Burnt out (adj.): A state in which you are mentally unable to handle any more stress. A state in which your energy and mental resources are depleted.
We all have moments in time in which we feel stressed, but sometimes we don't even realise how burnt out we are even if others around us can see that we are. Being a burnt-out mum is not only bad for you, but it's also bad for the people around you. Unfortunately, mothers are socialised to ignore their needs; taking care of us as mothers is considered selfish. Worse still, asking for help is seen as somewhat weak.
This cultural attitude of the "strong mum" is hurtful to mothers and women. Being strong doesn't mean working yourself to death until you're exhausted and mentally spent. Instead, think of your mothering "power" as a business: when a CEO needs someone to take over a department, a good CEO finds a manager to take charge. That manager then finds workers and fills his or her staff up with people to share the workload.
Be a good CEO. Be a "strong mum." Divide and conquer. Ask for help. Utilise your partner if you've got one and your family or friends based on their strengths. Rome was not built in a day. It takes a village to raise a child.
You are not Rome. You are not a village.
Strategise and take care of yourself or you're no good for anyone!
Sign #1: Forgetting Everything
Sure, there's preggo brain and mummy brain, but when you start forgetting things constantly, it's a sign you're burnt out.
When I had to move suddenly, I started forgetting things, which was so out of character for me. I also started losing things. It made sense, though: I lost my house and had to move suddenly, which was very stressful, and I was searching for a place on my own all among divorce proceedings. I was a burnt-out mum running on fumes. Realising this allowed me to help myself.
Sign #2: Snapping at the Kids and Partner
Have you been a bit snappy lately? Maybe yelled at the kids and later on thought, "Hmm, there was no reason for me to yell. Why did I do that?"
Has your partner accused you of being moody or the B word?
You might very well be completely and utterly burnt out.
Sign #3: Constantly Tired
Does it seem as if your go-to response when people ask how you are is "tired"?
Do you long to crawl into your bed night after night and frequently wake up in the morning still feeling drained?
You, my friend, are burnt out. To a crisp!
Sign #4: Watering Down Your "Mum" Routine
Are you the mum who makes three-course meals for every meal, but now you're telling the kids, "Just fend for yourself," again?
Were you the type of mum to sit and play with your kids and now find yourself barely fitting in a minute to play a game of Candy Land?
Do you go to bed feeling guilty as if you're not being your typical self with the kids?
A sign of burnout. You're burnt out and have no energy for yourself, much less energy to be Mum of the Year.
If you think you're burnt out, let's list some strategies that have helped friends of mine AND me in the past. Hopefully you'll find a tool here that resonates with you. Don't feel bad for being burnt out. Sometimes life does this to us. Sometimes we do this to ourselves by not reaching out for help. Try one of these strategies to take your stress down a few notches!
- Stop Saying Yes: You might be burnt out from committing to too many responsibilities. Women feel bad saying no. Don't. If you are stretched to the limit, chances are your kids are too. Start practising the word "no"!
- Yoga, at Home: If you can't afford the time or money for a gym membership, try a yoga app or DVD. Many of my friends swear that yoga has helped reduce their stress levels and increased their energy.
- Therapy: You may be burnt out because life has placed some difficulties on your plate like divorce, illness, pregnancy loss, death in the family, etc. No matter what the case, therapy may be just what you need.
- Turn Off the Tech: I had my phone on way too late and was receiving work emails late at night, which subsequently stressed me and impacted my sleep. Reduce your use of tech. Turn off the phones, log off Facebook, and tune out.
- Not Enough Hands: Does the majority of childcare fall in your lap? Is your partner taking the share? If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, it's time to have an honest conversation with your partner about stepping up to the plate. A burnt-out partner will only end up affecting your spouse. If your spouse is taking on responsibility but you two still find yourselves drained or lacking the ability to get out together alone, seek out your children's teachers, mums groups, and Care.com for a reliable sitter if family won't help. If family will help, ask them!
- Lower Your Expectations: Most likely, you expect 150 percent of yourself all the time, and it's not realistic and causing you stress. This doesn't mean let your kids run wild. This means going easier on yourself. Giving you credit where credit is due. Not nailing yourself to the wall with every mistake you make!
- Anxiety Treatment: You might be prone to anxiety, which is causing you to burn out frequently or for long periods of time. Talking to a therapist or a doctor if you would like to go the medication route is a smart move. Yoga and the gym will also help deal with the beast called anxiety.
- The Gym: If you can join, do it! You'll meet people, get in shape, and escape from everyone for a small part of your day. It can't hurt.
- Foods: Are you eating well? How you treat your body will impact your mood.
- A Child Issue: Is your child having difficulties whether developmentally, physically, or emotionally? Getting help for your child and possibly your family if needed will reduce the risk of burn-out. Talk to your GP and or child's teacher for recommendations on how to help your little one with whatever battle he or she is facing.
Mummy burn-out isn't fun, but it doesn't have to persist. Be strong and ask for help. You are not an island or a miracle worker. Don't bite off more than you can chew or it will come back to bite you in the end.