life.

Performing the audit for me was also like a reset of that expectation. I had an expectation it did not come to pass, through no fault of my own or anyone else’s. Now we are going to reset. What are our new expectations?

Also this, by chance, happened in the beginning of the year when everybody’s doing new year goals anyway, new year resolutions, which I don’t find super effective as a coach, but if they work for you, you should do them. They have never worked for me. But in this one case, they worked for me because of the timing, because I happen to do the emotional recovery in time for new year’s resolutions.

So the reset was like, “Okay, I need to reset my expectations for what this year can bring. What is likely to occur in this year versus what is not likely to occur? And what can I offer myself around reasonable expectations this year?” Always leave room for fantastic surprises in your expectations, but also, you know, you’ve got to plan for the basics. Do you have enough money to survive? Can you pay the mortgage? Can you get food? You know, are your kids getting the education they need? Can you pay for cat’s vet bills?

Knowing what you need and planning for them by virtue of thinking through your expectations for yourself can be really valuable. It also stops you from like, a lot of us, and I was talking about that ADHD spontaneity a minute ago, a lot of us like, just jump after rabbits, and some of those rabbits bring us to amazing new places. And sometimes they distract us so much that we forget that we need to pay our mortgage.

So it’s important to have stuff that is non-negotiable set up and in a in a structure somewhere that I don’t have to touch that often, [which] leaves me the time I need to chase rabbits, but doesn’t allow … my metaphor is losing steam … doesn’t allow the rabbits to run away with something really important. So I can run this random five day challenge because I felt like it and it seemed exciting and I wanted to support my patrons.

But I know also that if I sink, you know, two weeks of work into this, nothing important is going to fall over. I will still be able to eat and feed my family and have clean clothes and the other basics of life. So that’s another thing that the audit can really support.

[It’s] one of the reasons I personally do it with with most clients, like in the first couple sessions of coaching, it depends exactly what they’re in there for, but if they’re just kind of like, “I’m overwhelmed and everything’s hard!” Audit. Audit. Just know where you are so you can make decisions about where you are.

When I did my audit, here’s what I realized. My relationship’s pretty good. We homeschool. So I’m a leg up with spending a lot of time with my kids, and when I wasn’t working, I was able to hang out with them a lot and we filled our cups. Same thing with my partners, that we were in pretty good shape considering everything and that was fine.

I have some work to do in re-establishing friendships. I’m still working on that. I’m still feeling a little stuck when it comes to wanting to expend the energy there and I’m still working around some of my resistance around that.  But I know it’s an issue, and I’m not ignoring it. I’m practicing. As I said in the last episode, I’m practicing how to be a friend again.

One of the things that had gone to pot that is very practical to the point of almost boring is my house was a disaster because we’d gone through several holidays. We went through Halloween, so there were still Halloween costumes out. We went through Thanksgiving, which we don’t really do much for. We went through Christmas, so there was still like Christmas present wrapping trash around and gifts that hadn’t been put away and gifts that needed to be returned and like all sorts of stuff, just stuff.

Also my one of my partners has a almost three-year-old, and this is the age where they are just like exploring with gravity, throwing stuff around, and that particular partner is not — and I say this with love –not the best at picking up after themselves, just very scattered, trying to do a lot of things all the time. So that’s my two kids, plus the toddler/preschooler, plus, you know, everything else, the house is going to pot.

I spent many weeks staring at it and being annoyed about it, but not really having the energy to do anything about it. And this is again, where your self care comes in, and how you talk to yourself. You can sit there and say, “I suck. I should be able to pick up after myself. I should be able to clean this house.” Or you can say, “I suck. I should have taught my kids how to do their chores or help them be more responsible or whatever.” (My kids do do their chores. So that’s not even like a rational thing, but we blame ourselves.)

We’ve been taught to blame ourselves. And what you have to do instead is reframe that and say, “You know, I just got through a traumatic experience. My brain is not gonna be the same for a little while.
My kids are kids. They have the skills that I have modeled. How can I move forward, modeling the skills I want them to learn, and also giving myself an environment that feels good to be in?”

The job of the house for me is not to be clean and shiny and like a magazine. It’s to be a place that I feel safe and happy and comfortable in. I spent a couple of weeks thinking about all the things I was gonna do, because for me, the envisioning stage is really important. So I was thinking to myself, “Oh, I could move that piece of furniture there and then that space would be better. Oh, I could get rid of that stuff. Oh, if I washed that, I could donate it or sell it.” So I did all this pre-processing work where I was just assessing things and almost pre making decisions, before I actually did anything about it.

Then my son wanted to invite his friend over and his friend had never been here before and the mom was going to come to hang out to make sure we’re not crazy people, which I support. And I was like, “Oh! This is an opportunity!”

I mean, the house was safe. Like, the kid would have been fine. It was a safe place, but it was extremely cluttered and also just dirty, like legitimately dirty. Like I have two cats, there’s three people in this house with hair as long or longer than mine. There were a lot of like hairballs and fur and just dirt and then the baby drops food on the floor, the cats drop food on the floor. There was stuff, like it was gross, okay?

So I was like, “Oh, an adult is coming over! This is an opportunity to reset the house so I can feel good when they show up.” So literally the day before they were coming over, I told my kids and my partner about my goals and created some accountability for myself, and also got permission from especially my kids to go into their rooms and put stuff away and to move some stuff in the main areas that they have attachments to.

