“Burnout syndrome” has officially been recognized as a legit medical diagnosis by the World Health Organization, and now I’m just wondering when “mom burnout” will be officially added to that list.
I’ve recently experienced what I can only describe as burnout, and it freaking sucked.
Working from home, trying to make this blog happen, taking care of the kids, keeping house, struggling with my anxiety, and a lack of sleep was all it took for my body to protest in a very debilitating way – migraines. I was exhausted, very emotional, and my head was kicking for weeks. I broke down in tears several times over the past two months, feeling defeated and struggling to get everything done through the exhaustion and the pain.
I went to my doctor, got an eye exam, and spent a lot of energy on google searches, all in the hopes of figuring out what was causing my emotional, mental, and physical breakdown. The doctors all had similar suggestions on what could be the root cause. Stress. Even my google searches seemed to support this theory, if you disregarded the search results that pointed to horrible illnesses and imminent death, of course.
WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.”
They even go so far as to say outright that this diagnosis only applies to these symptoms in an occupational context, and that the diagnosis shouldn’t be applied to other areas of life.
This is where I have to say “hold up.” What about moms who may or may not work in a traditional setting?
Who is Susceptible to Mom Burnout?
The clinical definition clearly relates to working moms, many of whom are constantly trying to juggle all the things in an effort to achieve a better work-life balance, but what about those moms who work part-time or not at all? What about all those moms whose occupation is “stay-at-home mom”?
Full-time working mom, part-time working mom, work-from-home mom, stay-at-home mom – they are all incredibly demanding roles in their own right with the potential to cause burnout.
I am a part-time, work-from-home mom with one kid in daycare two days a week and a baby at home 24/7. With everything on my plate at this point in my life, I feel as if I am on the verge of mom burnout all. the. time.
And I’m sure many stay-at-homes also feel the affects of burnout, despite not clocking into an actual 9 to 5. After all, many stay-at-home moms don’t really get to “clock out” at all. Anyone who’s stayed at home for a prolong length of time to parent a couple of kids knows how exhausting and challenging it can be.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
- Lack of energy, constantly feeling exhausted
- Frequent headaches, muscle pain or tension, stomach aches or bowel issues
- Weakened immune system and frequent illness
- Increase in substance use, such as drugs or alcohol
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Loss of motivation, ignoring responsibilities, and procrastination
People Experiencing Burnout Often:
- Feel helpless, trapped, defeated, and unappreciated
- Feel alone and isolated
- Experience self-doubt and dissatisfaction
- Become increasingly negative and cynical
- Become irritable or impatient with others
Regardless of what WHO says, or anyone else for that matter, many moms can attest to experiencing the symptoms of burnout at some point during their demanding role as “mom”, myself included. And burnout is no joke.
According to the Mayo Clinic, experiencing burnout and leaving it unchecked can lead to:
- Excessive stress
- Sadness, anger or irritability
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Vulnerability to illnesses
I don’t know about you, mama, but I don’t want any of that in my life. So, what can we do to avoid, minimize the chances of, or recover from mom burnout?
How To Avoid (or Recover From) Mom Burnout
Surround yourself with a solid support system.
There is so much truth to that cliché saying, it really does take a village. Having a solid support system that you can lean on is crucial to avoiding mom burnout or to help pull you out of that burnout state.
Lean on your partner, your family, and your friends for the things you need from each of them. This could mean asking your partner for more help around the house, utilizing family members to watch the kids while you and your spouse have a much-needed date night, or leaning on a close friend for moral support. Don’t be afraid to ask those closest to you for the help and support that you need, whatever that may be.
*Note: If you do not have many family members or close friends that you can lean on or feel comfortable confiding in, consider making mom friends in other ways. Look for local mom groups, participate in online chat forums for moms, or join Facebook groups with like-minded moms.
You’re welcome in our Facebook group (More for Mama Tribe), where we focus on self care and community for moms. We’d love to have you. Click here to check us out.
Take care of yourself like you take care of your family.
Every mom’s number one job (whether you’re a working mom or not) is family caretaker. We put so much of our energy into taking care of our families – scheduling doctor appointments, nursing sick kids (and spouses) back to health, making sure the kids are brushing their teeth, coaxing toddlers into eating their veggies, scheduling haircuts, buying back-to-school wardrobes, etc. – that we often have little to no energy to take care of ourselves.
I’m that mom in day two or day three leggings picking out the Instagram-worthy outfit for my toddler. I’ve let half a year go by without getting my hair trimmed. I’ve avoided making doctor appointments for myself simply because I didn’t have time. I’ve waited months use massage gift certificates. I mean, come on! What in the world could be stopping me from getting a FREE massage?!
