Motherly’s 2021 State of Motherhood Survey found that 93% of mothers reported feeling burned out last year. While self-care is important, bestselling author of “In Charge,” Dr. Arin Reeves, says it’s nowhere near enough to address the overlooked daily stressors that moms face.
Dr. Reeves believes that moms need actionable ways to better manage their energy without having to spend hours on activities that add more stress like many often prescribed stress relief strategies do.
Burnout is different from simply feeling fatigued. When you are tired, a nap or a relaxing afternoon may be all you need to recharge. However, Dr. Reeves explains that burnout is actually an ongoing process during which individuals, like mothers, end each day, day after day, with an energy deficit.
“Burnout is when you wake up every day and you do more things that drain your energy than give you energy, to where you are ending every day in a deficit. Sleep doesn’t cure that, a bath doesn’t cure it, a spa treatment doesn’t do anything because you may temporarily not think about it, but when you get out of that bath, when you get outta that spa treatment, the fact that you have to continue to engage in activities that drain instead of give you energy doesn’t change,” she explained.
Burnout is a serious issue because it can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation. Particularly for mothers who feel that each action they do for their family is crucial to their family’s success and well-being, it can be hard to say no and relax even when your body is telling you that it desperately needs rest. Expectations to be the “perfect” mother stops many women from asking for help.
“This idea of perfection—there are so many things that we’re told that we should be doing, and I think social media makes this so much worse,” Dr. Reeves said.
Dr. Reeves went on to recall a time when she was rushing to her daughter’s school to drop her off something she needed before a class. She was already tired and growing increasingly anxious and worried. However, after reflecting on the lessons she learned about mom burnout while researching “In Charge,” Dr. Reeves allowed herself to slow down and tell her daughter honestly that she was going to be late.
In the end, Dr. Reeves actually believes that this served as a good lesson for her daughter who doesn’t want to learn that being a mom means having to overextend yourself for everyone else.
“I hope that what she took away from that she is my priority, but, when she’s a mom, she doesn’t have to kill herself to try to be perfect. Her child will know how much she loves them because she loves them,” she said.
Dr. Reeves has seven tips on how mothers can begin to work against burnout.
7 Ways To Ease Mom Burnout According to Dr. Reeves
- Balance your days. Do activities that also recharge you.
You say, “well if I have a call that drains my energy, I have a list ready here so that I can do something immediately that gives me energy.”
It feels so mechanical at first, but it’s the slow process of rebalancing how much is going out and how much is getting put back in. And as you start getting rid of things that drain your energy and start doing things that give you energy, you slowly start neutralizing the burnout.
- If you are experiencing burnout, be kind to yourself.
There are ways to get through it and yelling at yourself or blaming yourself is not helpful to you at all.
- Embrace what makes you feel good.
We’ve stepped so far away as a society from asking people, “Do you feel good?” If you feel good, do more of that. If you don’t feel good, stop doing some of that.
It can be really powerful to do that for yourself, but also to model it for your children. And so, if we want our children to be happy, why wouldn’t we want that for ourselves?
- Prioritize yourself.
We don’t prioritize ourselves. You have a right to feel good, whatever that means for you. If that means a nap, do it. If that means going outside in the park and sitting in silence, do it. Whatever that means for you, you deserve that. This is really the only thing that people need to be saying to moms right now.
- Build community with other women and mothers and do not be afraid to ask them for help when you need it.
For women, especially for moms coming out of burnout, it can’t be an isolated affair. It has to be something that you do in community with other women and other moms specifically.
It is powerful to say, “I’m burned out, I need to really look at this and I need to do it with other women.”
- Try cursing.
There’s scientific research that says if you stub your toe and you curse that you actually feel better.
If you sit down and nicely say to yourself, “Oh my God, I stubbed my toe. I hope I feel better,” you won’t feel better in the same way. It is about cursing. It’s about venting. It’s about releasing the anger or pain
It’s not about cursing at your children, at people, or being mean, though.
- Teach your children to be independent.
Teach your kids to be independent. We don’t have to do everything for our kids.
You can learn more about the realities of mom burnout and how to take care of yourself in the face of mom burnout by reading Dr. Reeve’s book.