1/13/12

What is Burnout?

Like a monkey in the forest
You jump from tree to tree,
Never finding the fruit--
From life to life,
Never finding peace.
-"Desire," The Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha. Translated by Thomas Byrom.
Have you ever heard of “the little girl who did too much”? Those of us with ADHD live this story. We fall easily into a pattern of “go go go” without rest. It’s easy. Look at this energy! Have you ever seen anything like it?

The problem with such a streak is overexertion. We may have speed, stamina, and endurance, but like everyone else, we need to recharge our batteries.

For me, the sensation of brain overload often coincides with writer’s block. It’s not that I’m blocked, per se, but that my creative juices are drained. To replenish them, I only need to step away from the current chapter, passage, or work of writing.

But it’s difficult.

You feel a niggling deep in your gut. That voice that says, “you only need to push on in order to finish what you started.” When it comes to ADHD, this is the inverse of procrastination. You’re too determined, too stubborn to step away when you’ve given all you have to offer. In the end, only rest and a deep breather will allow you to return with fresh ideas.

I recently experienced this burnout while editing the climax of my current young-adult novel. I read. I edited. I worked and reworked. I chopped, cut, deleted…but my efforts were wasted. I just didn’t feel what the scene is supposed to affect.

What finally got me to pause were swollen tonsils and a week of antibiotics. I can rarely access my creative brain when I’m sick, so I set aside the word doc. and turned my attention to reading. I let my brain relax from the focus I was hell-bent on exerting and lay down in bed. Who knew rest could be so rewarding?

My new favorite card @ Lee's Art store in New York.

This burnout hits me once or twice a winter. Blame it on flu season or the shift in global temperatures or being cooped up inside for too long, but doing too much and expecting too much of myself is also to blame.

Throughout this blog I advocate self-awareness. Brain overload is one of the pitfalls I fall into and need to work harder at recognizing and remedying.

Do you experience brain overload? How do you remedy it? Are you aware of it signs and symptoms? Comment below or write to me at WriteToJulianna.
For my recent post on burnout's opposite, see: Tips to Overcome Procrastination with ADHD



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