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Friday Five: Five Tips on How to Avoid Mom Burnout

By Sarah Sperry, Sperry Wellness

After spending the last 3 weeks with my kids (ages 5, 9 & 10) while they had their winter break, I’m relishing in the quiet and stillness of my house during the day as they all get back to school. While we created lots of special family memories over the holiday vacationing in the snow, I had the realization towards the end of the break that I was running on fumes, and feeling physically and emotionally burned out, also known as “mom burnout.” I found myself feeling anxious, cranky, overwhelmed, and irritable….and I could no longer stay patient with all the bickering and tears that were occurring during our last few days at home. 

Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a Doctor of Psychology with her own licensed practice, writes in her book, Mommy Burnout, that modern motherhood looks very different from our parents and grandparents’ generations and that the pressure to be the “perfect mother” is at an all-time high. “Add in work-life balance, disconnection from friends and family, and a healthy dose of social media-induced anxiety and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. No one can sustain this, but millions of women are living this way and doing themselves damage in the process.” 

I’ve spoken to and coached hundreds of women that are suffering from burnout and the health consequences that go hand in hand with feeling this way for prolonged periods of time. Most of them have families and careers they are trying to juggle and with their to-do lists miles long, and their brains always working on overdrive, they are all feeling the health effects of this modern-day phenomena “hurry sickness.” 

So here’s my 5 tips on how to avoid “mom burnout”, and live a more calm, happy, and peaceful existence with your family.  

1. Ensure you create enough time and space for yourself ALONE.

When we are constantly multi-tasking to meet our kids needs- fix a boo-boo, get a glass of water, help open a toy, assist with an art project, warm the bottle for the baby, or answer to “mama” 17 times a day- our brains go on OVERLOAD which raises our cortisol levels and affects our sympathetic nervous system (our flight or flight response). 

Carving out time for yourself to sit still, even if it’s for 10 or 15 minutes before the kids wake up (or while the baby is napping), will calm your nervous system and tame those anxious feelings. Go for a walk (or sit outside in your yard alone), take a 10-minute power nap, listen to a podcast, incorporate meditation practice, do a short online yoga class, or find a creative outlet that you enjoy.  

2. Connection, community, and finding your village.

As we learned during the pandemic, we are all human beings and we all need connection with others to help boost our mental health. Isolation and loneliness can lead to anxious and depressed feelings. As a first-time mom, taking care of a baby is especially overwhelming and can feel lonely….not only is our body going through hormonal changes, but we as women are sometimes conditioned to believe that we don’t need help, and that “we can do it all.” Parenting, no matter what phase of life your kids are in, is HARD….but it’s a much easier journey when you have a support system in place to help you, and friends that are going through the same life experiences you are. 

Join a mothers club or a new mom support group, hire a babysitter, (even if it’s for only a few hours a week), go to story time at your local library, lean on family who is willing to help, join sports teams and extra curricular activities once your kids are old enough, pay attention to who your kids are friends with and try to connect with those parents. Look for givers not takers, and most importantly don’t feel guilty asking for help. Your village will become the most important asset in your life as you raise your kids.  

3. Setting Boundaries and Learning to Say No

Boundary setting, delegating, and learning to say no are important skills to learn as life gets busy, especially if you are juggling multiple children and/or a career. Are you always raising your hand to host the next family holiday, to volunteer at the school, to drop off dinner for another fellow new mom? Or are you that person that is always willing to take on more and more at work even though it’s not part of your core responsibilities? While we all want to do kind things for our friends/family and believe that pay raises and impressing our boss is important, we can’t do it all. For people pleasing personalities, learning to say no can be especially hard, but worth it in the end when your life feels more organized and in control. Writing out and posting the core priorities in your life somewhere can help, and pausing before you agree to do something is a good habit to get into. “Let me get back to you,” is a perfectly acceptable answer!

4. Identify Your Stress Triggers and Learn to Communicate Them

We all have “stuff” from our past that can get dredged up as we go through life with our children, so taking the time and space to understand our individual stress triggers is an important exercise in minimizing mom burnout. Think through times or situations where you have been especially reactive. Maybe it’s around a certain family member, maybe it’s when your kids aren’t listening, maybe there is a toxic situation at work that’s causing you anger and stress? Identifying them and then writing these out can help you solve for how to minimize the trigger next time. Communicating them to your partner is an equally important step. These can be hard conversations to have, but we are all human and we all have needs, and learning to openly discuss these will set your family up for success down the road. If you find you are having trouble with this step, find a trained therapist or coach to help you!

5. Physical Self Care is Just As Important

While the phrase self-care has become a bit trendy, it really is important to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Are you scheduling regular doctor appointments, getting enough sleep, and eating and exercising consistently? Lack of sleep can be especially dangerous and is linked to numerous health issues like lowered immunity, anxiety, and depression. Taking care of your physical health is an important aspect to self-care, and unfortunately we as women and mothers tend to put ourselves last in this department. I constantly hear from women, “I skipped breakfast because I didn’t have time,” “I haven’t exercised because work is too busy,” and “I haven’t slept in weeks because the baby is constantly waking up.” Make your physical self-care a priority by leaning on your partner and support system to fill in. There is a reason why truck drivers are only allowed to work 14-hour shifts in certain states, mothers deserve a shift break (and some sleep too)!

Sarah Sperry is a certified holistic health coach and personal trainer. She is the owner of Sperry Wellness, a health coaching practice that empowers busy burnt-out women to live a more balanced and healthier lifestyle. For other hacks and tips to reduce burnout, stress and inflammation, you can subscribe to her “newsletter or follow her on Instagram and Facebook @sperrywellness.

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