9 Signs You're Burned Out As A Mom & A Bubble Bath Isn't Gonna Cut It
No doubt about it, some days feel like drudgery when you’re a parent. But there may come a point when you’re no longer thriving; you’re just trying to survive until sundown (and, you know, when the kids go to bed). And even after they're asleep, it might seem like there’s no relief in sight. Sure, a soothing soak in the tub might've helped in the past, but you need more than that now. These signs that your mom burnout needs more than a bubble bath to fix it could mean there’s a lot more than just a tired lady lying beneath that soapy surface.
The thing with burnout is that you might not even realize you’ve hit rock bottom right away. You might falsely assume that this is how your life is, but it shouldn’t be. “Burnout is more than just feeling tired,” Dr. Teralyn Sell, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist tells Romper. “Burnout can lead to problems with anxiety, deep depression and the inability to sleep.” And it doesn’t stop there. When you’re under large amounts of stress, your body responds with the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which the Mayo Clinic explained can disrupt your serotonin and dopamine levels, making you one sad, miserable momma.
This deep depletion can wreak havoc with your physical health, too. “Burnout can affect anything from ulcers to heart disease, high blood pressure, and headaches and migraines,” Natalie Mica, MEd, a licensed professional counselor in Texas, tells Romper. “These symptoms and illnesses then impact relationships, job functioning, and long-term well-being.”
If you’re unsure whether you're experiencing a bad burnout, these signs can offer some insight — and help you to make things better.
1. You’re Forgetful
It’s not a surprise why you can’t remember the name of the mom you were introduced to at the PTO meeting 15 minutes ago. Chances are, it’s exhaustion—and not that you’re just bad at names. If you’re feeling foggy, you might be suffering from chronic fatigue related to burnout. A medical professional can help you assess your situation to determine the cause.
2. You Become A Mean Mama
Factor in stress and utter exhaustion, and is it any wonder that you just chewed the face off your partner? “In addition to exhaustion, individuals suffering from burnout often suffer from anger and irritability,” Mica says. That’s why it’s important to put yourself as a priority. “Set appropriate boundaries, say no, and delegate tasks,” Christine Scott-Hudson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper. “Voice your limits and stop agreeing to do things that you hate.” Taking some time for yourself can hopefully alleviate some stress in your life.
3. You Can’t Sleep
It’s so ironic that you’re more tired than you've ever been in your entire life, and yet, you’re tossing and turning at night. But in order to get a good night’s rest, you have to set yourself up for better sleep during the day. “Up your self-care game immediately,” advises Scott-Hudson. “This includes going to bed earlier, eating nourishing foods, staying hydrated, and getting exercise.”
4. You’re Not As Hungry
Burnout can do a one-two punch to your stomach — literally. Fatigue that doesn’t diminish over time can cause you to have a decreased appetite, Healthline reported. In some cases, you might even want to puke thinking about eating last night’s pasta. But if you’re suffering from exhaustion and you’re not eating, you could get sick, so it’s best to speak with someone, especially if you’re experiencing life-threatening complications, like shortness of breath or chest pain.
5. You’re Depressed
Sure, everyone has their good and bad days. But if you’re consistently feeling like everyday is suckish at best, then it’s time to do something about it. Depending on the severity of your burnout, you might need to speak to a mental health professional who can help you once again see the light and figure out what caused the burnout — and more importantly, how to prevent you from sinking back into it.
6. You’re Anxious
You’re worried about bills, about your kids, about your job... everything. It’s natural to feel some level of stress in your daily life, but when it becomes so crippling that you can’t function, you should speak to someone. Confide in a close friend, your family or partner, or a therapist who can assist you in working through this issue.
7. You’re Beyond Tired
As a parent, you’re going to be tired. All. The. Time. And while for the most part you can probably handle it, when you’re burnt out, you’re probably experiencing sheer exhaustion. “The typical fatigue associated with parenting does not usually interfere with the ability to meet the demands and responsibilities of caring for children,” says Mica. “However, burnout can be so overwhelming and leave you feeling incapacitated.”
8. You Can’t Focus
Burnout affects your brain in a variety of ways, but one of the most notable is concentration — or lack thereof. You can’t solve problems, and it’s just harder to focus overall. The stress associated with burnout means that your brain begins to rewire itself to adapt to the fatigue, which means your attention span shrinks considerably, Psychology Today reported. In order to boost your brain power again, you should do things that are soothing, like meditate or practice quiet, deep breathing, advises Scott-Hudson. “Do what you need to do in order to clear your mind,” she says.
9. You’re Getting Sick More Frequently
It feels like you’ve had a cold for weeks now that you just can’t shake. But burnout can cause your body to break down, and cause you to get sicker faster. While you can (and should!) be taking vitamins as part of your health and wellness plan, you’ll need to find other ways to boost your immune system. After seeing your doctor to ensure that it’s not something more serious, learn to find ways to relax. “When the plane is crashing, you must put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others,” says Scott-Hudson. “During burnout, the plane is crashing. Act accordingly.”
As parents, we almost always put everyone else’s needs (especially our kids) above our own. But when you’re burning the candle at both ends, it can be dangerous. If you’re struggling, you don’t have to do it alone. So forget about sinking into your tub and seek help from a professional who will help you get back on track and find the joy once again in life.
Dr. Teralyn Sell, Ph.D., licensed psychologist
Natalie Mica, MEd, licensed professional counselor in Texas
Christine Scott-Hudson MA MFT ATR, licensed marriage and family therapist