Breaking Free of the Burnout Blues with Casey Dixon

Casey Dixon is back to talk about burnout and answer the question once and for all: will vacation truly cure the burnout blues?

Episode Hosts: ,

Subscribe to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you find your favorite podcasts!

Support The ADHD Podcast and get great perks by becoming a Patron • Learn More and Join Now!

Burnout. That word probably means something to you. But for all the feelings the term conjures for you, there are so many feelings you just might have experienced yourself completely unaware that those feelings, too, are symptoms of burnout. And identifying where burnout lives, where it stops and ADHD begins, can be a tricky business, indeed.

Casey Dixon is an ADHD Coach who has worked with wide range of individuals living with ADHD over the course of her career. She’s the founder of Dixon Life Coaching, a site that is dedicated to the mindfulness approach to ADHD through simple daily practices to help you with everything from focus, to movement and settling. This week on The ADHD Podcast, Casey joins us to help us deal with the horrors and the terrors of burnout.

Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright: Hello everybody, and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer: Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright: Oh, Nikki Kinzer, we’ve got a good conversation today.

Nikki Kinzer: We do!

Pete Wright: Yeah, yeah, Casey Dixon is back with us. She’s going to talk to us about burnout.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes.

Pete Wright: What are the signs? What are the symptoms? Can you really fix burnout with a good vacation? We’re going to settle that one once and for probably not all. We’re really excited to have her here. Do we have any news for the people? Do you have any news for the good people?

Nikki Kinzer: Well, I know that we’re very close to making our goal for Patreon.

Pete Wright: I’m pretty excited about that. It’s March Madness.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s March Madness, and your trailer is out. So, if people have not listened to that, they need to get the link. You’ll put that down on the show notes here today, I assume, right?

Pete Wright: Sure, we’ll put the show notes. If you haven’t heard it, I don’t know how you possibly could have missed it. It’s been everywhere. It was in the show last week. It has been in the feed by itself as a standalone. It’s in Patreon. It’s on YouTube. It’s everywhere. I hope you’ve seen it. I’m very excited about it and I am recording our first little guest interview with the good “Doc” Anderson tomorrow afternoon. We’re going to talk about … The first episode, I already have a title: Jurassic Park and the Vampire Project.

Nikki Kinzer: Ooh, I like it.

Pete Wright: Yeah, that’s right, provocative. Am I right?

Nikki Kinzer: Yes, yes.

Pete Wright: So, I’m very excited about episode one of Placeholder, which will drop, I believe [inaudible 00:01:44] the last day of the month on the 31st, I think I have that scheduled … just the way the schedule worked out, so that will go out. It is members only for patrons, so, everybody gets to hear it when it goes live, and then it’s patrons only. That’s it.

Nikki Kinzer: That’s right, so come join us.

Pete Wright: In Patreon, come join us.

Nikki Kinzer: Come join our community.

Pete Wright: We would love to, love to, love you, have you in there, and we’re so close to hitting that magic 250. We have, I don’t know, five or six left. Oh my goodness.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s really close, yes.

Pete Wright: It’s so close. Thank you, everybody. But you know, we should say thank you so much to everyone who has upgraded their Patreon membership to the new platinum tier. My goodness, that surprised me more than anything else, the least of which that people actually showed up to Coffee with Pete, our tech chat available exclusively to members of the platinum channel, which was two Fridays ago, and will be happening monthly, but also how excited people are already talking about Coaching with Nikki, which is coming up Tuesday.

Nikki Kinzer: The last Tuesday of the month, yes.

Pete Wright: The last Tuesday of the month, which is also available for everyone.

Nikki Kinzer: Next week.

Pete Wright: At every tier, but, to the platinum members only starting in April … so excited about this. This is a real game changer for those of you who have looked at what we are offering and have decided to upgrade your membership to spend more small group time with me and Nikki. It’s really magical, so thank you, thank you, thank you for making that change. It makes a huge difference in what we’re able to do, what we’re able to block time to do. So, it’s amazing, thank you, okay.

Nikki Kinzer: Thank you, thank you.

Pete Wright: Head over to patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more, to sign up, to upgrade your membership. Anything you want to do there, we’re gratefully willing acceptants. Is that a word, acceptants, to be an acceptant? Anything you want to do there, we are super grateful for your participation. Thank you, everybody. And now, let’s talk to Casey Dixon.

Pete Wright: Welcome Casey Dixon back to the show! We’re so excited. It’s been way too long. Casey is an ADHD coach. She’s worked with a wide range of individuals. I like this the most, that she works with lawyers and doctors and other smartypants people.

Casey Dixon: That’s right.

