How and When to Quit a Job When You're Neurodiverse and Facing Burnout

  • Career Advice from Certified ADHD Coach Hannah Chu
  • Published on May 23

"We live in an age where our career becomes a key playground through which to derive a sense of identity, fulfillment, and meaning. A job is no longer just a way to pay the bills."

-Adele Barlow


Navigating the workplace has its own set of challenges for most people, but for neurodiverse individuals, these challenges can be amplified. Burnout is a real risk, and knowing when and how to quit a job to preserve your mental and physical health is crucial. Here are some strategies to help you make this important decision.

Recognizing Burnout

Burnout is more than just being tired after a long work week. It's a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Signs of burnout include:

  • Chronic Fatigue: Feeling tired all the time, even after a good night's sleep.
  • Decreased Performance: Struggling to meet work demands and seeing a decline in productivity.
  • Detachment: Feeling disconnected from your work, colleagues, or both.
  • Physical Symptoms: Experiencing headaches, stomach issues, or other physical symptoms without a clear cause.
  • Emotional Symptoms: Increased irritability, sadness, or feeling overwhelmed.

For neurodiverse individuals, burnout can manifest differently. Sensory overload, difficulties with executive function, and social interactions can intensify these feelings. 

Evaluating Your Situation

Before deciding to quit, it's essential to assess your current situation. Here are some steps to consider:

1. Identify the Source of Burnout: Determine if your burnout is primarily due to the job, environment, or other external factors. This can help you decide if a change within your current job might be possible.

2. Assess Your Financial Situation: Ensure you have a financial plan before quitting. This might include savings, alternative income sources, or support from family and friends.

3. Explore Other Options: Consider if there are changes you can make in your current role to alleviate burnout. This might involve adjusting your workload, seeking accommodations, or changing departments.

Preparing to Quit

Preparation is key if you've determined that quitting is the best option. Here are steps to ensure a smooth transition:

1. Plan Your Exit: Decide on a timeline that allows you to leave without burning bridges. This might involve giving a standard notice period or negotiating a more extended transition if necessary.

2. Seek Support: Inform friends and family, and trusted colleagues, mentors, or supervisors about your decision. They may offer valuable advice or support during your transition.

3. Update Your Resume and Network: Update your resume and contact your professional network. Let them know you're looking for new opportunities.

4. Focus on Self-Care: Use this time to prioritize your mental and physical health. Engage in activities that help you recharge and reduce stress.

Communicating Your Decision

When it's time to communicate your decision to your employer, be clear and professional. Here are some tips:

  • Be Honest But Tactful. Explain that you need to prioritize your health and well-being. You don't need to disclose all the details, but you should provide enough context to be understood.
  • Offer to Help with the Transition: Offer to assist in training a replacement or completing outstanding projects.
  • Express Gratitude: Show appreciation to your employer and colleagues for the opportunities and experiences you've gained.

Life After Quitting

After leaving your job, take the time to recover and reflect. Here are some steps to consider:

1. Rest and Recharge: Give yourself time to recover from burnout. Engage in activities that you enjoy and that help you relax.

2. Seek Professional Help: If burnout has significantly impacted your mental health, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor.

3. Plan Your Next Steps: Reflect on what you want in your next job. Consider roles that align with your strengths and interests and offer a supportive environment.

Conclusion

Quitting a job when you're neurodiverse and experiencing burnout is a significant decision, but it's essential for your well-being. By recognizing the signs of burnout, evaluating your situation, preparing for your exit, and focusing on recovery, you can navigate this transition effectively and move towards a healthier and more fulfilling career path.