mom burnout symptoms

Mom Burnout Symptoms: Identifying Signs and Solutions to Fix

Mom burnout is a common phenomenon among mothers who feel overwhelmed by the demands of parenting. It is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that can affect a mother's ability to care for herself and her family. The symptoms of mom burnout can vary from person to person, but they often include feelings of fatigue, irritability, and anxiety.

As a mom of a bustling 3 and 5-year-old, transitioning from a pediatric occupational therapist to a full-time, stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I've experienced firsthand the multifaceted challenges of motherhood. One of the most insidious challenges is mom burnout, a state that plunges you into emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue. Understanding the symptoms of mom burnout is crucial in taking the first step toward reclaiming your well-being.

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Understanding Mom Burnout

As a mom, it's easy to feel like you're constantly juggling a million things at once. Between taking care of your children, managing your household, and possibly working outside the home, it's no wonder that many moms experience burnout. 

Mom burnout, often brushed off as just another aspect of family life, is a critical issue that deserves our attention. It's not just about feeling tired; it's about feeling emotionally drained to the point where even the little things seem monumental. It’s the chronic stress of balancing the parental role with personal needs, often leaving us feeling like we're in survival mode.

As a previous pediatric occupational therapist, I understand the psychological intricacies involved. Burnout isn't just job burnout; it's a culmination of emotional labor and societal pressures, intensified for single parents or those without a support group.

In this section, we'll explore what mom burnout is, its causes, and the symptoms you should be aware of.

Overstimulated mom toolkit 2

Defining Burnout

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. It's often described as feeling overwhelmed, drained, and unable to meet the demands of daily life. Burnout is not the same as stress, although it can be a result of chronic stress. While stress is a normal response to challenging situations, burnout is a more severe and chronic condition that can have serious consequences for your health and well-being.

Causes of Burnout

There are many factors that can contribute to mom burnout. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Unrealistic Expectations: Many moms feel pressure to be perfect, whether it's from society, their families, or themselves. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and burnout.
  • Lack of Support: Moms who don't have a strong support system may feel isolated and overwhelmed. This can be especially true for single moms or those who don't have family nearby.
  • Prolonged Stress: Chronic stress, whether it's from work, family, or other sources, can eventually lead to burnout if not properly managed.
  • Emotional Exhaustion: Moms who are constantly giving to others may eventually feel emotionally drained and unable to cope with daily life.
mom overwhelmed and burned out

Symptoms of Mom Burnout

Recognizing the symptoms of mom burnout is the first step toward healing. The warning signs can range from emotional exhaustion to physical health concerns. It's the constant feeling of being overwhelmed, a sense of parental ineffectiveness, and the nervous system constantly being on edge. Physical exhaustion isn’t just about the lack of sleep; it’s the culmination of the day-to-day life stress that seems never-ending.

It's important to be aware of the symptoms of burnout so that you can take steps to address them. Some of the most common emotional signs of burnout include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling emotionally drained
  • Feeling irritable or short-tempered
  • Feeling disconnected from others
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

Physical symptoms of burnout can include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite or weight

If you're experiencing symptoms of burnout, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional or your healthcare provider. With the right support and resources, you can overcome burnout and regain your sense of well-being.

Emotional Symptoms of Mom Burnout 

  • Irritability and Anger: You may feel more irritable than usual and get angry more easily. You may find yourself snapping at your kids or partner for no apparent reason.
  • Hopelessness: You may feel like nothing you do makes a difference, and you may feel hopeless about your situation.
  • Feeling Overwhelmed: You may feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. You may feel like you're drowning in responsibilities.
  • Crying: You may find yourself crying more often than usual, and you may not know why.
  • Fear and Dread: You may feel anxious about the future and dread the thought of facing another day.

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue: You may feel tired all the time, even after a good night's sleep.
  • Headaches: You may experience frequent headaches or migraines.
  • Loss of Appetite: You may lose your appetite or have trouble eating.
  • Insomnia: You may have trouble falling or staying asleep.

