Are you the typical overwhelmed working mom? Always trying to be everything for everyone and feeling completely exhausted and burned at the end of the day? Well, STOP the madness! Ladies! You must start putting YOUR needs first so you can be there for your family and be more productive at work! Seriously, self-care is not selfish, nor is it a luxury that is only available to the rich and famous! Here are 16 tips for avoiding burnout as a working mom so you can truly enjoy your children before those precious years are gone forever!
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So how exactly do you schedule time for yourself when it seems there aren't enough hours in the day for the tasks you already have? Simple. Priorities. We always make time for the things we “think” are important, right? So why aren't you prioritizing YOU, your mental and physical well-being? If you are so burned out by the end of the day that you can't truly enjoy the time you have with your family, what's the point?
The reality is that once those kids are grown, they aren't going to remember how well of a multi-tasker you were. They ARE going to remember that you were gone or that you weren't “fun” when they did have you around. I can speak from experience on that last comment! I was so focused on being the best at everything, getting the promotions at work, then building this business at home that I was often grumpy or simply not present when my daughter was around.
I finally came to my senses one evening when my daughter was trying to share something about her day (she is 14) and I realized I was totally doing the “uh-huh, really” thing with her! That day I began making my own-self care a priority so I wasn't such an overwhelmed working mom who was oblivious to the blessings around her! When you stop avoiding self-care and start prioritizing yourself, life will be so much easier! Here are the self-care tips I began implementing for myself (in no particular order).
How to Avoid Burnout as an Overwhelmed Working Mom
I began reading about this from several well-known self-help gurus and figured I'd try it out. Most recently, I read Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and stresses this over and over (and over). Many of us tend to mainline caffeine throughout the day – which is TOTALLY bad for your overall health (and weight). Instead of reaching for a soda or a mid-day cup of Joe, make it a point to drink at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water! This is much easier than you think!
Get yourself one of those insulated cups (a cute one of course) that has a straw. Once you've determined your goal (in ounces per day) you'll know how many times you need to refill that cup. (This is also so much better for the environment than chugging bottled water.) Now, I totally need my morning cup of Joe, however, I've made it a point to drink 12 oz of water BEFORE I get to have my coffee.
Start the Day with God
Many of us include prayer as part of our bedtime routine, but we should actually be starting our day with Him! It's as easy as saying a short prayer before you even crawl out of bed! Or (this is what I do), find a way to integrate time to read a verse from the Bible App or from a Daily Devotional while doing so other tasks that don't require much brain involvement! For me, I have to let my Dobermans out to do their morning business every morning. Instead of just standing out there while they do their thing, I started sitting out on the patio (with my water and cup of coffee) and reading for about 10 minutes from my Devotional.
I have two devotionals, Choose Joy and God Moments for Women, that I alternate between, along with a verse from my Bible app. Once I've made my way through them, I'll start over! These just give me some time to reflect on my day, my life, and all the Blessings that are in my life – which gives me even more motivation for enjoying them!
Prioritize and Create a Do-able routine
I think this one is the most difficult for many moms because we think we HAVE to do it all! News flash – you don't. Your current daily routine includes the things that you HAVE prioritized, right? I would bet actual money that a portion of that list really isn't that important. I mean, you THINK it's important and the world will stop spinning on her axis if you didn't accomplish it but – SERIOUSLY!! Earlier this year I read The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner and OMG it was like someone slapped some sense into me!
Many of the tips that follow can be used to actually help you create this do-able routine.
Multi-task what matters
Take a look at your “To-Do” list that makes up your typical daily routine. What things can you double-up on and accomplish at the same time? Remember my “read my devotional while I drink my coffee while the dogs pee” mention earlier? Don't wait for the baby to take a nap to do housework! Slap on one of those baby harness-things and get that vacuum dance going! Whether you have a little baby or a toddler, they have a version for all sizes! (By the way, baby nap time should be when you read or do something else that benefits you – not when you get housework done!).