Pete Wright: She says in her new bio smartypants people. Hi, casey.

Nikki Kinzer: I love that.

Casey Dixon: Hi, how are you?

Pete Wright: Thanks for coming back.

Casey Dixon: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here.

Pete Wright: We are talking about burnout today.

Casey Dixon: Yes.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh boy, yes.

Pete Wright: Nikki, set this up for us. This is clearly … Well, I don’t want to say this is inspired by real events because who would want to do that? But, how’s your work? What made you think of this topic?

Nikki Kinzer: Are you insinuating that I’m burnt out?

Pete Wright: I feel like I don’t even need to insinuate. I feel like I just need to look in a mirror. I’ll just tell you I’m burnt out.

Nikki Kinzer: Well, this is the thing: I’m not burnt out. I’m going to say that I’m not because I’m in a good place, very good place. However, I will say that many of my clients are not in a great place. They are burnt out, and this comes up a lot. It has come up probably even more so in COVID era, I would say, for a lot of different reasons. This is one of the reasons I am so excited to have you here, Casey, is to talk about this and get your perspective of what’s happening, why it’s happening. I’m really also … Something I want you to address is I think that, sometimes, people just think, "Oh, I’ll just take a vacation and it will make a difference," but they’re going back to what they were when they left, and so I don’t know if a vacation’s good enough.

Pete Wright: Yeah, is there a way to-

Nikki Kinzer: Is what I’m saying.

Pete Wright: What is the way to really significantly impact your burnout and not just not working for a few days?

Casey Dixon: Right, yeah.

Pete Wright: So.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, how about we start out with what burnout is? How would you describe it?

Casey Dixon: Well, I think the trick, especially for our clients who have ADHD is that some of them say, "Well, because I have ADHD, I just expect to be burned out all the time. Is it part of the ADHD package that I’m always feeling overwhelmed or overburdened?" So, I do think it’s really crucial for us to take a step back and say, "Can we split these two things apart?" Can we say, "Is there a difference between having ADHD and being burnt out or just having ADHD?" which is really hard to discern. I think one of the things that … Obviously, when you’re burned out, you have this sort of, "I’m emotionally exhausted." That’s the first cue. Well, okay, that happens a lot when you have ADHD. You become emotionally overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. You’re thinking about the big to-do list or all the things that haven’t gotten done.

Casey Dixon: And so, what we’re looking for is a deeper level of exhaustion that’s more consistent than what you might typically experience as a person with ADHD. So, instead of having the things that you need to get done during the day be a struggle, they feel really impossible, just completely overwhelming. So, there’s a small difference, but an important difference there, increased things like, "My mind is wandering and I cannot pin down my focus on what I need to be paying attention to." There’s a reduction in productivity and motivation, so you can start to hear this sounds a little bit like ADHD, but it’s just more prevalent, more severe and more consistent. More irritability is another thing.

Pete Wright: That’s where I was going. What other emotional distress issues? I find that’s a sign for me. I know if I start to snap at my family or my partners, I end up … That’s a sign that something’s awry. I’m not doing well.

Casey Dixon: And, some people respond differently where they become really irritable and you’re snapping at people, or even yourself, "What is wrong with me?" that kind of snapping. Then, I have others who go more into a crying. "I’m tearing up at the mere suggestion that I have to do something today because I just can’t get there." So, you’re overreacting or under-reacting, sometimes, if there’s something stimulating going on and you just close up. Suddenly, you’re not reacting at all to something that really warrants a reaction, is another way of looking for those, so there’s a couple of little signs. Also, looking at habits, so, "Am I sleeping too much or not sleeping at all? Am I eating too much or not eating at all? Am I exercising too much, which can be a sign, or not at all?" Also, going back to bad or negative habits, so things like drinking too much or smoking too much, which are really common for people with ADHD, but again, at an atypical level, more consistent level for them.

Pete Wright: That feels like we’re talking about now just targeting avoidance behaviors. You talk about working out too much. I’m not a guy who works out a lot, but I know when I go to the gym every day, it’s usually a sign that I am avoiding other stuff, and I can start to take that. Or, if my wife looks at me and says, "Okay, I think maybe you should look in the mirror a little bit because it seems like there’s something that’s causing you to do this stuff."

Casey Dixon: Well, and I think what you just said is so important, is to look in the mirror. Because, for all of our clients, this is going to look differently. We’re going to have custom-made burnout symptoms. So, you look at the burnout symptoms that we just walked through and you say, "That one’s not really me." I have clients who’d be like, "Exercise too much, are you kidding me? That will never happen." And then, I have other clients for whom that is their, "When I’m feeling hyper-stressed-out, that’s what I do. I go and work out." The other thing that you want to really look out for are physical signs. Are you getting headaches or panic symptoms, or sometimes blurry vision or dizziness … really just tuning into your body. I think the place that a lot of my clients go when I really go, "Wait a minute, what’s going on here with you?" is that their worldview shifts from being optimistic to being really cynical and negative. What that means is they just don’t have any emotional energy to be optimistic anymore.