It's important to note that not every mom experiences burnout in the same way. Some may experience more emotional symptoms, while others may experience more physical symptoms. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's essential to take care of yourself and seek help if necessary.

Impact of Mom Burnout

Mom burnout doesn't just affect us; it impacts our entire family life. It's the little things, like the short breaks we skip or the lack of alone time, that add up. According to recent research, such as the studies conducted by Ohio State University and psychologist Sheryl Ziegler, the risk of burnout has a big impact on both our emotional health and our family's dynamics. 

Mom burnout can have significant impacts on both the mother and her family. This section will explore the effects of mom burnout on the mom and the family.

Effects on Mom

Mom burnout can cause physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Moms who experience burnout may feel overwhelmed, irritable, and anxious. They may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, and trouble sleeping.

Mom burnout can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, substance abuse, or neglecting self-care. This can further exacerbate physical and mental health issues, including diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

Effects on Family

Mom burnout can also have a significant impact on the family. When moms are burnt out, they may have less patience and be more likely to yell or become angry with their children or partner. This can cause tension and conflict within the family.

Additionally, mom burnout can lead to neglect of childcare responsibilities, causing stress for both the mom and the family. Children may also be negatively impacted by increased screen time or a lack of attention from their mom.

It is important for moms experiencing burnout to seek help from health professionals and take steps to prioritize self-care. This can include setting boundaries, delegating responsibilities, and taking time for activities that promote relaxation and stress relief.

In conclusion, mom burnout can have a significant impact on both the mom and her family. It is important for moms to prioritize self-care and seek help when needed to prevent negative consequences on their mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as their family's well-being.

ultimate overstimulated mom toolkit

Preventing and Treating Mom Burnout

Parental burnout can be overwhelming and exhausting, but it is preventable and treatable. 

The good news is, mom burnout is preventable and treatable. It starts with acknowledging that being the perfect parent is a myth. As the primary caregiver, it's okay not to have a positive impact every single moment. The most important thing is to be a good enough mother.

Here are some strategies to help prevent and treat mom burnout:

  • Embrace Self-Care: It's not just a good thing; it's necessary. Self-care goes beyond the to-do list; it's about finding time for yourself, whether you're a new mom or a seasoned pro. The best way to start is by establishing a healthy sleep schedule.
  • Physical Health: Prioritizing your physical health is crucial. Whether it's yoga, a quick workout, or just a deep breath of fresh air, your body needs care.
  • Seek Emotional Support: Whether it’s a best friend, a family member, or a professional life coach, having someone to talk to can make a world of difference.
  • Mindfulness and Gratitude: Practicing gratitude and mindfulness helps recalibrate your emotional state, bringing a sense of balance and perspective to your role as a mom.
  • Finding Your Tribe: Joining a support group or connecting with other moms can provide a sense of community and shared experiences.
mom calm, mindfulness

Self-Care Strategies

One of the most important things moms can do to prevent burnout is to prioritize self-care. Taking care of yourself can help you feel more energized, focused, and resilient. Here are some self-care strategies that can help prevent burnout:

  • Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can contribute to burnout. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help reduce stress and improve mood. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay present and focused. Try practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day.
  • Connect with others: Social support can help reduce stress and improve well-being. Make time for friends and family, or join a support group.
  • Take breaks: It's important to take breaks throughout the day to recharge. Try taking a short walk, reading a book, or doing something you enjoy.

Exploring Professional Help

In some cases, self-care strategies may not be enough to prevent or treat burnout. If you're experiencing symptoms of burnout, it may be helpful to seek professional help. Here are some options to consider:

  • Talk to your primary care doctor: Your doctor can help you identify any underlying health issues that may be contributing to burnout. They can also provide referrals to mental health professionals.
  • See a psychologist or therapist: A mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies and address any underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to burnout.
  • Consider treatment: In some cases, medication or other treatments may be necessary to manage symptoms of burnout. Your doctor or mental health professional can help you determine the best course of treatment.

Remember, preventing and treating burnout takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself, and don't hesitate to seek help if you need it. By taking care of yourself and seeking professional help when necessary, you can prevent and treat mom burnout.