One more thing, your kids will turn out just fine if you don't enroll them in every single activity under the sun! How on earth are you going to rest if you are constantly running from after-school activities, PTA meetings, sports events? You won't. You'll be completely overwhelmed, exhausted, and be somewhat of a buzz-kill for the rest of the family over the dinner table!
“I am just too busy to get in regular exercise.” This is the biggest line of crap I hear from moms (and just about everyone else)! Getting regular exercise does not mean going to the gym. There are so many things you can incorporate into that daily routine that will help you stay fit and healthy without adding more stuff to your list that causes mom burnout! By the way, I personally think that gym memberships are the biggest waste of money, just sayin. You can get exercise (for free) from home or at the office.
If your goal is to spend more time with your kids, include them in your exercise routine. Exercise doesn't have to be a formally scripted routine. Get your heart rate up by dancing around to your favorite music! Throw the baby (ok don't literally “throw the baby”) in one of those jogger strollers or add a bike attachment to your bike. I do this with my dogs. I used to do my run separate from taking the dogs to get theirs. Now, I run the largest one (because he would literally drag me if I tried to run with him) with my bike using this nifty attachment. Then I take the middle one for a brisk walk (while I'm listening to my favorite business or motivational podcast) around the neighborhood, followed by my cool-down walk with the oldest dog (who has arthritis and can't walk fast). That's about 45 minutes of cardio every day while doing something that was already on my list!
Change Your Diet
I'll be the first to admit that I fell victim to fast food and frozen dinners myself! As a result, my oldest son struggles with his weight because that is what I fed him when he was younger (he's an adult now). I've made serious changes to our diet in hopes of setting a better example and healthier habits for my teen daughter. Meal planning is essential to keep from being overwhelmed with what to cook for dinner. I found $5 Meal Plans awhile back and absolutely love it!
Aside from meal planning, simply making better choices at the grocery store for snacks is super important! Instead of chips and sweets, start buying more fruits and vegetables. Better yet, if you have a local Farmers Market, shop there (and take the kids with you!). Just remember, your fuel choice does matter! If you keep filling your body with crap – processed foods, foods high in fat and sodium, etc – your body will suffer. Instead of reaching for an energy drink (which is so harmful to your heart health), have a smoothie! You can even make one that has coffee in it!
Learn to say NO
We, women, are natural people-pleasers and have a really hard time saying “No” to things. Since reading The Fringe Hours, I've begun saying no to the things that I once jumped on. You have to really look at the time you have in a given day (or week or month) and fill it with the things that truly matter. If it adds stress to your life (like making the cookies for the school party instead of buying them from the grocery store), opt for the store-bought cookies. When it comes to people asking for your time (hey can you come help with this or that), stop trying to “fit them in” when you can barely keep your eyes open as it is! I promise – they'll be ok and will find someone else to help them! (Oh, and the world will go on without your help!)
More reads for taking charge of your life:
- 45+ Resources for Christian Women to Walk Closer with God in their Daily Lives
- 3 Life Changing Books for Stressed and Overwhelmed Mom
- The Key to Success and Having a Prosperous Life as A Girl Boss
- Choose Happiness – How to Stop Existing and Start Living
Don't over-extend yourself
This one kind of goes with the learning to say No tip. You only have so much fuel for a given day. Even cars have to stop for refueling and a tune-up! Once you've set your schedule (with the exception of bonafide emergencies), don't commit to stuff that takes you beyond your limits. Don't impede on the time you've allotted for YOU just to please someone else!
Self-Care Means Delegating Tasks
Delegate at work (if you have that option)
If you have the ability to give some of your workload away, then do it! I know from experience how hard that can be because, you know, “if you want something done right…” The truth is that you are not being a good boss/leader by doing it all yourself. Passing off tasks and responsibilities helps to build confidence in your subordinates and also lessens your own workload.