Nikki Kinzer: I’m curious. With some of the clients that I’ve worked with who have definitely have said that they feel burnt out, they still go to work. They still do what they need to do, but part of the problem is that there’s so much to do and there’s just not enough time in the day to do it. And then, they have all of these demands on them. So, for some of them, not all of them, but for some of them, they feel like they have to work even harder and longer and feel bad if they got distracted during the day. They have to take that home, now. I’m just curious, how does that work? You’re still working. You’re still being productive in some way, but you’re still feeling all of these overwhelming feelings of burnout.

Casey Dixon: This is exactly what I see with most of my clients. They’re not laying on the couch all day doing nothing. This is another area where it’s harder, I think, to split burnout from ADHD. The ADHD people that I work with are really engaged and working hard. People who think that adults who have ADHD are lazy couldn’t be more wrong. The clients that I work with are already working harder and longer and trying to implement elaborate systems to get their work to be more efficient and productive and focused than the people around them who do not have ADHD. So, okay, we’re working harder. We’re working longer, but now I’m doing that even more because it’s getting to be burned out. This is why I’m saying it’s kind of like ADHD symptoms that you can expect, but the volume’s turned way up, and the volume doesn’t go down anymore. Some days will have inconsistency where you have tons of energy and things are flowing and there’s not overworking happening. And then, the next day, boom, you’re not motivated. It’s hard to get things going. You’re putting in extra time pseudo-working. You’re not sure what you’re doing. Your energy is exhausted. Our clients flip around a lot. There’s inconsistencies.

Nikki Kinzer: Okay, let’s talk more about that because, when you just said that, I’m thinking, "Oh my gosh, that’s so true." I can have a client who will have a great week, and then the next week is like the worst week ever, and it doesn’t have to be just a week. It can be a day, like a great day. So, what’s happening there.

Casey Dixon: I think that inconsistency is one of the consistent hallmarks of ADHD [crosstalk 00:13:36]

Pete Wright: I don’t know anything about all of this, nothing.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh, Pete doesn’t, yeah.

Pete Wright: Totally, I don’t know anything about all of it. And, it does, just to interject. It does feel like what we’re kind of talking about here is that a misappropriation of the term burnout to always be classified as, "I’m burned out at work," but that’s not really it, right? This is just life burnout right now, right?

Casey Dixon: And, I think we have to look at … Again, all ADHD symptoms are going to impact you in all of areas of your life. It’s not just something that happens at work. This inconsistency, sometimes people will be really struggling at work, but the stuff at the home front’s going well or the stuff at work is going well, and when they arrive home, everything’s falling apart and they’re not connecting with their family. The garage has never gotten cleaned out and the bills aren’t being paid. "I’m not exercising, sleeping, eating correctly," so that’s where we need to look at this consistency issue. So, rather than trying to fix all of the things at once, which is inherently overwhelming, we’re going to look at, "Okay, is it the afternoons where I get exhausted, or is it something that happens?" Like, Nikki, you were saying one week was fabulous and, the next week, not so great. Okay, let’s really take a deep dive observation moment to look at what was influencing those two different ways of engaging as an ADHD person? What made that work? What made that fall apart?

Nikki Kinzer: Right, right, so, really getting more information around it.

Casey Dixon: So that you can design your plans or strategies or tactics or things that are going to help you. But, when somebody’s really in that deep place of being burned out, it’s more consistently just exhaustion, fatigue, overwhelm, not getting things done, poor focus, irritability or emotional dysregulation to the point where they’re saying, "Wait a minute. Even though …" I think this is the kind of thing that I look for. "Even though I have my ADHD supports in place … So, I’ve got my medication if I’m doing that setup. That’s going well. I have my coach or my group or my therapist and I have my tactics in place and I’ve got my daily planning and my to-do list all rocking and rolling. And yet, my ADHD seems to be getting worse, or at least not better." That’s when you start to feel this, "Errrg," irritability and hopelessness and fatigue and overwhelm because you’re doing all the things, and yet all the things aren’t really helping. So, when that happens, I think it helps to take a step back and say, "Wait a minute, this is not just expected because I have ADHD. Let’s look at burnout as a separate issue."