I just said to them, I’m not gonna take this away, I need to clean it. Like it’s too much, it’s too gross, I need to clean it. And so it’s gonna look a little different when you get home. So I reset expectations for them around [the house], and nobody put up any fights about it. Or if they did, they were really little. Once they realized how I was like, “I’m washing this, I’m sorry, it’s too disgusting, it has too much food on it,” they backed off.

So the day before my son’s friend came over for the first time, I dropped my kids off at their day program and I had committed to spending as much time as I reasonably could without getting way too exhausted doing things. I made myself a good breakfast, I had my coffee, I put on YouTube or an audiobook or something and I just started at one corner and I followed the corner around and I got as far as I could around the main area of the house before I had to go pick up the kids. I had less than five hours because their program is five hours long but then I you know took a break for lunch and to water myself and stuff throughout the time and I took time to play with the cats, but I threw as much trash away as I could.

I reorganized things when it was reasonable to do so. I made big donation bags and put them in the middle of the room. And then when my partner came home the next day, because this is a big problem for me, is I can make donation bags, but I do not want to go talk to the people at the donating place, even though they’re super nice, because it’s just one of my things. I don’t want to talk to strangers if I don’t have to.

My partner agreed, and I set up with him ahead of time, “Hey, if I do this piece, can you do this piece?” And so when he came home, there were a bunch of bags sitting waiting for him, and he had made arrangements to go donate them that same night, so they were out of the house immediately. I did not touch any of my kids’ things in terms of donating. I just went around, and I picked up everything, and I put it wherever it went, where I made a new home for it, and I only got, I would say, about, maybe half
to two-thirds away around the main floor of our house in that four hours.

I threw away like three bags of trash and I donated about four bags of things, and we had many, many, many boxes that I broke down and brought out to the recycling. And it was fantastic. It was great. And then when the people came over the next day, I felt okay about the house because even though it was not perfect by any means, like there’s still chunks of it that have clutter everywhere, but it felt better. It felt lighter. It felt usable. Just give yourself the opportunity to reset. It took one day.

Have I touched the house since then? No. Is there stuff that I could probably like do in the last third? Yeah. And probably I’ll eventually get it. there, but it’s just not a priority right now, because the priority was really the emotion, the feeling. How do I want to feel when the people come over? What can I do to achieve that feeling? And for me, doing half or two-thirds or whatever of the house achieved that feeling, and I feel fine about the house now. And like, yeah, eventually I would like to get that last third done, but I have other things that are more of a priority right now.

Here’s the takeaway of this episode. There is a passive piece of burnout recovery and an active piece of burnout recovery. The passive piece is letting your brain rest and recover from the trauma it’s undergone. And then the active piece is the second phase and that is reset. And reset means not just, “I’m going to fix my house, I’m going to start coping again, I’m going to start doing the tasks. on my list.”

It’s also is a mindset piece of, “How am I going to care for myself so that the burnout doesn’t reoccur?
How am I going to face problems head-on and not get overwhelmed by them? How am I going to make decisions about my life that support me and my well-being as best as I can in my living situation and not shame myself when stuff doesn’t work out?”

The mental piece is just as important as the physical activities you are doing to feel better. That growth perspective and that “I am learning” piece is almost more important than you cleaning the house or you going on more dates with your partner or you feeding yourself better.

All those things are important. Please eat. Please go to sleep. Please take your meds. Do all the basic stuff.

But equally important is the mindset. And I know that there’s a push back from certain kinds of folks who find mindset work to be non-rational or non-logical. First of all, it’s a research-backed thing. So if it feels irrational, you might be stuck in kind of the mind-body Cartesian dualism, and that’s from 300 years ago, so that’s not rational either.

The other thing is that the way that your body responds to your mind is well-defined. The way that you choose to interpret what you see in your environment and the way that you choose to interpret your behavior and your thoughts affects your physical body’s well-being. We have so much science to back that up from so many disciplines. Your mindset and how you think about your recovery, your [ability to be] embracing an element of curiosity, of growth, and of availability to what comes, is going to greatly affect your physical feelings of wellness.

It’s going to affect your sleep, how you speak, how you think, how you interact with other people. The reset is a cognitive way to approach a very emotionally-driven recovery. The point of burnout recovery needs to be to make yourself feel better. Not just think better and perform better and do better, but to feel better.

What causes burnout in the first place for most of us is chronic trauma catalyzed by a big,
overwhelming feeling, which has caused them to fall over. So to say that more briefly, I had a miscarriage and the grief of the miscarriage pushed me over the edge and into burnout. The physical manifestations were not comfortable, but I could have gone through them and not hit burnout. And I have gone through similar things before and not hit burnout.

What does it is the feeling, the emotions. That means that to get out of burnout, we can’t just be really cognitive about it. We can’t be 100 % strategic about it. We have to be looking at our feelings. What can we do to feel better. Paying attention to your feelings and what will make you feel better and safer and stronger is what’s going to actually end your burnout faster.

I just want to again thank my patrons at for supporting my efforts in doing this and for making me get through this burnout a little easier and a little faster because of your community support. If you’re interested in becoming a patron, please come join us at I told you all about the perks already.

Also just a reminder that we offer coaching. So if you are somebody who has recently experienced burnout or you are resetting your life or anything else is going on and you would like support from a neurodivergent and neurodivergent-affirming coach, we have some fantastic folks on staff. I am also available for new clients right now as well. So you can go to and click on Coaching and we would be happy to offer you the free discovery call to see if we’re a good fit for you. And if we’re not, we’ll try to get you some other resources. Thanks so much for being here with me today and please remember, we are all in this together. Take care.

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