How to Prevent Mama Burnout: Creating A Practical Self Care Strategy
As a life coach of mamas and mamas-to-be, I’ve seen a lot of burnout. I often ask my clients to compare their energy level to a cell phone battery. I notice how many of us mamas are functioning in the “red zone”, which means being at 20% and under. Many have been functioning on so little for a long time. It’s almost as if we’ve adapted to being tired, being rundown, being resentful, and being exhausted. We care so much, and put pressure on ourselves to succeed at “the most important job in the world”, while also juggling careers, friends, aging parents, not to mention the turbulent state of the world.
It’s leading us down the road to burnout.
In my experience, there’s one pretty strong antidote to burnout. It’s self care.
For some of us, that word makes us cringe, as in ,”another thing I need to add to my list”. For others, that word comes as reprieve. It’s permission to want more space, time and energy for ourselves.
So wherever you’re at, dear Mama, know this.
Self care is a radical act.
When I talk about self care, I’m not talking pie-in-the-sky all-day facial and massage at a luxury spa (although, doesn’t that sound nice?). Self care is the culmination of small yet consistent steps made to reinvest in yourself.
Carving out time for you to step away from your duties, and just be with yourself, is radical. Calling on your village (your partner/ neighbor/ babysitter/ family/ friends) takes courage. Setting up a consistent strategy to make sure you are able to recharge your own batteries, and serve yourself is a priceless investment. It is self-preservation.
Here are my top 5 tips to create a self care practice:
1. What nourishes you?
The first step is to think about what self care means for you. Everyone has different ways they recharge. Are you filled up by spending time with your girlfriends? Are you filled up reading with a good book in the bath? Self care practices evolve as we do. What used to serve me and make me feel recharged when I was 20, certainly is not what I gravitate towards in my mid-30s with two preschoolers. Sometimes self care looks like adding things to our life, but it also can be reducing things. Self care can be saying no, it can be taking a 2 hour social media break every morning, it can be choosing a gentle yoga practice over Crossfit. Figure out a self care routine actually works for you.
2. Be realistic.
Are you at a point in your life where you can peace out for an entire afternoon and feel totally free? Are you at a point where 15 minutes is all that’s manageable? In my experience, starting small and building from there has been very valuable. When my twins were first born, my self care looked like getting fresh air. For others it might be having a shower, putting on earrings, drinking coffee while it’s still hot. Realistic expectations mean factoring in your children’s age, your ability to access and depend on child care, your work and your partner.
3. Make it non-negotiable.
We’ve all had the experience of our plans being derailed by something that trumps our own needs. Kids’ sickness, unexpected visitors, mounds of laundry and so forth. While I understand that those interruptions are part of life with kids, I urge you to consider this time an appointment, one that you have to keep like a doctor or dentist, just way more enjoyable.
4. Stay accountable.
Who in your life can keep you accountable with this investment? Whether it’s a fellow mama who joins you at weekly yoga class or your partner to whom you send calendar invites for your nights out, having someone else in your corner, keeping you on track, will help you re-prioritize yourself as you build your self care routine.
Which brings me to an important part of this whole equation:
5. Lose the MOM GUILT.
Let’s be crystal clear here. Self care is not selfish. Often our kids will compound our feelings of guilt (“please don’t leave mama”, “can’t you just go once I’m asleep”, and so forth). It can be hard to exit the house knowing they may be upset or sad. But know they will be okay. It’s building their resiliency and their ability to adapt by sharing the load and allowing the village to step in.
At the end of the day, practicing self care is demonstrating to our sons and daughters that we matter too. That we will always be here for them, but we need to take our own space to be a happier, more fulfilled people so that we can be a happier, more fulfilled parents.
Giving everything at the expense of our own health and well-being is not the message nor the modeling we want to do for our children. We are raising the next generation of parents, after all.
Be radical mamas, and take exquisite care of yourselves.
Kate Love is the owner of Sage Coaching. She is a life coach specializing in helping mamas and mamas-to-be to navigate change, prioritize self-care and (re)connect with themselves.