Pete Wright: It also seems to open … I think with the change in work habits, people working, not going to work every day, many of us in another place for so long and having to adjust to some new habits, my hunch is that’s confused the issue for a lot of people, right, people who may have previously associated with burnout as being a thing that they only experience at work. Now, they’re working at home and now their context is different, and burnout gets … It’s just like pile-on burnout, right? It’s the burnout of the stuff you know you’re supposed to be doing for the day job. But also, you know what, you haven’t changed your sheets in like six weeks, and probably, you should stop eating Triscuits in them. Those kinds of things start to really pile on, making it maybe harder to determine what is burnout and what is lack of systems productivity, or systems that fall apart.

Casey Dixon: No, I think it’s harder when you can’t compartmentalize, "This is just happening at work or this is just happening with my partner, or this is just happening in the household stuff." It’s all a big mush right now for a lot of people.

Pete Wright: Yeah, compartmentalizing is a huge ADHD strategy for me.

Casey Dixon: Exactly.

Pete Wright: It’s huge!

Nikki Kinzer: Well, and there’s so much shame that’s attached to everything, so, when the sheets haven’t been cleaned, there’s shame around that. So, even though, logically, you know, "Oh, all I have to do is take the sheets off and put them in the washer," that’s a really hard thing to do, and there’s so many feelings wrapped around all of these things as well.

Pete Wright: That’s the thing. You tell me, "Oh, all you have to do is put the sheets in the washer," but I always come back to, "Yeah, but how?"

Casey Dixon: And when?

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, right, right, and when?

Pete Wright: It seems like there’s only one step.

Nikki Kinzer: "I’m in bed right now, so I really don’t want to do it right now."

Pete Wright: "Are you telling me I need to get in the washing machine?"

Nikki Kinzer: It’s not easy.

Pete Wright: Those questions are real when I’m compromised.

Casey Dixon: Or, you’ll forget when you’re not in bed.

Nikki Kinzer: Exactly, exactly.

Casey Dixon: The sheets are important, but then, once you get there, you’re like, "Ugh, this again."

Nikki Kinzer: "I should have done this. Why didn’t I do this?" It’s just this constant beating-yourself-up. Yeah, I see that a lot overlapping with both the home front and the work front, is this expectation that I should have this clean house. I should have all of these things done and I’m not doing it. It’s so interesting to listen to how much shame is there and wanting to break that cycle because it’s not helping. It’s not serving. And, it keeps you stuck. It keeps you even more in the dirty sheets. I’m curious, what do you do now? Here I recognize that this is what’s happening. How do I go about changing it or feeling better? I just want to feel better.

Casey Dixon: I think the first thing is the acknowledging piece like, "Okay, if I am tuning in to listen to a bunch of podcasts about burnout, that might be a sign that I’m experiencing this, but I’m not acknowledging it in a real way." One of my team coaches [inaudible 00:20:05] always says, "Look, if you smell smoke, get out of the house. Don’t go hide under the bed." This is really hard because, again, I think a lot of really high achievers, successful people and people who are struggling on a daily basis can all … That’s not mutually exclusive, right? That can be the same person … Are willing to say, "Well, yeah, I’m experiencing some burnout, but I’m just going to do what I always do and struggle-bus my way through this day and say this is just part of having ADHD like I said."

Casey Dixon: So, let’s acknowledge that, no, this doesn’t have to be part of having ADHD. You can have ADHD and not be in a constant state of overwhelm, so, really acknowledging that in a deep enough way that you seek support for what it is that you’re trying to deal with. Of course, I am an ADHD coach, so it makes sense for me to recommend that, but I think ADHD coaches are really adept at saying, "Okay, what is going on here? Let’s take a deep-dive observation of what you’re noticing. Let’s design around those observations. Let’s make some plans and externalize around that so that you can get out of burnout territory and go back to just regular old ADHD land." Therapy is another important support mechanism. If you really experience a lot of emotional exhaustion, then that is a good place to go to look and say, "How can I reduce the stressors and increase the things in life that make me feel certain and safe and supported and secure and joyous, and start to fill my tank instead of constantly depleting it?"

Casey Dixon: So, those are a couple of things. I think one of the things that I focus on, I call them the overs. I’m sure you see this, too, but, people with ADHD, we talked about it already. They’re working harder. They’re working longer. In order to compensate or overcompensate for their perceived limitations that are ADHD-related or real limitations that are ADHD-related, they overwork. They overthink about what’s not getting done or what is getting done. They over-perfect things or overanalyze or over-anticipate. "How is that going to go for me?" This kind of overdoing it all the time is a compensatory thing that I see that can actually be helped in order to get out of the overwhelm. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, what can we back out of and start doing less of? Is it really important that you have Triscuits in your sheets? Not really, no, it’s not, unless it’s important to your partner who’s like, "Hey, no more Triscuits in the sheet." So, we have to evaluate what’s really important and isn’t really worth your energy and time and self.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s interesting because I think that one of the things that what I think you’re saying … You can let me know if I’m getting this right. It’s also taking a step back. It’s that prioritizing in the sense of: not everything has the same urgency, which is really hard because we know that, with ADHDers, that’s what they … Everything is important. So, from what I’m hearing is that you’re taking a step back and saying, "Wait a minute, let’s really see what needs your energy and what is okay to just, ‘Hey, don’t worry about this right now.’"

