As busy mums, there’s only so much we can do, and so much we can take before cracks start to show and eventually brake. Emotional burnout for mums is very real; it’s happened to me multiple times, and I’m sure it’s happened to you too.
You know, those times when life continues on, you keep taking on more and more; the kids, the household, the homework, your work, the bills, and extracurricular commitments. There’s so much to do, so little time. Things fall by the wayside, particularly things like self-care and a tidy house. You’re exhausted and things start to grate on you because they’re not getting done, or they’re not done how you like them, or you just haven’t had time to sit and do something as simple as drink a cup of coffee. Cracks start to show and then BAM! It all comes tumbling down.
The thing is, and what I try to remind myself is, we’re human, but we’re not superhuman. If we keep putting so much pressure on ourselves to do absolutely everything (and for some, to do everything perfectly), of course, something is going to break. It’s usually us, the mum. So how about we give our selves a bit of a break and learn from emotional burnout so that it doesn’t get to that point again.
What is emotional burnout?
Emotional burnout is a state of chronic stress. It’s when you feel utterly worn out and drained because of a stressful personal and work life. When you have emotional burnout, you might feel as though you can’t do anything to get out of it, it’s like you’re stuck. It can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion, feeling feelings of doubt and detachment and feeling like you are ineffective in all that you do and are unable to achieve the things you’d like to, particularly difficult if you’re a high achiever.
What are the symptoms of emotional burnout?
The way I experience emotional exhaustion may be very different to the way you experience it. Healthline outlines some of the symptoms people may experience including:
- lack of motivation
- trouble sleeping
- physical fatigue
- feelings of hopelessness
- change in appetite
- difficulty concentrating
- irrational anger
- increased cynicism or pessimism
- sense of dread
Additional symptoms you may experience include anxiety, depression, anger, increased illness, isolation, detachment and lack of productivity.
How to recover from the emotional exhaustion
Considering that when you have emotional exhaustion, it feels like you’re completely stuck, and there’s no way out, recovering takes time. Just starting a new activity or routine is the best step to recover. Here are some other things the may help you get back to a better you.
Bah! I have to admit that exercise is one of my weaknesses and I tend to come up with every excuse in the book to avoid it. But when it comes to overwhelm, we really shouldn’t. You’ve likely heard it all before; exercise raises your endorphins and serotonin levels. It makes you feel good; it helps to reduce the stress and focus your mind elsewhere. If you’re like me and find it hard to exercise, check out ‘How to Commit to Your Fitness Goals and Feel a Million Bucks.’
Do what you love
I don’t mean work, and I don’t mean trying to make money on a side hustle, I mean do a hobby you enjoy, read a book, go bushwalking, go out in your garden; doing what you love is the perfect way to give yourself a break and redirect your focus on something that will make you smile.
Hanging out with friends would have to be one of the best medicines for emotional overwhelm. Mum friends, in particular, are likely to have experienced exactly what you’re experiencing and can lend an ear and some advice on how to see yourself through. Best of all, when you talk about it, you’ll have someone who will understand and you’ll soon feel like less alone that you have been. Worried about how you’re going to fit in mum friends when you’re so busy? Why not read my article ‘‘5 Not So Obvious Tips For Maintaining Friendships on a Busy Schedule.’
Lower your expectations
I’m talking about lowering your expectations of yourself here, not of other people. Often, the people who get overwhelmed are those who have massive expectations of themselves. They aim for 200% in everything when others are happy with 90%. I am one of those people, an overachiever. It’s not easy to lower your expectations when it’s how you’ve been in your work and personal life as long as you can remember.
When I catch myself expecting too much, I remind myself that others don’t expect that much of me and that I wouldn’t expect that much of others. I also try to prioritise instead of trying to do everything and developing a more realistic view of what needs to be done and what should be done.
Create a routine
This is a big one for me because as soon as I fall off my routine, as soon as I stop planning and diarising things, I start to forget, deadlines become too tight and pressure increases. I have certainly seen the difference between living with a plan and living off my memory alone. Would you like to create a better routine and start planning your days, weeks and months to avoid burnout? Check out this free planning course.
I used to think that practising mindfulness required setting aside 30 minutes a day to meditate, but my psychiatrist suggested something different because I was a busy mum and had to be realistic. She suggested fitting in a few minutes of mindfulness here and there every day while doing usual daily tasks. You can read more about this method in ‘Mindfulness for mums: How to achieve slow and calm in 5 minutes.’
Take a break
Don’t say you can’t, just ask ‘when’? It doesn’t require going away, although that’d be nice, it just requires some time out for you to be able to switch off. Whether you get your partner to look after the kids while you have a relaxing bath while you read a book or you have your parents or friend look after the kids, even for a couple of hours, while you go shopping, get a pedicure or escape to a cafe to enjoy a coffee with a good book. There are even shopping centres these days with childcare. Why not leave your child there for an hour so you can enjoy a coffee in peace?
What about a holiday? If you’ve got leave days worked up, perhaps it’s time to take a much-needed family holiday, a mum friendly holiday of course!
Take a look at your accomplishments
Continuing on from expectations and being a high achiever, have you ever stopped to look at what you actually achieve in a day? When you feel as though you didn’t accomplish much, stop and write down the things you did, and you’ll soon realise that you do a lot more than you think you do.
When you’re overwhelmed, stressed, angry, irritable, tired, sometimes the worst place you can be is on social media. There’s so much negative and unrealistic content on social media; it will likely make you feel worse. If you’re burnt out, and your house is a mess, the last thing you want to see is a photo of someone’s pristine lounge room. If you’ve been working your butt off at a full-time job and then come home to look after your young family, the last thing you want to see are images of happy people chilling out with their kids in a clean house.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these images; I’m saying that there are certain times when they may not help people experiencing emotional burnout. They just add extra fuel to the fire of self-doubt.
Talk to your employer
Perhaps the source of your stress is with your employer. Depending on the reason behind the burnout, it can be difficult to talk about it with your employer. If you have a good relationship with your employer, you may opt to talk to them about what’s happening and make some suggestions on how the stress could be reduced. Unfortunately, suggestions can fall on deaf ears in which case it may be an idea to take some time off simply to have a break from the stressful work environment or to make a decision on whether you should find a job in a less stressful environment. Read my article on ‘How To Crush A Toxic Work Environment’ for more suggestions.
Remember your WHY
Do you have a WHY? The reason you do what you do? Your ultimate goal in life? Our everyday life can be filled with the mundane and having your ‘why’ helps you to move past the mundane towards something more meaningful.
Your ‘why’ will get you started but how you spend your time will ultimately get you to your destination.
Ask for help
I still find asking for help very difficult, that’s the overachiever in me. But, I’m slowly coming to realise its importance and realise that the successful people I see are the ones that ask for help.
When you’re on the brink of burning out, of course asking for help is a must, it’s a matter of your health. When you’re experiencing emotional burnout, you just can’t take on anything else so, asking for help is a must. But how do you ask for help if you hate asking for help?
The most important thing when you ask family or friends for help is that you are specific about it. Tell them exactly what you would like help with. It might be that you need your friend to pick your child up from school one afternoon or you’d love your dad to mow the lawn. If you’re not specific, they may not know what you need. On the contrary, accepting help is just as important as asking for it. People that offer help are usually always genuine and take great pleasure in helping you, their friend or family.
Remember, don’t feel ashamed of having an emotional burnout, many of us have been there. The most important thing is to learn from it, understand why it happened, put measures in place help you recover and take control of your life so you can live it to the fullest. This is about no one else but you, you can do this.
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