Re-imagining Rest: Nervous System Reset Protocol for Neurodivergent Burnout 🧠

Re-imagining rest: Nervous system reset protocol for neurodivergent burnout :brain:

Team Members: Najva Sol + Victor Zapanta

SUMMARY

For knowledge workers, loss of cognitive ability is terrifying.

Founders, leaders, inventors are “our most brilliant minds”…but what if one day, that mind fails? Across tech, crypto, finance, design, art—industries where the creative minds of Autistic and ADHD people are overrepresented—that’s exactly what’s happening. “I feel stupid,” they say, “maybe I’m burned out.”

At a time where the same founder who created the viral “High Output Founders Library” is 3 years later leading a program called “Downshift” to help founders decelerate, even the most ambitious companies have an awareness of the seriousness of burnout.

But the many protocols for occupational burnout don’t work for neurodivergent burnout, and that’s the one that causes skill loss and regression. And it’s surprisingly common— In 2006, there was a study showing the “strong association between ADHD, burnout, and long-term sick leave."

The protocol for neurodivergent burnout recovery is too decentralized. The research is being done through trial and error, with a massive community sharing anecdotal solutions in blog posts, books, Tik Toks, and podcasts. It can be hard to make sense of.

Leveraging wearable tech and nervous system experts, we propose to use the current post-pandemic burnout spike to research ways to improve and simplify the existing loose protocol for neurodivergent burnout recovery.

Q&A

What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance? Eg: hand-washing, traffic system, connector standards, carbon trading.

The current protocol for burnout recovery is “rest.” This is as vague (and unhelpful) as it sounds.

How does one rest effectively?

The emerging consensus by neurodivergent people is that an effective burnout recovery protocol involves strategies for calming the nervous system.

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

Once the panic of skill loss subsides, neurodivergent people are left to piece together a burnout protocol from a mess of resources.

By combining existing autistic + ADHD community knowledge and weaving in strategic science-backed approaches such as breathwork, proprioceptive and vestibular input, and non-sleep deep rest (NSDR), we can refine the protocol to serve as a centralized roadmap to recovery.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol? Eg: field observation, expert interviews, historical data analysis, failure event analysis

We’ll explore neurodivergent burnout through literature reviews, expert interviews, and field observations to create targeted strategies for its management and prevention, adapting insights for neurodivergent individuals.

In what form will you prototype your improvement idea? Eg: Code, reference design implementation, draft proposal shared with experts for feedback, A/B test of ideas with a test audience, prototype hardware, etc.

We will share drafts and findings on an ongoing basis with scientists, researchers, somatic practitioners, neurodivergent leaders, and the Nervous System Mastery community for feedback.

How will you field-test your improvement idea? Eg: run a restricted pilot at an event, simulation, workshop, etc.

We’ll do 6 week field test, with 7-10 participants.

  1. Identify burned-out neurodivergent participants, potentially all Software Engineers (narrowing to specific jobs for ease of recovery measurement)
  2. Issue health trackers (Oura Rings) to monitor stress markers
  3. Do initial tangible memory/speed tests + check current markers to set baseline
  4. Periodic check-ins with participants
  5. Repeat of testing at the end
  6. Analyze and compare stress levels + skill tests
  7. Conduct unstructured conversations with participants to gather insights into their experiences

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output? Ideally name a few suitable judges.

Starting list:

  • Jonny Miller, Nervous System Mastery teacher

  • Anne-laure Le Cunff, Neuroscientist

  • Monique Mitchelson, Clinical Neuropsychologist, podcast host

  • Lee Harbison, ADHD coach

  • Neurodivergent leaders in Crypto, Tech, Consulting, Finance, Art, etc who also have experienced burnout.

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea? Eg: Submit proposal to a standards body, publish open-source code, produce and release a software development kit etc.

  1. Open source results via website that includes a self-assessment, recommended protocol, and resources
  2. Spread the protocol by utilizing the communities of our judges and advisors: scientists/researchers/therapists/coaches, Nervous System Mastery alumni network, podcasts, newsletters, etc.

What is the success vision for your idea?

Our protocol is shared widely the default foundation for ADHD/Autistic burnout recovery, and the community continues to build on it to make it their own.

8 Likes

As someone with ADHD who’s struggled with burnout, this is a really important protocol focus. Good breakdown here.

Recommending Keylee Miracle, Princess Owens and Dr Megan Anna Neff for your list of judges as well.

1 Like

Thank you for the recommendations! I’ll definitely check them out. I know there’s many incredible folks to reach out to in the field.

And I had two more founders I know reach out to me about burnout since writing this. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through this as well!

Got some excellent feedback — logging that I updated the field research process to include some baseline informal skill/cognition tests + use that to help focus the careers of folks we include!