Casey Dixon: Right, exactly. This goes back to taking a step back and saying, "Okay, really, if I look at my to-do list and there’s a billion things on there and I’m feeling burnt out," literally going through and deleting some things. I bet you if you really, really go in there with this fierce energy that it’s time to delete, you can find some things that you can just say, "You know what, I’m not doing that," and also things that don’t need to be done now. Can I delay that? I actually have borrowed, in my coaching groups and in my Live Well online course that I have, I talk about the five Ds quite a lot. This is a great way to help my clients to get rid of the overdoing thing, overworking, over-analyzing, overthinking. Four of the Ds, I have to say I took straight out of Julie Morgenstern book.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh, yeah!

Casey Dixon: Yeah, she’s a fantastic professional organizer, and she wrote a book called Time Management from the Inside Out. I talked to her, and her Ds are to delete, so, ruthlessly go in there and start deleting things. The second one is to delay, not unintentionally put it off, but, with intention, say, "I’m going to do this some other month or some other year or some other day." And then, the other one is to diminish, which is to make this smaller. Let’s say I have to write an article. Rather than finding all of the important sources for that article and overthinking and overdoing it, I’m only going to find three. And then, I’m going to trust myself to write the article. That brings the task in and makes it smaller.

Nikki Kinzer: So, that could actually prevent the over-researching piece.

Casey Dixon: Exactly.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes.

Casey Dixon: Yes.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes.

Casey Dixon: Yes, precisely. The other one is to delegate.

Pete Wright: That’s my favorite one.

Casey Dixon: Yes, we love that one.

Pete Wright: That’s my favorite one, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Casey Dixon: Do you really need to change your sheets, or can somebody else do that for you? And so, I’ve, over the years, added a fifth D, which I’ve named disappoint, and I think this is an incredibly powerful D for my clients who are really, going back to what you were talking about, Nikki, with the shame, they’re inadvertently disappointing people. "Ooh, that person emailed me and now it’s been three months. Ugh, I’ve disappointed them and now I feel this ball of shame." So, rather than doing it inadvertently, I’m asking my clients to find ways that they can disappoint people on purpose to help them get a handle on their to-do list because people with ADHD have a tendency to over-say yes and over-commit. There’s more overs for you … to things that they optimistically say, "Oh, yeah, I can do that. Let’s just add that to the giant pile."

Nikki Kinzer: Okay, I see what you’re saying. What you’re saying is find ways to disappoint, which is also saying no like setting your boundaries like, "I’m not taking this on."

Casey Dixon: Exactly.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s almost like I’m going to disappoint you now.

Casey Dixon: Rather than later, yes.

Nikki Kinzer: Than later and feel the shame that’s attached to that … So, you’re eliminating that altogether, yeah, interesting.

Pete Wright: It’s the RSD. This is like looking square in the eyes of rejection sensitivity and saying, "I’m going to own it. I’m going to own it today on my terms."

Casey Dixon: Bring it on.

Pete Wright: I’d rather disappoint you than passively have you disappointed in me.

Casey Dixon: Exactly, beautiful, beautiful.

Nikki Kinzer: Ooh, yeah.

Pete Wright: Right, I’d like to do it on my terms.

Casey Dixon: That’s a great way to put it, and I think, not only to say … I know disappoint is a difficult word, but to say, "Can you disappoint somebody today? Who is the person that you can disappoint today? What can you do to disappoint somebody today and then celebrate that?" rather than think, "Oh, that was bad. I’m bad again." This goes back to another thing that I talk about quite a lot, which is shifting from being bad to being badass [crosstalk 00:28:15]

Nikki Kinzer: Ooh, I like that.

Casey Dixon: Like a badass person who’s going to fiercely go in and ruthlessly go in and say, "I’m in charge of what is in my scope of energy and what I have to do for myself in my life. You’re not in charge. I am. I’m putting myself back in the driver’s seat, and, oh, by the way, task that’s not worth my time, get the heck off my bus." I’m going to disappoint you and say, "Get going." That sense of agency that comes with deliberately using the five Ds to put yourself back in the driver’s seat is one of the things that I have found can really reduce the symptoms of being burned out.

