Burnout: The Silent Plague for Moms
We often feel overwhelmed by the stressors of everyday life, work, home, kids, etc., but we don’t tend to realize when we move into the next stage of exhaustion called burnout. Moms are extremely guilty of this. Not because we are bad people, but it can be because we are TOO good to everyone else but ourselves. We carry the weight and stress of everyone else PLUS our own. So often times moms are in a constant state of burnout.
What is burnout? Burnout is essentially when you feel emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted. You literally feel like you have nothing more to give and adding anything else on (to your already high pile of stress) will bring you so much closer to your breaking point. It is not a place where many people like to be, but again moms find themselves in and out of burnout constantly.
Your emotions are all over the place. You go from feeling extremely vulnerable and emotional to irritated and frustrated constantly. When dealing with young children, this can be a hard place to be in. You don’t want to take your emotions out on your kids, but again you may not be able to effectively manage your emotions when you are experiencing burnout.
Physically, your body feels tired. No matter how much sleep you get, it never feels like enough. Your eating habits are also changing dramatically. You go from feeling like you are eating your feelings, to not eating because the thought of food makes you want to puke. This can obviously affect your energy and motivation levels which only add on to your stress levels.
Mentally you feel stressed. Everything seems heavy, and you might feel more inclined to isolate yourself to avoid additional stressors of the world. Some people may try to throw themselves into work, do more around the house or invest themselves in other people’s problems to not deal with the emotions they are experiencing. As you can imagine … that doesn’t really solve the problem.
What comes first you ask? Do you deal with the physical, the emotional or what?
Well, people are more inclined to notice the physical symptoms first. Let’s face it… we value our physical well-being more than our emotional and mental well-being. Knowing all of this, are you recognizing some of the symptoms in yourself? You probably are noticing a few things, which is ok.
There are ways to help manage burnout and potentially avoid it in the future.
The best way to help reduce the effect of burnout is to figure out what is the biggest area of concern for you right now and list them all out. Work to see what you can control, what resources are at our disposal, and what changes need to be made.
Seeking support is also essential. As moms, we try to handle everything on our own, but seeking guidance and support can help us raise our children more effectively than trying to do it on our own. If your support system can give you some time alone TAKE IT! Even if it is 30 minutes, do something for yourself, because that is the next step in helping to reduce the effects. Finding something relaxing, enjoyable, fun, whatever, is necessary. We all need time to decompress without worrying about others. It isn’t selfish, it is necessary.
Now, if you can, take up some form of exercise. Something that you can do on a regular basis to help you physically and mentally. Exercise, for obvious reasons, can help your physical body, but it can also help to release endorphins which helps your mental well-being. Granted sometimes working out sucks, but it is good for you. I want to make sure that I emphasize the exercise is an outlet to help yourself. Not an open door to body shame or make anyone feel like the need to something they aren’t. Plus, exercise can be something as simple as walking more, 10 – 15 minutes of yoga, stretching, dancing, etc.
This next tip is going to be hard for moms with newborns, but is super important, and that is sleep. Recharging your brain and body is needed to get you through the next day. And you are probably tired of hearing this but sleep when your baby is sleeping. Even if it is a short 30-minute nap. The laundry and dishes can wait. Believe me, they aren’t going anywhere. Plus, if you utilized the tip from above, maybe you can have someone come and help you. Another way to help get sleep, is to make sure to turn off your devices at least 30 - 45 minutes before you go to bed. Also, establish a nighttime routine, just like you do with your kids. Your body needs a signal that it is time to go to sleep.
If I am to do basic math (which can sometimes be a struggle) all I am asking for you is to find 45 – 60 minutes a day. Even if you can only manage 30 minutes … that’s ok. Doing something versus doing nothing is what we are striving for.
Now that you know how to manage your current state of burnout, how do you avoid it in the future?
The best way is to set up structure and boundaries for yourself. This includes work life too. When you are creating this newfound structure, make sure to carve out time for yourself. All you need is at least 30 minutes a day to relax and enjoy whatever. 30 minutes in the span of 24 hours, is NOTHING.
Let’s say 30 minutes a day is too much. Ok … there are those days, I understand. If you can’t manage 30 minutes a day AT MINIMUM, you need to carve out 2 hours a week for yourself. You can break it up however you want, but 2 hours a week. It could be sleeping in on the weekend, playing video games for 30 minutes after the kids are asleep, a trip to Target (which for me would be longer than 2 hours), or whatever you like. It I necessary to have time for yourself to decompress from the stressors of the week in order to avoid burnout in the future.
If you have a partner, work out a system where they get their time and so do you. Plus, if you are in a relationship, it is also important to add in time as a couple into this system too. Every other week if possible. And, it doesn’t have to be some grand date night out. There are very creative ways to enjoy each other at home. This is where Pinterest can be your ally.
Now, let’s tackle the massive to-do list that we feel overwhelmed by. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to invest in a notebook, calendar, or sticky notes. You don’t need all three, just one. Write down EVERYTHING that you think you need to do. Anything small (like or shower) or big (like cleaning the entire house). Allocate what needs to get done daily, what needs to get done weekly and what can get done when you can. Focus on checking off at least 2 things from daily column each day and 2 things from the other two columns each week. This is going to sound a bit weird but strive for getting “just enough” done. Our goal is to be “good enough,” because that is all we need to be. We can’t be perfect. We can’t be superwoman. We can’t continue to burn ourselves out. [CHECK OUT BOTH EXAMPLES … and create your own type of list]
Another good reason why I suggest that we write things out, is because we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we accomplish throughout the day. For one, getting the kids dressed, fed and out the door to school is a MASSIVE FEAT! If they get there on time, extra bonus points, but you still must give yourself credit for getting them there at all. So, writing things down gives us a visual reminder of things that we accomplished. HOWEVER, that it isn’t there to serve a punishment for things we didn’t get done. Remember, we are striving to acknowledge the things we ARE doing and working towards a realistic goal!
Also keep in mind that there may be things you can delegate from your list. You don’t have to do it all. If you have older kids (older than 5) discuss what they can do to help you around the house, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you have a partner, talk about things that need to get done for the household on a weekly basis and work as a team to get things done. Managing a household is a team effort … there is no “I” in “household.”
The next thing to help avoid burnout, is to be mindful of the signs your body and mind are trying to give you. You know those signs we talked about before? That's your body telling you that you are getting overwhelmed. When you start seeing the signs, then it is time to start advocating for yourself. If things become extremely stressful, it may be time to consult with a mental health professional for a bit more support.
Together you guys can start the conversation of what you can implement in your daily and weekly routine to lessen your chances of burnout. Plus, it is also a good way to relieve some of the pressure and stress that you may be feeling by talking to someone. That is a great way to reduce the possibility of burning yourself out.
Either way, it is important for you and your family to take care of yourself. Being a mom is hard enough, but you don’t have to take it all on. You don’t have to be supermom. You just have to be a healthy mom and that requires you taking care of yourself. Being me, you and your family will be happier. This time with their new bundle of joy.
Written by: Jessica Jefferson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Perinatal Mental Health Counselor and Owner of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services. My passion is helping moms let go of the expectations before then, redefine motherhood and find themselves again within the chaos. I am here when you are ready to start your journey.