Avoiding burnout—the value of self-care for moms


Dear Adele,

I am a married woman with three children, a house and a full-time job. I also am exhausted. I never realized how much energy and work it took to carry the role of wife and mother, along with my profession. I fear I’m going to burn out. Any suggestions?

Almost Burned Out


Dear Almost Burned Out,

You are probably one of the plethora of women who are trying to cope with the pandemic, financial challenges, online learning, lack of daycare, housework, meals, and possibly trying to work fulltime from home in an environment not conducive to your expected productivity! No wonder you’re exhausted! While the women’s movement liberated females to take an equal place in the workforce, no one told them they would still carry a lion’s share of the work in the home. Better self-care might go a long way to alleviate the stress you are feeling.

According to Good Housekeeping Institute’s article 40+ Simple Ideas for Creating the Ultimate Self-care Routine, self-care is “the movement that’s all about putting you first physically, mentally and emotionally.” “Research suggests that the more we practice self-care activities the more confident creative and productive we are… We also experience more joy, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively,” says Bridgitt Earley in 29 Self-care Tips to Boost your Mental Health.

“Impossible!” you are probably thinking. You are so in demand in your job and in your family that it would be very challenging to take better care of yourself, you go on. The stress is incredible and the time requirements are off the wall, you want to say.

Your situation is a recipe for stress and burnout. “Most often stresses are caused by having too much to do and too little time to do it,” says Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer. Her recipe to destress yourself is to modify your workload, prioritize your responsibilities, improve your time management and start saying “no” more often.

May I suggest that you not feel guilty taking time for yourself. You deserve some quality downtime and you need to give yourself the ‘OK’ to take it. You need to realize it is revitalizing and will make you, and therefore your family, happier.

Try to reduce stress by setting limits to other’s expectations of you. Shorten your to-do list. Take regular breaks during the day and stop multitasking so much. Set yourself an objective of working at a realistic pace. Prioritize your tasks into ‘must do today’ and ‘should do some time’. It is also essential to learn to say ‘no’ to requests from others, with grace.

You might want to look at how you organize your day as well. Some women find time for themselves by getting up an hour before everyone else in the family and enjoying that time for a lengthy shower, time to sit outside and read, or have a leisurely coffee. Some women use the children’s naptime to serve themselves perhaps taking time for a tea and a biscuit while reading, writing in a journal or playing some music. After the kids go to bed is another time that you might be able to use to serve yourself by taking an unhurried bath, relaxing with a cup of chocolate or phoning a friend.

Listed below are some of the excellent self-care ideas I garnered from my research of small changes that might be possible to put you on the path to better health, happiness and a brighter outlook:

  • meet a friend for breakfast or lunch
  • hire a house cleaner
  • keep your water bottle full
  • care for a houseplant
  • get a massage
  • dance to loud music in your home
  • drink green tea in the morning
  • take a walk on your lunch hour
  • give yourself a weekly manicure and pedicure
  • make healthy snacks
  • swap listening to the morning news for a humorous podcast
  • look at pictures of appealing animals
  • start a gratitude journal
  • schedule alone time daily
  • plant something in your garden
  • find and listen to a new podcast
  • explore outside and go into nature
  • play with your pet
  • volunteer
  • perform an act of kindness for another
  • keep your phone out of your bedroom
  • declutter your home a few minutes each day
  • take a break from social media
  • unplug or turn off your phone
  • plan a girls’ night out
  • go on a getaway weekend with your husband
  • enroll in a course in something you’ve never done before
  • join a virtual or in person support group
  • exercise
  • relax in a tub bath
  • light a candle
  • do a jigsaw puzzle
  • buy yourself flowers
  • buy yourself new sheets and make your bed every day
  • take lots of photos
  • keep contact with positive people and reduce it with those who are negative
  • eat a sit-down breakfast
  • order dessert at a restaurant
  • binge watch a favorite TV series
  • buy a fancy tea or coffee for your kitchen
  • get comfortable with saying ‘no’ to invitations
  • enjoy a do-nothing Saturday or Sunday
  • hire a sitter so you can do what you want all day

I wish you the best Almost Burned Out in finding some self-care time. I hope you can make it a routine. I also trust your family can be reigned in to support your need for personal downtime and come to understand how it benefits everyone.

I will conclude with a few inspiring quotations:

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation…” — Andre Lorde

Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner peace.” — Nikki Rowe

Do something nice for yourself today. Find some quiet, sit in stillness, breathe. Put your problems on pause. You deserve a break.— Akiroq Brost

Sincerely, Adele

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at maryadeleblair@gmail.com and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.

PHOTO: iStock