Pete Wright: It seems to all come back to control. One of the things that I find is a salve for burnout is regaining control, and I really like the idea of especially going through to-do lists and deleting or, to add to your Ds, de-dating. That’s one of the things that’s really important because I know there are things in to-do lists that I’m going to eventually have to do, but taking the date off them means that I can-

Nikki Kinzer: Makes a huge difference, right.

Pete Wright: Yeah, I can reframe that into an intentional scheduling project later.

Nikki Kinzer: Later.

Pete Wright: I can schedule that later. I really like the idea of being super intentional about how I define control in my day, my week, my life.

Nikki Kinzer: So, going back to what we said at the very beginning about the vacation, it all kind of makes sense why a vacation is not going to cure burnout. What you explained and talked about, these are habits and intentional acts that you have to really be doing every day for a period, well, ongoing. Otherwise, you’re going to get back into that burnout state. I’m curious, do you ever find … I know I’m probably jumping the gun here, but do you ever find that maybe they’re just not in the right job?

Casey Dixon: I think that they will find that. It’s hard to know that if you’re in the middle of being burned out because you’re emotionally overwhelmed. You’re overreacting or under-reacting. You’re irritable. You’re not motivated. Your productivity is not as good, so you’re thinking, "Okay, it’s either me or the job," but it might actually be the way you’re approaching the job.

Nikki Kinzer: I see, yeah.

Casey Dixon: Or, it might be the job, but you won’t know that-

Nikki Kinzer: But you don’t know that.

Casey Dixon: Until you’re approaching the job in a way that proves that theory out. Does that make sense?

Nikki Kinzer: It does because that also brings back that … You need to investigate. You need to peel the layers back of, "What was it about that one week that was so good and then this week that was not so good?" It’s really, yes, getting the information that you need because, in that state of mind, you’re not going to make the decision, really, on all the facts. You’re just based on what you’re feeling at that moment.

Casey Dixon: Exactly, and when you decide things in the moment when you have ADHD, that’s red flag territory because your dopamine is going to be driving you around, and the non-dopamine-driven logical thoughtful reflective part is going to be left in the back of the bus going, "Where in the heck are we going? Why are we going down this road again?" I think it’s really important to do the deep observation piece, and this is where coaching can really be helpful, of course. But, other people in your life can also help you do that as long as they’re not providing the answers; they’re providing the questions, the observation questions. What does that look like? How often does that happen? Is it consistent? Is it not consistent? What’s triggering that? There’s all these questions. What does it look like when … And, people can also do that for themselves, but I think, really intentionally, like you said, peeling back the layers, making sure your systems are up and running … Then, you will say, "You know what, this job isn’t really the right job for me," or, "Hey, there are parts of this job that aren’t really right for me," going back to being a badass. Then, you can say, "How do I design around that? How do I design around the parts of this that are a good fit for me naturally and the parts that aren’t?" Again, that’s another intentional piece.

Pete Wright: I want to go back to the vacation thing just one more time because I feel like we can both debunk and support this assumption that vacations are the answer to burnout. My hypothesis is, if you use everything we’ve talked about, all of the tools and the Ds and the things that we’ve talked about, and you go into a vacation intentionally freeing yourself of the daily grind that is troublesome, but instead working on reframing how you approach your job, you’re going to answer some important questions about whether or not you’re burned out, what that burnout looks like, etc. Is it possible to really use a vacation to accomplish a reset and come back less burned out?

Casey Dixon: I just was talking with a client this morning and she was on spring break with her kids. She had stepped away and she was hiking. She was doing a four-mile hike. She was so excited because she never has time to exercise. She’s like, "Yeah, I’m going to be sore, but I did some thinking about what it was that I was hating about my job right now that I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not been walking in the forest without a phone watching my kids run around and on the path in front of me." It’s through that mind-wandering ah-hah moment that allowed her to say, "How can I make this job more me and more satisfying for me and more giving rather than taking for me so that it gives me energy, it gives me focus, it gives me more motivation, it gives me all those good things I need rather than sucking all of that stuff out of me?"