We get so burnt out from taking care of our families that somehow, scheduling a free massage (that we desperately need) has become such a chore, we don’t even have the energy for it.
Continuing on this way will no doubt lead to mom burnout. You deserve the same amount of care your family gets from you. You NEED it. Don’t neglect your own wellbeing for the sake of your family’s. There is no need for that. And if you are feeling too rundown and too exhausted to take that yoga class or schedule a haircut, take a cue from the first tip and ASK FOR HELP so that you can take care of you. Here’s a free printable checklist that will help you prioritize daily self care.
*Related Post: Learn why moms NEED to practice self care every single day.
Set aside quality family time.
You know when you have a really great day with the family and you are so present in the current moment that you forget about all your worries, even if just for a little while? That’s the best, isn’t it?
So much of our time together with our families can be busy, preoccupied, or even chaotic. Chaotic mornings before school, combative bedtime routines, and busy weekends full of sports games and various events don’t leave much room for “quality”.
Quality family time is not only important for the overall happiness of your family, but also for your own sanity. It’s much easier to handle the less than glamorous sides of parenthood (and not lose your sh*t) when you’re regularly making happy family memories to reflect on.
These don’t necessarily need to be big adventures or elaborate vacations. Simple weekend outings can make the best memories. And you don’t even need to spend any money if you don’t want to. Just make sure you’re spending intentional time with your family, having fun and enjoying each other’s company.
Take time for yourself to do something you enjoy.
More specifically, get a hobby. Find something you truly enjoy doing. This could be something creative, like painting. It could be a physical activity, like training for a marathon. You love to learn, you can take a foreign language class. If you’re more of a social butterfly, join a bookclub or a volunteer group.
Having and practicing a hobby is a great way to cope with stress and anxiety. I’m constantly thinking about all things work and family; the to-do list on my desk, the laundry that’s piling up, the bills that need to be paid. A hobby can be just the distraction and healthy outlet you need to blow off some steam.
Need some ideas? Here are 5 awesome hobbies for moms to try.
Limit your screen time.
Social media use has long been linked to depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness, but there’s a lot more about screen time than the comparison game that stresses me out.
It’s the endless supply of bad news from every media outlet and the scary “it happened to me” mom stories on Facebook that I can’t scroll past without reading, for some reason. Yes, this is all real life, but we don’t need to be constantly ingesting it.
With tv, social media, and everything else the internet has to offer, we are constantly inundated and bombarded with information, and while some of it is feel-good, a lot of it is just sad and depressing. All this negativity is the last thing you need when you’re on the verge of mom burnout.
The best thing to do if you feel bogged down from too much screen time is to try a social media detox. This could be for a specific amount of time (such as three hours before bed), for a day, or better yet, a weekend.
If you’re looking to cut back on screen time, check out these 6 ways to make it a healthier habit, from MindBodyGreen.
Find a stress relieving activity and incorporate it into your regular routine.
Is there a certain activity that helps relieve your stress? Maybe it’s a high intensity workout, a mindful yoga session, meditation, getting lost in a good book, or journaling before bed.
Having a stress relieving activity incorporated into your normal routine can help keep burnout at bay. These kinds of activities can help you let go of all the frustrations and worries that you’ve carried around with you all day, allowing you to reset and reflect.
Before I got pregnant with my second, I got really into this kickboxing fitness class. I went regularly for a little over a year. Not only was I getting into great shape, but I noticed that my stress had become more manageable. If I had a rough day at work, I’d go hit the bags (really hard) after dinner. Then, I’d walk out of the gym feeling lighter, more content, and relaxed. This was my stress reliever, my outlet.
Learn to say “no”.
As busy moms, we have perpetually full calendars. There are after-school commitments, playdates, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, meetings, weekend soccer games, grocery shopping, family gatherings, friends’ birthday parties; the list goes on and on.
We have so so much going on and so much on our plate that sometimes even the smallest requests can feel incredibly daunting and overwhelming. If we keep saying “yes” to every invite, every sign-up, every favor, we’re going to get burnt out.
You don’t have to attend every single event that you get invited to. You can respectfully decline last-minute playdates if they can’t fit into your schedule. You can sign up for plates and napkins instead of the main course for your kid’s school potluck. You can turn down opportunities that will take more of your energy than they’re worth.
Learn when it’s okay to say “no.”
Have you experienced mom burnout? How did you recover, and what do you do to try to prevent it from happening again? Tell us your ways, in the comments section below!