The Stress And Burnout Continue. But I Have A Plan!

I had such intentions for what I’d write about this week. In fact, I have a bunch of topics I’ve compiled that I know I want to write about. There they sit on my growing to do list. I was debating whether or not to even post an article this week, because I am so burned out. I can’t catch my breath these days. Every weekend, I have grand ambitions and I think maybe, just maybe, this is the week I get it together. But, that week never comes, or at least, it hasn’t this year. So, I knew this was the article that needed to be written.

I’m finding it difficult to be a peaceful parent, especially as my kids are experiencing some transitions now as they grow older and wiser. They are a beautiful handful and I want to be the very best parent I can be to them. But, in order to do that, it seems I must let everything else fall apart. The house, the schedule, our homeschool plans. I have to sacrifice something in order to be competent in another area. My husband, bless him, has really stepped up with cleaning tasks around the house ever since I added a job to my absurd list of responsibilities. I’m so grateful to him for the partnership and, yet, I still can’t get it together. Anyone else feel this way?

The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD produced a list of symptoms for Forbes.com. Now, Dr. Ballard’s list is specific to job burnout, so I’ll note only the points he lists that absolutely nail how I’m feeling. How about you?

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Lack of Motivation
  3. Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
  4. Cognitive Problems
  5. Interpersonal Problems at Home
  6. Not Taking Care of Yourself
  7. Generally Decreased Satisfaction
  8. Health Problems

Check, check, check, all the way down. All I want to do is sleep. And, I don’t think it’s depression. I know what that feels like and, for me, it feels like emptiness and hopelessness. I don’t feel those things, but I do feel so overwhelmed that I can barely get started on the first simple task. My executive function is wrecked. When I give myself permission, I can sit down and connect with my family. Then, when I do, it’s hard not to think about the piling list of things I’m neglecting.

I really want y’all to know that these feelings are common in this day and age. I won’t launch into a diatribe about white supremacy and capitalism here, but those are two significant driving forces behind why we all struggle so much. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s even revolutionary to do so.

I’ve been investigating ways to make this season a bit more bearable and I’m going to share them here, both to give others some ideas and also to remind myself. Here’s what I’m actively trying to do to survive:

  1. I started following KC Davis on Facebook and TikTok. She’s an expert in struggle care, and she helps me figure out what I can do rather than dwelling on what I can’t.
  2. I let things slide in our homeschool week. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish every week and I work collaboratively with the kids toward these things. However, we are an unschooling-friendly crew and our days are mostly child-led. If the kids aren’t feeling it or if I’m not feeling it, I literally take a pen and cross off whatever isn’t working out from my list. Then, we choose something we all prefer. Sometimes, my plans resonate with the kids and sometimes they don’t. It is what it is.
  3. If the kids are dysregulated, instead of trying to manage them while still addressing other responsibilities, I sit down and help them. Sometimes, this means I don’t make the beds until 5 PM and the day’s dishes get piled up or we have to cancel certain therapies and activities. I can’t do everything, so my goal every day is to do something really well.
  4. Insomnia makes it difficult for me to sleep in the first place and then I also have my own insomniac child. We are two exhausted peas in a pod. So, at night, I lie down on the couch and help her relax into sleep. Sometimes I drift off too, but more often, I’ll be awake watching tv on low sound or reading something enjoyable. Even though it’s late, and I’m stuck underneath a softly snoring child, the rest is invaluable. It helps me lower my pulse and just breathe. Doesn’t do much for my touch sensitivity at the end of a long day, but once I’m free to go to bed myself, that helps a lot.
  5. I grab some prepared freezer meals in my grocery trip. They’re expensive and our budget is very small, but it’s worth having a couple options that don’t involve me cooking a whole meal. So, every week as I plan out our meals, I slide in a meal from the freezer section of the supermarket to stand in wait for those nights when I just can’t bring myself to cook.
  6. We clean during the week and try to reserve weekends for rest and recuperation. This one is difficult, but between the two of us, my husband and I make a reasonable dent in the cleaning task list every week. It’s not perfect, but we keep the house up pretty well.
  7. I comfort eat. Didn’t expect that one, did you? I fully believe that comfort eating is a natural and positive way our bodies deal with stress. I don’t binge or stress eat constantly, but after a particularly difficult day, I certainly will curl up on the couch with some ice cream. However, I do it with full recognition of what’s happening. It’s not mindless. It’s intentional. I’m doing it for a purpose and when that purpose is fulfilled, it’s done. Giving myself permission to use the joy of eating to benefit my mental health, helps me a lot.

I’d love to get your ideas for how to deal with burnout! What helps you in the really difficult seasons?

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