Motherhood is busy.
I think that is something that we can all agree on. There is always so many things that we need to do to keep our children, families, home, work and life running smoothly.
There is always laundry that needs washing, there is always something that needs cleaning, a form that needs to be filled in, a bill that needs to be paid, a birthday card that needs to be bought, a school event coming up and the list just keeps being added to.
On top of all that, we all hold ourselves to a certain level of perfectionism and there is a huge amount of pressures on mum’s to ‘get things right’. We want our children to be brought up a certain way, we worry other parents will judge us if we do something this way, we worry that if we don’t let our children do something they have asked to do they will be missing out, we try to not talk about things in front of our children so that they don’t grow up with eating disorders or sub-concious beliefs that they are not good enough.
A huge, huge amount of pressure.
It’s a lot.
And just as a side note here – you are doing an amazing job. Please stop putting as much pressure on yourself.
With all that being said, it’s not really a huge surprise that we are at risk at burning out – and as most of us are living in survival mode (an upcoming post – keep an eye out!) it’s happening to more mums than you think.
Why is stress such a big deal?
Burnout is quite a complex thing, and it’s not something to be taken lightly – if it’s not addressed it can lead to both physical and mental health issues over the long term.
It’s the main reason why we keep repeatedly being told to reduce our stress. We know stress is bad for us, but we don’t really think of it as affecting us that badly.
Long term ongoing stress is a serious issue.
If you imagine someone being told by their doctor to reduce stress because they are at risk of heart issues etc, you probably think of a high-flying business owner who is working to strict deadlines and working ridiculously long hours etc etc – but everyone who is experiencing stress is at risk of those things too.
It’s easy to think that you do experience stress but it’s just the usual things everyone is stressed about, BUT, your body can’t tell the difference.
Your body can’t tell if you are stressed because you slept through your alarm and now you are late to get the kids to school and you are stressed because a tiger is hunting you down.
The same biological processes kick in and we go into the same cycle of stress for both situations.
The stress cycle would then typically kick in – you would experience the stress/trigger, your bodies response would kick in, the situation would get resolved and then we complete the cycle by allowing our bodies to realise we are safe.
The problem is that most of us don’t always complete the cycle. It’s not something that we are ever really taught to do. Sometimes it comes natural to us – like we have a good cry or we talk it out with someone, we have a cuddle or maybe we laugh or one of the other ways to close the cycle.
But sometimes, we don’t close the cycle. Especially with long term stress, we never close the cycle. We experience the stressful situation and sometimes it can feel like we just lurch into the next stressful situation. Or we experience the stress, deal with it and just carry on with our life but that cycle is never actually closed.
What are the signs of burnout?
Let’s talk about the signs of burnout, this isn’t an exhaustive list but it is enough to give you a good idea of what it is and if you are heading towards it or if you are there.
- You feel like you are in a bad mood, or just feel ‘meh’ and you just can’t shake it off.
- You feel emotionally disconnected from your child or your family.
- Everything just feels hard.
- You feel like if there is ‘one more thing’ it will just tip you over.
- You feel like you aren’t doing a good job at parenting
- You feel like you just can’t keep up
- You feel overstimulated by touch, sound or lights
- You are ‘zoning out’ or ‘escaping’ – mindlessly scrolling social media, emotionally eating, using alcohol or drugs etc to cope,
- You are exhausted all the time
- You feel like you NEED a break, not just that a break would be nice
- You are forgetting things
- You are shouty or snapping
- You are having sleep issues
- You are eating more or less than usual
- You feel health wise you don’t feel great – you are picking up everything
**I will say first, that some of these things can be symptoms of other things – such as anxiety or depression or other health issues, and if you think that might be the case for you please get in touch with your doctor.**
How can I recover from burnout?
An important thing to remember is that you didn’t get stressed out and burn out overnight.
Burnout happens when we are living in a state of long-term ongoing stress and living in survival mode.
So it is going to take a while to heal from it too.
Ask for help
- If you feel that you are severely burnt out, if you can’t leave your bed and are just not functioning level of burnout – please consult your doctor straight away and they will be able to help you.
Or, if you feel like you are stuck in this situation and you do need more professional help to get out of it, please consult your doctor and they can refer you to the right person.
You need a break
I don’t mean a twenty minute with your book break, I mean an actual break. A full day or even more if possible.
In that time, you need to be actually resting and relaxing and doing things that will fill your cup and restore you – what do you enjoy and love doing? Start there.
If you are feeling like you are burning out or living in survival mode please prioritise sleep.
Sleep is one of the best healers and it will help you feel better so much quicker.
I have an article here all about sleep if you need some extra help!
Support your body by eating well
You need to be prioritising eating well you feel that you are in survival mode to give you the energy you need to deal with the stress and to heal as well as to make you feel better in your body. Stick with the basics, get your 5 a day in, try to eat three balanced meals with snacks in between to keep your blood sugar balanced and your energy up. While you don’t need to avoid sugar at all, it’s a good idea to just be mindful of your consumption, especially when your stress is high as it can contribute to you not feeling your best.
Do some gentle and restorative movement
Delegate or ask for help
We tend to take everything on ourselves – because it’s easier or we like it done a certain way or we just don’t like asking for help. But in this stage, where you are burning out and in survival mode you need support. People want to help you.
Sometimes asking for specific help can be better. If someone offers to help ask if they will make food for you tomorrow night, or take your laundry or take the kids for an hour or two.
Talk it out
Just talking to someone makes such a huge difference. It can put everything into perspective a bit better, and can help you to see what changes need to be made or what you need to do to improve the situation you are in and recover.
Just sharing it with someone can feel like such a relief.
Sometimes an outside perspective can be very helpful to as they are able to see things more clearly than you can because they are not the person going through it.
Get your support in place first – talk to someone (a doctor if you feel that is the right next step for you) and ask for help.
Then once you have done those things and have a little bit more breathing room, take a look at what you have going on in your life and what is causing you stress and the reason you burnt out in the first place.
Go deep with this one. I like to use the three-layered approach when asking this question so here is an example.
- Layer one Q – What is stressing you out?
Layer one A – Getting the kids to school in the morning
- Layer 2 Q – Why is getting the kids to school in the morning stressing you out?
Layer 2 A – Everyone needs to be ready at the same time and its a mad rush to get everyone breakfast and bags packed and get PE kit etc ready
- Layer 3 Q – Why is that stressing you out?
Layer 3 A – I feel like I have to do everything on my own and nobody helps and I wish I was more organised.
Can you see why we go three layers deep? If you just had your first answer, it wouldn’t be as clear what about the kids going to school you are finding stressful, but going three layers deep means that you know it’s because you need more help with the school mornings and you need to be more organised so you can make a plan going forward for that – for example, packing school bags and making packed lunch the night before, asking your partner or older kids to help in the morning with younger siblings.
We need to be actively reducing stress both to heal and get out of survival mode and burnout, but also so that we can avoid it happening again.
I’m hoping to have a course available about this soon, but for now, let me know in the comments if there is anything I can help you with!