I’ve been doing a lot of research into burnout lately. Burnout can creep up on anyone, but if you’re a mom, it’s especially likely. You’re juggling so many things. You’re not running on a whole lot of sleep. You’re constantly giving, giving, giving. You might be dealing with a lot of anxiety. Burnout as a mom can feel inevitable. But there are ways to combat burnout or avoid it in the first place.
What is Burnout?
There are many symptoms of burnout, but the big identifier is that you don’t enjoy anything, even the things you used to enjoy. You feel too tired and empty for literally anything, even the things you thought you loved. Nothing feels super important, and you feel like you’re just surviving. Every day is simply about getting through the day. You might feel hopeless, depressed, or just spent. You can’t find your motivation to do anything. It’s just gone. You’re taking care of your kids, and that’s all you’re really doing. You’re alienated from your own life.
Burnout can also manifest in physical symptoms beyond just being tired. You could develop headaches, you could lose your appetite, and your regular sleep could be negatively affected. You could also get sick more often because your immune system is so run down. Burnout affects every part of your body and every part of your life. So, we need to make sure we’re effectively dealing with it.
Burnout vs. Being Tired
Let’s make a distinction here between burnout and just being tired or even having regular levels of exhaustion. If you’re tired, you sleep, and it gets better. If you’re exhausted, you sleep more regularly, and it gets better. But sleep doesn’t actually make burnout better. Sleep and rest, in general, don’t actually improve burnout.
That’s because burnout goes beyond just your body being tired. You are emotionally, physically, and mentally done. As is often the case with new moms, you’ve given so much that you have nothing left. So, you have to do things to actually recover and improve your situation. You need to find a new balance in your life and give yourself permission not to be productive all the time.
How to Recover From Burnout
When it comes to recovering from burnout, as contrary as it might seem, you actually have to fill your life up. Rather than not doing things and spending time scrolling on TikTok, you have to find what makes you feel better about life and do it. After all, burnout means you’re depleted. If you have nothing left to give, you have to fill yourself back up. But how, you ask? Let’s talk about it.
Focus on the basics first
By this, I mean regular sleep, meals that give you staying power, and exercise, preferably outdoors if you can.
If you don’t have a stable sleep schedule, commit to one. This is harder if you’re in the newborn stage or dealing with a sleep regression, but try to work with your partner to help guarantee you’re both getting some sleep. My husband and I did six-hour shifts. His shift was 7 PM to 1 AM, and my shift was 1 AM to 7 AM. This meant we each got six hours, and then we would tag team the day together.
When it comes to meals, you need fat, fiber, protein, and carbs. These are the things that are going to give you staying power. They don’t need to be fancy meals, and you can supplement them with good snacks like nuts. But those are your basics. I know you might be struggling with body image, and maybe you’re even feeling like you should eat less. You should not – you probably should eat more and definitely make sure the bulk of the food you’re eating is giving you all the nutrients you need. Health is the priority.
Finally, exercise. Get some. Again, doesn’t need to be super complicated. You don’t need a fancy gym routine or fancy equipment. Go for a walk outside with your kid. Walk on a treadmill while watching TV. Dance in the kitchen as you clean it. Do something, anything, that gets your body moving. Bonus points if you can get some fresh air as you’re doing it. I regret to inform you that exercise will indeed improve your mental health.
Make space in your life for what’s important to YOU
This is the big one, and I found that this is really difficult as a mom. Especially since I’m a work-from-home mom, and I’m with my kids all day, they’re pretty reliant on me. They love my husband to pieces, but my toddler will cry for me if I’m away too long, and it hurts my heart. But I have to remember that I am fundamentally a better mom if I have time for myself.
Those things that you used to enjoy or love? Get back to them. Or try something completely new that you’ve always been interested in or just discovered. But create space in your life for the things that matter to you. Personally, I spend a lot of time studying languages, and I love to write and study film. Truly, I’m an academic at heart and analyzing media is what lights me up. So, I have to make time for that, even if it’s only for myself. Find what lights you up and work with your partner to make sure you have the time and space to do it.
I also want to specify that this does not include personal hygiene and the basics we talked about above. You are entitled to a shower. You are allowed to eat. These are things you and your partner should be working together to create space for. Both of you deserve these things, and it’s important to work as a team so that they happen. This is what working towards balance looks like.
Let go of constant productivity
Especially when you’re a mom, there’s this sense that you always need to be moving or doing something. You sit down to watch TV and notice that laundry in the corner that hasn’t been put away. You want to go to bed, but you think you should probably clean the kitchen more or orgainze their toys. There’s something to be said for keeping your house functional and worrying about everything else later.
This means if you can’t operate in your kitchen tomorrow morning when you’re making breakfast, then the kitchen should get cleaned. But if the laundry isn’t essential for tomorrow, it can wait until tomorrow. As long as you are functional, everything else can wait. If you’ve got the time and energy to get ahead, great. But you don’t, let go. It’s okay.
It’s worth thinking of life in blocks of time and create a time after which you’re off duty for household tasks. Obviously, you’re a mom 24/7, but you don’t need to be a cleaner or household manager 24/7. Then, you can really give yourself permission to knock off. Personally, I’m done after 7 PM when my first son goes to bed. My husband cleans the kitchen and does my baby’s final bottle. But I’m done for the day. This gives me time to relax or focus on the things I’m interested in.
The above is also crucial if you’re struggling to keep a work life balance, which can be extra difficult if you work from home.
Ask for help if you need it
Having someone in your life who can help you slow down, discover what’s important to you, and make a plan can be life-changing. And as great as your friends or your partner are, it’s probably best to have a professional to help out. If you can afford to go to therapy, I would highly recommend it. Personally, I love having someone to talk to who I trust completely and who I’m paying to listen to me. It takes away the guilt if their job is to listen to me and help me.
But I also want to mention that you should be talking to your partner about these things as well. It’s important that they understand what you’re going through and how you’re struggling. They can help you make yourself a bigger priority and help you create space in your life, so you can tackle your burnout as a mom. You might also find that if you talk to fellow moms in your life that they’re experiencing similar things as you.
Give yourself grace
Above all, be kind to yourself. You are a human being who is doing her best.
Burnout is something to take seriously. If you don’t take the time to slow down and mange your burnout, eventually your body will just stop you. You won’t be able to function at all. So, use these steps to overcome any burnout you’re experience and to avoid future burnout.
Did you find anything in this blog helpful? Let me know!
Erin Lafond is a writer, website creator, and mom. She survived new motherhood by Googling things a lot, calling her mother, and embracing trial and error. Now, she shares her knowledge with all new moms. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and son (soon to be two sons!).