Casey Dixon: She walked out of the forest with three specific things that she needed to incorporate into her work to help her with that. So sometimes, a vacation can help provide a little bit of brain space that’s needed. But, it’s pretty risky because, as we know, the other part about vacations is that you’re supposed to be doing that to recover. "I’ve given all my energy to work and to home, and now I step away and I’m like, ‘Just relax and recover.’" But, as people with ADHD know, in order to go on vacation, you have to pour a ton of energy into, "What do I need to pack? What do I need to get done before I go? Who’s going to watch the cat while I’m away?" And then, you get home and there’s this giant pile of crap waiting for you. Sometimes, there’s too much of a vacation tax that it’s really not worth the recovery time. I think it depends on the person, really, whether that’s going to be a useful … I don’t know if I’m addressing your point, Pete, but whether that’s going to be a useful thing or not. If you cannot recover from your day by sleeping overnight or recover from your week by taking a weekend, or recover from your three-month or half-year period by taking a nice vacation, then you’re probably trying to do too much as it is.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s interesting because I think that what Pete is asking and talking about and what you addressed is there has to be a certain level of intentional thought process that I’m going to go into this vacation with the thought of trying to figure out how to make this job better. Or, what is it that is not clicking with me? I think it is hard to go into a vacation with that kind of intention because you want to just get away from work, and so you don’t want to think about it. I can also see where it can backfire. You have all the best intentions in the world to do it, but then you get disappointed at the end of the week when, boy, that week went by really, really fast and here it is, Saturday, and I’m going back to work in a day.

Pete Wright: It’s the escape recovery or escape return paradox. I feel like, when I go on a vacation, I’ll know if I’m really feeling burned out if, after a few days, I start getting itchy to think about, "What could I do different?" I start getting excited about returning to work and learning more and doing more. If I find that I’ve escaped and no longer have that gravitational pull back, then something has to change. That is a triggering event for me that I know I don’t want to go back to work right now and I don’t have any expectation that I’m going to want to return to this project. It’s just too much. Sometimes, just getting that distance is illustrative in whether or not the burnout is legit.

Casey Dixon: I think the point is that you do need recovery time. I’m not suggesting that people with ADHD who are overwhelmed don’t get to go on vacation.

Nikki Kinzer: Right, yeah, absolutely.

Casey Dixon: I do think it’s really important to make that happen, and, like you were saying, I don’t want to go there just to think about work. You’re allowed to go there and just not think about work, which would be really beneficial to your ADHD brain for recovery purposes. But at the same time, vacation is not the solution to burnout.

Nikki Kinzer: Right, yeah, exactly.

Casey Dixon: You have to approach what you’re doing in a different way and get a vacation.

Nikki Kinzer: And get a vacation, that’s right.

Pete Wright: I just want to-

Nikki Kinzer: And do both, yeah.

Pete Wright: I just want to throw in just this little piece because I … Okay, speaking just for me, I take on a lot of shame for not vacationing right. There is an assumption that, when I go on vacation with family, with friends, etc., when my brain is in fireworks mode, I want to do stuff. I want to think about the projects that I don’t have time to think about during the day. But, there is an external observation of Pete not vacationing right because he’s not relaxing enough. He’s not hiking enough. He’s not reading enough books. He’s not settling in for game time enough. And, I don’t think I’m alone with that, that it’s okay that vacation doesn’t have to look like relaxing, recovering, needing an IV of books to constantly go in to demonstrate that I’m recovered. Sometimes, it’s just the distance in and of itself that is enough to make a satisfying and energizing vacation.

Nikki Kinzer: Well, what you’re saying can also happen on the weekend. I have so many clients that feel guilty about relaxing on the weekend and not doing enough or not catching up. In one of my groups, just even recently, I said, "So, how many of you think that, I, on the weekend, do a lot?" There were a couple who were like, "Oh, I’m sure you do." One person actually, I thought, explained it really well. She goes, "I think you do what you need to do or what you want to do. But then, I also think you take a lot of downtime." I’m like, "You’re right. I think it’s a nice … It is a good balance, but I have no guilt of taking a day off and watching movies all day. It doesn’t bother me," whereas, for some people, oh my gosh, they couldn’t do it because they would feel so bad about everything else that’s going on.

Casey Dixon: I think, sometimes, it’s not just about feeling bad about it. Again, it’s: what does your custom-made intention for the weekend look like, or your vacation? For Pete, it might not be playing games and laying on the sofa reading books all week. It might be doing something that’s more active, but that’s okay. It’s still recovery. The other thing is that, again, intentionality, if you’re not taking what my clients often call me-time, just time away from work and time away from responsibilities, and, "I just need some downtime," then your me-time will take you. You’re going to find yourself Netflixing until 3:00 in the morning or playing some silly computer game, or, I don’t know, rearranging your shoe closet, whatever. It will drive you there, but again, what your me-time, Nikki, and my me-time, and Pete’s me-time, they’re all going to look completely different, and this goes back to self-awareness. If I’m feeling burned out, what are the things that will help to replenish me? They’re not going to be the same things that will help to replenish you. How can I do those with intention?

