Are you a working mom who is feeling exhausted, irritable, emotionally detached, or overwhelmed with parenting your children? If so, you may be experiencing parental burnout. Let’s talk about how to deal with mom burnout for good.
What does it really mean to be a mother in today’s world? The answer is complicated. With the pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives, parenting has completely changed. Just a few years ago, American moms rarely (if ever) thought about quarantining, social distancing, remote learning and working, and masking, let alone angrily debated these topics on social media and at school board meetings.
Parental burnout has been a bigger topic of discussion. And frankly, it’s about time because it should have happened sooner. The unrealistic expectations that parents and especially moms face are wreaking havoc on mental health.
According to the American Psychological Association March 2021 Stress in America Report, 39% of mothers said their mental health has worsened due to the pandemic. Yet, I suspect that number is much higher.
Although chronic stress causes many health problems, we don’t do enough to help moms cope. Mothers face emotional exhaustion, mental exhaustion, and physical exhaustion almost every day, which leads to burnout.
If you’re struggling with burnout, I want you to know that you are still a good mom, and that you’re living in survival mode and it doesn’t have to be that way. The impact on single moms and working moms can be even worse, please know that you aren’t alone.
I will give you tools here to teach you how to deal with mom burnout so you can experience more happiness and joy in life.
I spent more than half of my life living with chronic stress. So much so, that I’m still dealing with the negative impact on my health. My nervous system was on overload for so many years that I developed two autoimmune diseases, digestive issues, and a rare neurological disorder (to name a few). I have spent years studying, growing, and healing so that I could overcome burnout, and now I help others do the same!
Before we talk about how to deal with mom burnout, we need to understand what it is….
What is Mom Burnout?
Burnout is exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress, which can negatively affect mental health. The problem with burnout is that it becomes a cycle that is hard to break out of because of how we are wired as human beings. Your brain goes on autopilot, and you’ll be stuck in those unhealthy behaviors unless you commit to actively breaking out of patterns.
This is made worse if you are struggling with depression, even mild depression. If this is the case, please reach out for professional help. As a suicide attempt survivor myself, I can tell you that depression is serious, and you don’t have to do it alone. Often, if you want to heal, you need to get medical attention first so that you can begin to learn how to live differently.
When you suffer from anxiety, your brain is overactive trying to figure out what you fear. As a result, the prefrontal cortex fails and suppresses the amygdala, putting the body into fight or flight mode.
As a result, adrenaline levels rise and the sympathetic nervous system takes over, which controls automatic activities (like breathing) rather than conscious action. Heart rate increases, breathing speeds up, blood is diverted to the limbs, blood pressure and body temperature increase, and you may sweat.
This is clearly not a state conducive to learning, creating new healthier habits or concentrating.
Depression medication isn’t evil, and it doesn’t have to be life-long. I know it has a stigma. Sometimes it’s helpful to give you the boost you need so you can learn new healthy habits, including mindfulness, being in tune with your body, setting boundaries, recognizing distorted thinking, etc.
Warning signs and symptoms of mom burnout
- Withdrawing from family, friends, work colleagues
- Losing interest in things that once brought you enjoyment
- Struggling with sleep
- Feeling very emotional (sadness, irritability, or anxiety)
- Changes in your appetite
- Feeling exhausted constantly
- Struggling to control your worries
- Feeling less hope
- Feeling like you can’t handle anything else
- Having a shorter temper, outbursts at little things
- Feeling like adding anything else to your plate will set you over the edge
- Not wanting to be touched
- Waking up feeling defeated
- A feeling of resentment (toward your children, your partner, or the world)
- Feeling guilty
In order to recover from burnout, it is first necessary to recognize the symptoms. Once you know what you are facing, you can do a few of the following things to help you begin to heal.
How to Deal with Mom Burnout by Taking a Break
This is absolutely overlooked and underprioritized for most moms. Yes, it’s difficult but absolutely necessary. Prioritize time alone to decompress, especially when you have small children. I know this can feel impossible. Yet, at the end of the day, in order for you to get better, you’ll have to find ways to make it happen.
Are you thinking, “Yeah right, this isn’t going to happen.”
Let me ask you this. How is your burnout impacting your family? Your relationships? You?
Now consider this… How will your family benefit from you showing up in life less stressed and more productive? How will your relationships benefit? How will you benefit?