Balancing Personal and Parental Responsibilities

For many moms, including myself, transitioning from a career as a pediatric occupational therapist to being a full-time, homeschooling mom, there's often a struggle to balance personal aspirations with the demands of the parental role. It's about finding that sweet spot where you can nurture your children and also pay attention to your own growth and aspirations. Remember, rediscovering yourself as a mom isn't just a luxury; it's necessary for your emotional well-being.

Navigating Emotional Exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion doesn't just manifest as feeling tired or overwhelmed. It's more profound. It's a telltale sign of mom burnout, where you feel a lack of emotional energy and a sense of parental ineffectiveness. It's vital to recognize these moments and give yourself permission to take a step back. Whether it's reading a book, having a heart-to-heart with your best friend, or simply enjoying a cup of tea in silence, these moments of respite are crucial.

The Role of Social Media

In our connected world, social media plays a significant role in shaping our perceptions of parenting. The constant barrage of ‘perfect parent' images can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and guilt. It's important to remember that social media often presents a curated, glossed-over view of reality. Limiting time on these platforms and focusing on real, tangible aspects of your day-to-day life can be a healthy step towards managing stress.

Cultivating a Supportive Environment

The environment around us can have a profound impact on our mental state. Creating a space that feels calming and nurturing can help in managing the daily stressors of motherhood. It could be as simple as keeping a clean and organized home, setting up a small corner for meditation or yoga, or even surrounding yourself with positive affirmations and art that uplifts your mood.

Self-Compassion: A Key to Emotional Resilience

Practicing self-compassion is perhaps one of the most powerful tools against mom burnout. It's about treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a good friend. It's recognizing that being a good enough mother is indeed enough and that it's okay to have moments of weakness or doubt.

Being a Mom is a Full Time Job

Being a mom, whether a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, is a full-time job, often without breaks or accolades. But remember, you're not alone in this journey. The little time you take for yourself can have a lasting, positive impact on both you and your little people. Embrace the journey, one step at a time.

In conclusion, maternal burnout is a real and serious issue that affects many mothers. It is caused by a combination of psychological and contextual factors that lead to exhaustion and feelings of overwhelm. Symptoms of maternal burnout include physical fatigue, emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, a sense of despair, as well as a detachment from others and pleasurable activities.

To prevent and cope with maternal burnout, it is important for mothers to prioritize their well-being. This can be achieved by connecting with others, taking regular breaks, and engaging in activities that release endorphins. The American Psychological Association recommends that individuals engage in activities that bring them joy, such as hobbies or spending time with loved ones.

Mothers who are also teachers or employees should be aware of the signs of burnout and take steps to prevent it. This may include setting boundaries between work and home life, taking regular breaks, and seeking support from colleagues or mental health professionals.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many mothers have experienced increased levels of burnout due to the added responsibilities of homeschooling and childcare. It is important for mothers to prioritize self-care and seek support from others during this time. Fathers and other family members can also play a role in supporting mothers and sharing the responsibilities of childcare.

Isolation and excessive scrolling on social media can also contribute to feelings of burnout. Mothers should make an effort to connect with others in person or online, and limit their time on social media.

It is important to note that maternal burnout can have serious consequences, including an increased risk of suicide. Mothers who are experiencing burnout should seek support from mental health professionals and loved ones.

Final Thoughts

As moms, we often put ourselves last on our to-do lists, but it's crucial to remember that self-care isn't selfish; it's essential. The journey of motherhood is filled with ups and downs, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed at times. What's most important is how we handle these feelings and work towards a healthier, happier state of being, not just for ourselves, but for our families as well.

Remember, every mother's experience with burnout is unique, and it's okay to seek help. Whether it's from a family member, a support group, or professional counseling, reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness. By taking care of yourself, you're setting a powerful example for your children and creating a happier, more harmonious home for everyone.

You're Doing a Great Job

Lastly, to every mom reading this, know that you're doing a great job. In the chaos of daily routines and responsibilities, it's easy to forget to give ourselves credit. So, take a moment, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of the incredible work you're doing raising little people and shaping the future.

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