Mom Burnout: It's a Real Thing
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All you want to do is sleep. You’re feeling sluggish. Perhaps you find yourself being short with family members, closest friends, or colleagues. Irritability has become your middle name. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day — ever. Your to-do list seems endless and deadlines are approaching. Productivity is unusually low for you and you’re feeling pretty negative about pretty much everything. Stress levels are at an all-time high. I think you are catching my drift: It is the sweet sound of burnout.
As a clinical therapist, I can’t tell you how much I hear about this. I don’t blame you. I’m sure you are absolutely spent. I often hear:
“I feel like I have no time.”
“I feel so stressed.”
“I have so much to do, I don’t know where to begin.”
“I’m so exhausted. My whole body hurts.”
“I’m mentally drained.”
“I feel completely overwhelmed.”
Can you relate to any of this? As women, we tend to take on so much. Naturally, we are nurturers and want to take care of everyone, even if it comes at the expense of our time and health. Taking care of ourselves seems to fall last on that to-do list, if at all. Here are my top tips to help you cope and prevent emotional burnout.
1. Implement a Schedule
It doesn’t have to be a fancy planner; it can be something as simple as a whiteboard calendar that you hang in your kitchen. If you’re feeling up for it, try both. Keeping track of your daily routine, things that need to get done, as well as room for fun can be SO helpful and relieve stress. A visual representation helps us to remember what we have going on and what needs to get done. Keeping lists can also aid in this.
2. Time Blocking
Along those lines, time blocking can be very helpful. I suggest using a calendar that is broken down hourly as well as using highlighters for different categories, such as work meetings, deadlines, networking events, activities with your children, date nights with your spouse, and time for YOU. Again, when you have a visual, it is easier to remember what you have going on and where you have room in your schedule for you.
3. Mind-Body Connection
Pay attention to your body. Are you experiencing headaches often? Are you feeling sore and achy? Have you been getting sick more so than usual? This could be indicative that you are experiencing burnout. Stress affects us everywhere, including our body. Take this as an extra sign to take care of your body. Make time for a hot bath, relaxing time on the couch with no distractions, getting to bed earlier, disconnecting from social media and/or electronics, meditating, etc. Your mind and body BOTH need it.
4. Set Boundaries
This is a tough one. My clients love when I bring up the topic of boundaries. This is definitely something that is a learning curve and never stops. We continuously set and maintain boundaries. With that being said, are you finding yourself saying “yes” to everything? This is most likely contributing to you having less time for yourself. I encourage you to think about saying “yes” to the people, events, and tasks that absolutely need to get done. Prioritize wisely. By saying “no” to those things that do not warrant your attention or immediacy, it gives you the opportunity to say “yes” to the commitments you want to make.
5. Ask for Help
This is another tough one. There are so many thoughts and feelings attached with asking for help. It doesn’t always feel good. Practice makes better, not perfect. Practicing asking for help can do wonders, and can help you feel better. Are there tasks that you can delegate to a colleague or ask your spouse for help with? Perhaps even your child(ren)? Reach out to those closest to you. Chances are they will be flattered that you trust them to take on a task for you.
6. Limit Contact with Negative People
As the saying goes, misery loves company. Avoid getting sucked into the negativity train. Pay attention to how you feel and what your thoughts are when spending time with negative individuals. If you’re not feeling the greatest, it’s a pretty good indication that they aren’t the most healthy to be around. If they happen to be someone that you work with, try to limit the amount of time you spend with them.
7. Take Time Off
Give yourself the opportunity to take some time off to relax and recharge. This is intentional time to rest and reboot. The key word is "intentional." Setting a boundary with yourself about this will be important. Take complete time away from doing any type of work.
8. Seek Professional Help
Experiencing burnout can feel so overwhelming and isolating. Seeking out the help of a licensed professional can help you cope with what you are experiencing and how to best manage your symptoms. And, they can help you identify stressors, increase your insight and awareness, and provide you with tools to manage stress better.
9. Schedule ‘Me Time’
Provide yourself with the opportunity to schedule time for yourself. Prioritizing that time is important for your emotional well-being. Starting off the day with setting intentions, taking time in the afternoon to meditate, practicing mindfulness, or scheduling a massage are some ways in which you can do this.
10. Establish Your Emotional Health Toolbox
Take the time to ask yourself what you need to help to prevent future burnout. Who are your supports in place? What makes you feel better? How does my body feel when I am increasingly stressed? How do I know my mood has been affected? Is something/someone holding me back from my goals?
Checking in with yourself and how you are feeling can be a great start to help cope with burnout. Use these tips as a way to help create your plan!
Jennifer Gawlik is a licensed psychotherapist and the co-founder of The Centered Life, a women-owned psychotherapy private practice, with locations in Naperville and Oak Park, IL. The Centered Life supports women and families to create emotional balance in their lives through empowerment and support. Specifically, helping clients build awareness and improve unhealthy relationships and poor coping skills that stand in the way of living a more Centered Life.