Being autistic in a world designed for neurotypicals is exhausting.
From social situations to sensory overload – everything takes a toll. It's hardly surprising that autistic people are prime candidates for burnout.
Three steps you can take to understand and manage your energy better are:
Carrying out an energy audit
Practising energy accounting
Planning with intention.
The first step to help you understand your energy levels better is to carry out an energy audit. In other words, track your energy levels during your daily waking hours. Do this for at least one day - longer if possible.
Every hour, on the hour, assess your energy level on a scale of one to ten (one being low and ten being high energy). This data will enable you to identify your most and least energetic times in the day.
The next step is to try an activity co-created by Maja Toudal and Dr Tony Attwood called energy accounting.
Energy accounting involves identifying activities that deplete and restore your energy and learning to balance them (just like you would a bank account).
This is how to do it:
Make a list of all the activities you can think of that deplete your energy – these are withdrawals from your energy bank account. They can be allocated a score out of 100 (20 being a small withdrawal and 100 being a significant withdrawal that saps all of your energy). Examples might include meetings and socialising.
List the activities that restore your energy – these are your energy bank account deposits. Again, allocate a score out of 100. Examples might include naps and gaming.
The idea with allocating scores like this is that if you make several high-score withdrawals, you are mindful that several deposits will be required to balance everything.
Scoring is optional – just being aware of activities that restore and deplete your energy will be helpful.
Once you know your most and least energetic times in a typical day and the types of activities that deplete and restore your energy, you can plan your week more intentionally.
For example, if you've planned a night out during the week and socialising tends to deplete your energy, ensure you have some activities planned for the following day that restore your energy.
Alternatively – if it works for you – build up your energy throughout the day to spend it in the evening.
The idea is to create balance.