Is Burnout Avoidable?
I agreed to co-facilitate an Autistic Meetup Group with two other leaders. I’m excited but also nervous about it.
Getting involved and helping the community is important to me, but I also don’t want to stretch myself too thin.
When I get excited about something new, I “put the pedal to the metal,” and full-throttle all the way to the ever-moving finish line until I get a flat tire or my engine explodes.
I take all my energy and dump it into one thing, then go-go-go until I have no energy left and subsequently burn out on the thing I was so passionate about (or get distracted by another interest that’s more isolating and turn away from the passion that required socializing…).
One of the other leaders noticed my fervor as I rattled off all these ideas that could support and expand the group’s effectiveness; and he thoughtfully said that it sounds like I’m trying to take on too much.
He’s not wrong, but I don’t know how to just cruise—I don’t know how to set the controls to autopilot and enjoy the ride.
Every detail needs to be mapped out.
This new thing becomes everything—I need to eat, sleep, and breathe it.
But the fear of my energy is “too much” for others (a trauma response1 from years of studying people’s reactions to my behaviors), I swallow it down, straighten my back, and hold my shoulders and head high with a muted smile.
I restrain my excitement because I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
I mask my true feelings, but in the end, it still leads to burnout—only more like a slow-motion car accident others could see was completely avoidable.
Apparently a full-throttle, single-minded focus on one thing is a part of the DSM-5 Autism diagnostic criteria.2