I could write a novel about ADHD burnout, specifically related to passion projects. You rarely hear of ADHD people complain about burning out at jobs they don’t like, because they struggle to find the motivation to even get started!
Passion projects, side hustles, and newly seeded dream careers on the other hand, are capable of robbing you of your physical and mental wellness because you have an abundance of attention that’s often unharnessed.
A Burnout of your own making
The reason ADHD passion burnout is different than career burnout is that the pressure is entirely self-induced. We are typically pushing ourselves too hard rather than being pushed by a manager or boss. Said differently, passion burnout is entirely of our own making.
I’ve seen this in the work I do with ADHD entrepreneurs, and fellow authors and bloggers. We’re all passionate folks, trying to make a name for ourselves and an impact on the world, but by taking on too much, we drown in a sea of our own unrealistic expectations.
We spend out energy in 100 different directions because we see other people’s success as a model for what’s possible and we try to model all of it. What we don’t see however, is how long it took to create that success and how much support others have contributed to the effort, and what part of it they focused on specifically.
When Hustle & Grind Doesn’t Work
Speaking from personal experience, in the past 13 years of writing, coaching and teaching, I have driven to the brink of passion burnout several times (oh, the irony!). I tend to hyper-focus and push too hard because I have goals, dreams and let’s be honest here – I see the platitudes shared on social media about hustling and grinding and I tell myself that’s what I must do to succeed!
But it never works.
So instead of meeting with success, I direct my energy in too many unintentional directions and ultimately burnout and complete creative exhaustion around a process I used to love.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to bring myself back from the brink of passion burnout by pouring back into myself, all the joy, love and energy I drained out of myself in the grind and hustle process. What I’ve learned the hard way is that hustle culture might be great for some folks (and all the power to them if that’s true), but for the ADHD brain, we need to pause, and really consider where our energy is best spent.
So based on my own experience combined with the growing research that we’re seeing around the increasing cases of burnout syndrome, I have some ideas for those of you who are pushing hard and getting nowhere but tired and disappointed.
Hear me on this, friends – I know ya’ll have dreams you want to see come to fruition, but if your energy isn’t focused on the tasks that will make the biggest impact, then you’re going to push yourself too hard.
How to Recover from ADHD Burnout
Start by re-evaluating what you’re going after.
Many ADHD passion seekers move in the general direction of what they’re looking for, but aren’t 100% sure exactly what it is. They’ll know when they get there, they say. But take it from someone who has done this – you won’t know. In fact, you’re probably so busy running in “general directions” that you have no time or awareness to stop and say – is this it?
Honestly, when was the last time you stopped to ask yourself – does this path feel right for me? Is it aligned with my strengths, interests and values?
If you haven’t, now is your chance to do that. Don’t just think about your final destination – think about the journey. Is it what you want?
When you have clarity, but it’s still not working in your favor.
Now it’s time to take stock of your beliefs. Take out a piece of paper or your journal and write down all the reasons why you know you’ll never get what you want (trust me on this). Be very specific about all the reasons why it won’t work, especially for you. Be exhaustive with your limitations – either real or imagined. List them all.
Once you’re done, you now have documented list of all the personal thought work you need to clear through before you reach your goal. One by one, you need to ask yourself – is this limiting belief 100% true? If so, list the evidence. If you have legitmiate reasons why you’re blocked, now is the time to start working through those blocks.
This is much easier to do with the help of a coach.
You don’t have to stop working towards your goal as you do your thought work, but if you don’t make a point of working through all your limiting blocks as well, you will continue spin your wheels.
Don’t underestimate the power of internal resistance to getting what you want. The more you try and push against your resistance instead of resolving it, the faster you’ll meet your point of burnout. I know this from experience!
Stop doing everything.
This is a critical business lesson for everyone, but especially if you’re ADHD. The reason we hit these mental brick walls is that we’re trying to do all the things. Burnout happens when we compromise ourselves to the point where we have nothing left to give.
Where are you doing this to yourself?
If you’re working on a side hustle – hire help before you think you can afford it. You will grow faster and more efficiently if you can create opportunities to outsource early and often. If you’re in a season where you’re pushing toward a creative goal, something else needs to give. Whether it’s asking for help with the kids, taking some vacation time just to focus on getting your book finished or giving up TV at night so you can start getting up at 5am to work before your day job – you have to give up something to make room for something else.
Asking for help is often the hardest thing for us to do, but we have to.
Women in particular aren’t great at asking for help and we can struggle with valuing our dreams. But here’s the thing – if you aren’t willing to value yourself and your desires, you won’t get where you want to go. Having a “me first” mindset is perfectly acceptable because it gives you the permission to pour into yourself before you spend the rest of your day pouring into other people and all the things you want to accomplish.
It’s okay to stop
If something is burning you out, the world won’t come to an end if you put down your passion for a while or forever. We hear so much about not quitting, but sometimes that’s the most loving thing we can do for ourselves. I went through this experience, continuing to push forward on something that was dragging me down.
It turned out that letting go was the best thing I could do in the moment, and I ended up opening myself up better opportunities!!
ADHD Burnout Takeaways
- Be clear about what you’re going after and keep checking in along the way to make sure it feels right.
- Get honest about your limiting beliefs and make a point of working through them (I find journaling and EFT to be very effective at working through them). It bears repeating – if you don’t get past yourself, you’ll continue to hit that mental and emotional brick wall instead of reaching your goals.
- Be selfish about your dreams – invest in yourself and ask for help. You. Are. Worth. It.