Burnout can sneak up on moms without any warning. I had no idea I was on the verge of burnout.
But then I started running into things… such as cars.
It was a rainy afternoon and Target’s parking lot was a circus. I had a million things on my mind (kids’ stuff, work stuff, relationship stuff) as I rushed through the downpour to my car.
My mistake was assuming that the SUV would stop for me. In my hurry, I just ran in front of it.
(Yes, I’m fine. It could have been worse. No injuries—just embarrassed.)
I thought: How could I have let that happen?
My near-burnout had given me tunnel vision and impulsivity. The near-accident showed me that I needed to pay attention to my mental health.
Burnout mimics depression and anxiety. At the time of the Target parking lot incident, I was starting a psychotherapy practice, finishing a graduate degree, raising three kids, re-entering the dating world, and fussing about my finances.
At the same time, the kids were home on summer break and the housework was endless. I was feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted. While I love being a mom, I began to question if I was any good at mothering. I am a cheerful person, but I noticed a grouchy attitude that I couldn’t shake.
Instead of addressing my funk immediately, I kept my head down and plowed forward (and into a moving vehicle).
If we think that burnout will go away on its own, we are setting ourselves up for suffering.
Forbes reports that more than 50% of professionals have experienced burnout in 2021. I suspect that mothers are experiencing burnout more than ever. We may be working at home while watching the kids. We may also have our spouses working at home, which can be a challenging lifestyle change.
Short List of Burnout Symptoms
- Exhaustion– both emotional and physical
- Problems sleeping
- Chronic stress
- Increased cynicism
- Doubts about competency
You’re correct if you think burnout sounds like major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. That’s why it’s important to speak to your doctor or therapist if you suspect that you have burnout.
To end my burnout, I let myself return to my hobbies. Boundaries became my favorite concept. I gave myself margin and let go of unnecessary deadlines and expectations. Thankfully, my three kids returned to school and I found myself looking forward to seeing their cutie-pie faces in the afternoons when they returned.
Offer Yourself Compassion and Grace
I was tempted to feel guilty about getting so close to becoming burned out. But it wasn’t my fault. Burnout does not discriminate. Often those of us who are accustomed to conquering it all stumble into it.
You may feel you cannot afford the effort required to take care of yourself. Ignoring burnout will not solve the issue. I had thought, aren’t mothers supposed to be martyrs 24/7? This is not so.
Coping With Burnout
Begin to cope by journaling about your feelings. Call the feelings what they are. Dig deep. If you’re feeling sad, what types of sadness are you feeling? Are you feeling irritated or are you feeling grief? Are you angry, bitter, cynical, or grouchy? Write it out.
With the help of a professional, you can get out of even the deepest burnout.
Jackie Sager is a licensed mental health counselor intern at Rise Above Counseling Services of Tampa Bay, LLC. She has three kids, a dog, and a constant craving for Mom’s Lasagna.