There is always a choice for you. You will always face challenges, so you get to choose. Are you going to choose the battle that helps you? Do you want to keep fighting the battle that is causing your burnout?
Your body needs time to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. It basically undoes the work of sympathetic division after a stressful situation.
Your body doesn’t get a chance to rest and repair when your sympathetic nervous system is constantly on overload, resulting in the host of issues I mentioned above. That’s why finding alone time is so important.
How to Deal with Mom Burnout by Taking Through Mindfulness and Deep Breathing
By breathing deeply and relaxing, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which tells the anxious part of your brain that you are safe and don’t have to react. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to the thinking brain. Also, by directly addressing the physical, fight, flight, and freeze symptoms, you free up mental energy to address other issues.
Here’s a great way to do a deep breathing exercise.
Take a moment to check in with your anxiety level and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the worst).
Put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. The hand on your stomach should move in and out more than the hand on your chest. Inhale deeply through your nose. While you inhale, count in your head 1…2…3…4 and imagine pushing your hand against your stomach with the air you breathe in.
Hold for two counts. Exhale through your mouth like you are blowing out a candle. Exhale for a count of 1…2…3…4 and pause before starting again.
How to Deal with Mom Burnout by Limiting Screen Time & Social Media
When you have a moment to breathe, do you instantly pick up your phone? This is actually one of the worse things you can do. You may feel like this is helping you decompress, it is not. I promise, it’s not.
A survey by mental healthcare specialists, Priory Group, found that as many as 50% of parents say social media sites like Instagram and Facebook create unrealistic and unattainable expectations of family life and of course this can fuel anxiety and can trigger depression.
Twenty-two percent of parents surveyed also said they felt “inadequate” when they saw happy family pictures on Instagram, or posted on baby blogs on Facebook and other sites.
Sadly, these findings are not surprising, but they are very concerning. One in five women experiences mental health problems during pregnancy or within the first year after giving birth. Social media’s unrealistic representations of motherhood are also contributing to an increase in postpartum depression.
The 2019 UK millennium cohort study, shows evidence that social media disrupts and delays sleep. Getting enough sleep is critical to activating your parasympathetic nervous system hence, sleeping problems contribute to a whole list of health issues.
Instead of using your phone, pick up a good book. It will be beneficial to your emotional health.
How to Deal with Mom Burnout by Writing it Down
Putting things into writing enables you to think more clearly and take more focused action. When your brain isn’t busy trying to remember everything, you free it up to process other things. When you’re not overwhelmed, you become free to analyze and ask important questions intellectually.
Sometimes, what we don’t do matters more than what we do. As an exhausted mom, writing things down helps your brains prioritize what you should focus on and act on it.
How to Deal with Mom Burnout by Limiting Screen Time & Social Media by Setting Boundaries
A lack of healthy boundaries is one of the top reasons I see moms suffering from burnout, and it’s one of the most important skills you can learn on how to deal with mom burnout.
Understanding what is important to you and how much you can handle is the first step to setting boundaries. Without boundaries, you take on workloads, priorities, or burdens that aren’t yours. The good news is that once you implement some strategic boundaries and practices, your stress level will usually decrease quickly.
We are taught to self-sacrifice as mothers, but that is actually counterproductive. Taking care of yourself is the first step to helping others and, ultimately how to deal with mom burnout for good. Here are a few signs that you are putting others first and not creating healthy boundaries:
- You always say yes, even when you want to say no, leading to resentment.
- You won’t ask for help, but you are always quick to help others even when you are exhausted.
- You feel overwhelmed by how much people ask of you but you feel guilty saying no.
- You feel absolutely drained trying to care for others constantly.
- You don’t want to let people down so you take on more than you can handle at times
- You have very high expectations for yourself and others
Find support groups
Support groups are entirely underrated, especially when it comes to learning how to deal with mom burnout. Research has shown that support groups can reduce anxiety, depression, and social isolation symptoms. Plus, online support groups are a safe avenue for therapeutic support, especially for those unable to find something nearby.
Here are some resources for finding a support group
- Meetups for Working Moms
- Facebook Groups for Busy Moms (Just be mindful about your time on social media)
Want more help to learn more about how to deal with mom burnout?
Sign up for this free Masterclass: 3 Secrets to Overcome Mom Burnout & Thrive
I’ll share with you how I’ve been able to overcome burnout for good and thrive in the face of any uncertainty.