Burnout is more common than people realise and often easy to overlook. Busy mums already have so much to do, we don’t have time to work out why we’re feeling overwhelmed or why we can’t be bothered with that thing on our To Do list. The thing is, recognising symptoms of burnout and acknowledging when we are in that state takes courage, because we are really opening ourselves up to vulnerability and a process we often feel we don’t have time for. However, it is vital to address the reasons why you lack motivation or energy or mental clarity, as this will only help you remove the overwhelm and introduce calm and joy into your life and family.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, ‘Burnout is the state of having no energy or enthusiasm because of working too hard or a feeling of not being able to work anymore’. If you’ve ever wondered why you sometimes just ‘can’t be bothered’, this may be a clue!
There are many causes of burnout, and often there are multiple factors contributing to any given case
of burnout, but PositivePsychology.com.au lists the top five as:
Unrealistic work expectation
Lack of support and unfair treatment
Symptoms can be both physical and behavioural. Examples of physical symptoms are feeling exhausted, being unable to recover from the common cold, frequent headaches, frequent gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, and shortness of breath. Examples of behaviours are irritability, heightened emotional responses, suspicion and paranoia about colleagues, substance abuse, stubbornness, rigid thinking and unwillingness to listen to other people, negative attitude, and appearing depressed.
When I experienced burnout in my professional life, many of the symptoms above were present and it took me months to recover. Burnout doesn’t always require medication – I am a positive person generally, so when it happened for the second time, I recognised and was aware that I need to do something about it. Of course, there are sometimes more severe cases that require qualified support, so if that is where you’re at, I encourage you to seek professional help.
My experience with burnout taught me what to look for and what actions to take to heal and get my life back on track:
1. Letting go
This is a big one for me because I give 110% to any tasks I need to complete. However, over time, I realised that everyone’s standard is different and that standards are often subjective. The only thing I (or anyone) can really do is try my best and let go of the things I can’t control.
Pausing a busy lifestyle may feel like falling from a bike because balance requires you to keep peddling. I am still learning too, but I consciously blank out my day on the weekend for not doing anything much.
3. Asking for help
Asking for help doesn’t mean that I am incapable of performing my work. It is a sign of strength, as it takes courage to risk rejection if you don’t get the help you ask for. I ask for lots of help from my ex’s family and I realised that, without their help, I just simply can’t be everywhere at the same time. If you don’t have a support network around you, I recommend seeking out a support group in your local area that can provide you with the social connection and information you need. There are also many safe online spaces that provide this kind of support, like my Facebook group [name].
No one else can love you more than yourself. At the same time, no one else can harm you more than yourself. I book an annual facial treatment and massage on my birthday, and I treat myself to these or other therapies or services – such as remedial massage or physiotherapy – whenever I feel like I need support or nourishment.
5. Healthy living
When I have things on my mind, I simply can’t sleep, which only makes it worse! Exercise – even just a 10 minute yoga session – helps with my sleep, and healthy eating and drinking water regularly ensures that my body stays nourished.
The most important thing to remember is that this is all a process. Don’t expect yourself to suddenly be able to do all these things seamlessly. Expect trial and error until you find a combination that works for you. And once you do – and commit to taking care of yourself – you will start to see changes happening in your life for the better.
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