Mom Burnout: Know the Signs, Learn How To Recover

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Listen up, moms. It’s time to make yourself a priority. You’ve carried a heavy load this pandemic year, and odds are high that you’re feeling stress and burnout.

“Nobody’s perfect,” says Anessa D. Alappatt, MD, a family physician. “It’s OK to finally take care of yourself. If you are not healthy, your family won’t be, either.”

Emotional And Physical Exhaustion

Any caregiver responsible for everyone else and the home can feel burnout, especially in today’s pandemic climate. Dr. Alappatt says it’s important to recognize when things are not going well.

Signs of burnout include:

  • Not completing tasks or commitments that would normally be important to you
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability with others, especially loved ones
  • Lack of sleep or insomnia
  • No interest in doing the things you enjoy

The COVID-19 pandemic put extra pressure on moms who already manage most of the household and family chores. When families were forced to stay at home, the regular chores of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and helping children with schoolwork were amplified many times over.

Many moms who work also figured out how to work from home (possibly along with a spouse who also needed to work from home) – all while supervising online learning.

Then there is the emotional work that moms do:

  • Listening to children and teens express their concerns
  • Managing who needs time alone and who needs more time with others
  • Providing encouragement
  • Reaching out to family members who live elsewhere
  • Remembering and getting gifts for birthdays and holidays for immediate and extended family
  • Supporting your partner or spouse
  • Thinking about all the tasks and chores that need to be done so the house runs smoothly

Add all of this together and it’s mentally and physically exhausting.

Take Time For You

“When you notice burnout, it’s time to take a break,” Dr. Alappatt says. “Take time for yourself so you’re not always doing things for others.”

  • Enlist support from family and friends, your partner or spouse
  • Exercise
  • Spend time on a hobby, like painting or playing the piano
  • Talk with friends
  • Take time to read a book

You can also find ways to manage your stress.

If you feel stuck, can’t get out of bed, or feel hopeless, talk to your doctor about your situation and ways to cope, Dr. Alappatt says.

Mommy Guilt: Let It Go

Deep down, moms know they can’t be perfect, but they still try to do everything for everyone else and craft the Insta-worthy day, event, or packed school lunch.

“There’s a lot of mommy guilt,” says Dr. Alappatt. “I should have made a better dinner, or my house needs to be cleaner.”

Instead of focusing on what you think you should do, give yourself permission to not be perfect. Dr. Alappatt suggests not making the bed or putting off folding that mountain of laundry.

“Reaching for perfection can make the situation worse,” Dr. Alappatt says. “It will only hurt yourself and your kids in the long run.”

To balance things out, enlist help from your family. Explain that you cannot do everything on your own. Assign specific tasks to your children and partner or spouse, such as:

  • Letting children ride their bikes or walk to school (when safely possible)
  • Letting children make their own lunches
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Running the vacuum
  • Washing and drying the dishes
  • Washing and folding laundry

“Helping kids be independent is what you are supposed to be doing as a parent,” Dr. Alappatt says. “It helps them in the long run, so don’t feel guilty.”

Beware Social Media Comparisons

Social media causes real problems when it comes to how we feel about ourselves. Forget posting about the perfect family because there isn’t one, Dr. Alappatt says. It’s healthier to avoid social media and not compare yourself to others.

“We all have different shoes we are walking in, and we don’t know everything that someone else is going through,” Dr. Alappatt says. “When we compare ourselves, we get stuck and feel bad about ourselves.”

Your life isn’t perfect, and that’s where the beauty lies. There’s more than one way to fold and put away laundry. How amazing is it when your teen son takes on that task? The next time you drop off your youngest at a sports practice, leave and come back when it’s over. Use that hour to take a walk to just have time for yourself. Then you can enjoy hearing all about the practice from your child on the ride home.

“When we let things go a bit,” says Dr. Alappatt, “We find more time for ourselves and can appreciate what we do have.”

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