Moms are master multi-taskers; Superwomen who somehow do it all. So it really should come as no surprise that at some point it can lead to feeling burnt out. But it’s important that we can differentiate between when it’s mom burnout and when something more, like anxiety or depression, may be going on.
Between doing all of the things and the relentless mental load, being a mom can be utterly exhausting. Add that to any attempt to maintain a social life, work schedule or romantic relationship and it’s easy to see why moms so often feel run down. In fact, it’s almost strange to meet a mom who doesn’t feel this way at least some of the time (who is this unicorn and what is her secret?).
But though a small amount of mom burnout can be completely normal, it’s important to distinguish between what is actually normal and what could be the signs of something more serious.
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Is This Normal?
When I first became a mom, I chalked a lot of things up to “this must be normal for a new mom.” Things like feeling overwhelmed or exhausted or having no idea what I was doing. Then, as my daughter grew up, my stress switched from sleep training to potty training, maintaining her school and social calendar (hello, birthday parties!) and trying to get back some semblance of my life pre-baby. But even though some level of stress always stayed with me, it still all seemed normal.
And that’s the thing. We live in a time when moms are trying to do it all, all the time. Yes, moms are superwomen and masters of multitasking, but that doesn’t mean that we should always have to be “on” and keep loading things on our plates. Bonding over how exhausted we are and talking about who has the busiest schedule shouldn’t be normal.
Mom burnout happens to the best of us. We may act like the Energizer Bunny and keep going and going and going….(you get the point), but it’s only a matter of time before our energy dwindles and we need a break to recharge. Yet sometimes, that recharge isn’t enough. And no matter what we try, we just can’t seem to break out of our funk. That may be a sign that your mom burnout is something more serious.
Is This Something More than Mom Burnout?
Burnout happens over time. You know you’re feeling stressed but you have a ton going on so you keep pushing along, checking things off your to-do list. Then one day you just wake up and you’re done– you are completely burnt out.
You figure that you’ll just do your normal “me work” and you’ll be back on track before you know it. But things are different this time. Maybe you:
- Aren’t sleeping well or constantly feel tired even if you do get sleep
- Can’t seem to diffuse your stress
- Have a short fuse or seem to be yelling more
- Feel like you’re being overworked
- Find yourself withdrawing from your friends and family (especially when they constantly ask you if you’re doing okay)
- Have a change in appetite and/or have lost or gained weight
- Are lacking motivation
- Procrastinate more frequently
- Have a negative attitude (i.e. can’t catch a break, don’t feel like you’re good at anything)
- Are getting sick more often or have other physical symptoms
- Notice that your mood shifts as you move through monthly hormonal changes
Whether you have some, or all, of these things going on in your life, they could be indicating that you should take additional steps to treat yourself. That it may be something more than just your typical mom burnout.
And as someone who experienced most, if not all, of the above, my best piece of advice is:
Don’t be scared to admit to yourself if you have something more going on.
The sooner you can find help, the better (and happier!) mom, wife, friend and woman you will be.
What Can I Do About It?
It’s so easy to let ourselves go and keep the focus on our kids, family, work and everything else happening in our lives. But even though it’s one more thing to add to our list, we have to remember to pay attention to ourselves too. Feeling tired and overwhelmed can be very normal, but if you’ve been in a funk for a long time and things just aren’t changing, it may be time to seek help.
Talk to a Doctor
Even if you think it could just be the baby blues or that you’re only super stressed because you’re in the middle of potty training your toddler, it never hurts to get a professional opinion. Talk to your doctor about any concerns that you have, if hormonal changes are affecting you more than usual or just how you’re feeling in general. Because while they do screen for postpartum depression, other things can come up throughout the course of motherhood, especially as your life continues to change.
See a Therapist
I was so hesitant to admit that I needed a therapist. Even though the stigma surrounding mental health is slowly going away, I felt like seeing a therapist was admitting defeat– that I wasn’t strong enough to handle my life on my own. And let me tell you, I could not have been more wrong. Therapy is, without a doubt, one of the best things that I have ever done for myself. And even though I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety, I am still going to continue therapy because it’s become an integral part of my self-care routine.
Reach Out to a Friend
With anxiety and depression, especially, it’s so common to become withdrawn and isolate yourself from others. While I was getting a handle on my postpartum anxiety, I was ashamed and embarrassed about what I was going through. I had no idea how to bring it up or what to say and I didn’t want to bring others down by talking about all of the negative things I was feeling.
But after speaking to my doctor and going to therapy, I decided to open up to a few close friends, and the support I received had an immediate impact on me. Within minutes of talking to them (not an exaggeration!), I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Because I shared my story, my friends were able to be there for me throughout my whole journey. It even allowed some of them to open up about similar things they’ve been through– bringing us even closer. I am forever grateful to have them in my life.
Pay attention to how you’re spending your time,. To take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book, focus your “me time” on things that spark joy. Make sure you get some fresh air once a day or read a chapter in that book that’s been collecting dust on your nightstand. Call a friend from college to catch up or try that new recipe you saved on your phone.
And maybe most importantly, limit your time on social media. Remember, you are only seeing the highlight reel of everyone else’s lives. You don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes– like the 20 tries it took to get the perfect picture of your friend’s toddler eating ice cream.
Maintain Your Health
This doesn’t mean to start a diet, or even exercise every day. Let’s be realistic here. Should you try to get in some exercise? Sure. Should you eat more fruits and vegetables? That would be ideal. But set attainable expectations for yourself and don’t be afraid to start small. Maybe you can squeeze in a yoga class once a week or maybe you top your ice cream with strawberries instead of hot fudge (that counts, right?!?)?
And this means to work on your mental health as well. Set boundaries for yourself and those around you, and talk to yourself in a positive way. You’d be amazed at what this can do for your self-confidence. Give yourself permission to say no (No is a complete sentence!) and work on delegating to others so that you have time to focus on yourself.
Where do i start?
Even though you know it can help you get to a better place, finding the motivation to start something new can be really difficult, especially when you’re feeling burnt out. So promise me that you won’t put too much pressure on yourself here!
Pick one thing to begin with- maybe it’s getting 10 minutes of fresh air each day or calling your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment. Tackle one thing at a time and take it as slow as you need.
Sometimes it takes a little work but you can get back to being you. You deserve to be happy!