Nikki Kinzer: Something that my dad taught me, and I do this now that … I can. I know that not everybody can do this. But, when I was growing up, they always took two-week vacations. His reasoning was always that it took time to get settled. And then, by the time he was relaxed, he would still have a whole nother week to be able to enjoy. They traveled a lot, too, so they would go to different places. I adopted that where I take two weeks at the end of the year between Christmas and New Year’s because most of my clients are gone anyway, too, or with their families. I take that two weeks, and it is definitely what you’re talking about with just that refreshing … What did you call it? Not refreshing but-

Casey Dixon: Replenishing?

Nikki Kinzer: Recovering, recovering.

Casey Dixon: Recovering, yeah.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s that recovery time where it is the holidays, so you can really be present with your family and what’s going on. But then, there’s this excitement that happens after Christmas where, "Oh, we’re going into a new year. What am I going to …" So then, I start thinking creatively and I’m thinking about the business, but I’m doing it in a way that is exciting where, like what Pete was saying, I want to go back to work. I could try it, but I don’t want to. Could I do that in a week? Maybe, but I really like those two weeks. So, I think it’s also learning … Maybe you can’t take two weeks, but maybe you can take 10 days or a week-and-a-half or something like that to see: what is your own body doing to relax and have that buffer time when you come home? One of the things I tell my clients is, when you come home from vacation, don’t go to work the very next day.

Casey Dixon: Right, give yourself some transition time.

Nikki Kinzer: You have to have some transition time, yeah.

Pete Wright: And this gets back to burnout for me, which is … and why we veered into vacationing. It’s because I think that taking the time away, if you’re aware enough, if you’ve looked in the mirror, you’re aware that something’s wrong. Sometimes, I guess you just need enough time away to be able to notice the difference, to be able to notice what you’re … to be able to hear yourself a little bit better without the noise of impending doom of the next project, the next thing that you’re maybe not doing up to your own standard effectively enough, whatever that means. Taking the time and the space to get away from that can be illustrative in what your next steps should be.

Casey Dixon: I think that goes back to your point, Pete, about compartmentalizing and the whole experience that a lot of professionals have had during the two years that we’ve been doing the whole COVID thing, is that there’s fewer external structures to help us compartmentalize our lives. So, if you’re at home and you’re working and then it’s time to stop working, well, that’s really hard because that requires a transition. I’m still at home and my work is right there in the living room. It’s hard to say. That’s the opposite of what Nikki’s talking about with getting away for long enough so that your brain can relax out of that state that it’s in. One of the things that we work on in our groups is having a 24-hour cycle that allows for work time to end where the giant to-do list isn’t sitting on your shoulder 24/7, but that you actually put it away into the closet for a little while so that your brain can think about other things and do the recovering so that, then, if I’m actually recovered, I can start getting excited and motivated and creative again. So, how do we put that stuff away? This goes back to not overworking and not overthinking, how to say, "Okay, I’m going to delete, delegate, diminish, delay and disappoint intentionally right now, put myself back in charge of how this thing goes. It’s my show. I’m the director."

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, I love that. I love that, great way to end.

Pete Wright: All right, hey, Casey, always a pleasure having you come chat with us and hang with us for the last hour. It has been a real treat. Where should we send people who want to learn more about your life and work?

Casey Dixon: My life and work can be found at dixonlifecoaching.com. That’s D-I-X-O-N lifecoaching.com. There’s tons of information there right now. I do specialize in working with high-achieving smartypantses with ADHD, and I think, if you want to learn more about the five Ds in particular, that’s something that I’ve integrated in my six-module E-course, which is an online course called Live Well ADHD, and there’s five hours of me videoing out there that you can learn, and a big old workbook and all sorts of fun things. That’s something that you can check out at dixonlifecoaching.com.

Nikki Kinzer: Great, thank you so much.

Pete Wright: Fantastic, thank you so, so much.

Casey Dixon: It’s been really fun.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s a pleasure.

Pete Wright: Always, always a treat. I can’t wait to … I’m glad we’re done because now we can start planning next time you come, Casey Dixon.

Casey Dixon: Yes, let’s do it.

Nikki Kinzer: That’s right.

Pete Wright: Thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. Thank you for your time and your attention. Please don’t forget it’s March Madness. Head over to patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn about how you can contribute to this community. Special this month, you can access … the Coaching with Nikki is coming up, and we have the new platinum channel for Coaching with Nikki and Coffee with Pete beginning April exclusive to the platinum tier. And, you can get access to our members-only podcast coming up, The Placeholder Podcast with Pete. Again, you are amazing. We appreciate your time and attention. On behalf of Casey Dixon and Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright and we’ll catch you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.