Delegate at home – Kids need chores
I'm going to be brutally honest here – I see so many moms today running themselves ragged doing housework and other chores when they have perfectly healthy little humans running around making a mess. For reals – I just want to go slap those women! I've heard the excuses for not wanting to add to their kid's plate because they have so much homework, blah blah blah. You are literally killing yourself while NOT teaching your kids how to be responsible adults. Of course, age plays a huge factor in relation to the type of chores – but any kid over the age of 5 needs to be doing something.
If you have middle or high school-aged kids, you have free labor right under your roof! Seriously! The real world is brutal and they need to learn it now when they have you to help them. But helping them doesn't mean doing it for them. While you are folding that endless pile of clean laundry, is your teen watching TV or playing video games? WRONG ANSWER! Stop adding to your stress with household chores and start teaching them to take on more responsibility around the home.
Ask for help
This one was the absolute hardest for me to do! After serving almost 20 years in the military, I was conditioned to think that asking for help showed weakness. Looking back, that is the dumbest thing that has come out of my brain in quite some time! Asking for help is actually the smartest thing you can do to avoid overwhelm in your life. Whether it be from your girlfriends or maybe from a co-worker or family member.
Scrub your list of friends/family
I get a lot of criticism for this one but at the end of the day, it is MY well-being that matters. If you have family members or friends that literally suck the life out of you with their drama, you need to do some Spring Cleaning. If they aren't contributing to your life in a positive way, you shouldn't be giving up your precious time for them. Unfollow them on social media, if they ask to come over – tell them you have other plans. Whatever it takes for you to be fully present in the time you do have – just do it. An already overwhelmed working mom doesn't need that in her life! Taking care of yourself, unfortunately, means parting with people that aren't making a positive impact on our life.
This one is often difficult for many of us. As a society, we are now so plugged into technology that we really aren't present in our own lives. Make it a point to unplug from the world at certain times. At dinner, for example, make it a rule that cell phones have to be left in the other room. At a certain time in the evening, be intentional about putting our phone away or getting off the computer and social media. It will still be there when you get up in the morning – I promise!!
Create an evening routine
Do you have an evening routine or do you just sort of wing it each night? An evening routine can significantly reduce the overwhelm and stress that often happens at the end of the day. This is especially important if you have small kids. The more of a set routine they have, the more easily they'll transition into their beds at a certain time.
For an overwhelmed working mom, a set evening routine can also help you relax and clear your mind – resulting in better sleep. My evening routine involves taking the dogs for an evening run/walk. It's good for them to expel some energy before bed but it also helps me clear my own head.
Check out these other posts on being an overwhelmed mom:
Read before bed
One of my “unplugged” evening routines involves turning off the TV by 9:30 so I can read before bed. I realized that when I watch TV right before bed, especially shows with action and/or violence, it affected my sleep. Cutting out the “noise” for at least a half hour before bed and filling my mind with the words from a motivational or empowering book really did affect my sleep in a positive way! Of course, I wouldn't recommend reading about murder right before bed but may something a little less horrific like a book on personal development or even a Devotional.
Find other overwhelmed working moms
As an overwhelmed working mom, you may feel completely alone in your struggles to balance work and life. Stop trying to conquer life all by your overwhelmed self! Find a Mom Tribe – other women going through your same struggles in life. You can find other women either in persona or through groups on Facebook. Not only does this help you stay connected, these women can share their own tips for maintaining their sanity amidst the chaos of mom life!
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Schedule time for You
At the end of the day, you have to start making yourself a priority. When you don't take care of your own needs, you become less and less effective. Your health will suffer and so will everything else around you. Self-care can be as simple as a 20-minute walk to clear your mind, 15 minutes to read your favorite book, a 10-minute bubble bath or going to get a pedicure. Start small with something that takes 10-15 minutes. Once you see how easy that was to fit in, add something else later in the day.
Making yourself a priority IS the best way to avoid burnout. Take time for yourself, prioritize YOU, and you'll no longer feel like an overwhelmed working mom!