For the last several weeks, things have not been great. I’ve had trouble concentrating at work, my temper has been short, I’ve been eating poorly and getting little sleep, and my motivation for just about anything is at an all time low. To say I haven’t been feeling my best would be an understatement. As I sat down to write this, it hit me. I am suffering the symptoms of burn out.
Life as a working mom is hectic. And the last year has been one for the books – I made a major move from New York to Miami, I started a new job, my son – who is firmly in his terrible 2’s – started school for the first time, and I haven’t had a real vacation since last June. I. Am. TIRED.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s not uncommon. So many of us are so busy and stressed, we rarely take time to care for ourselves. Our wellness falls down the list of priorities when we’ve got groceries to shop for, kids to care for, laundry to wash and an endless list of tasks that we couldn’t possibly do in a single day, or even in a week. Women, in particular, have a hard time with self- care, in large part due to their caretaking responsibilities to others.
But, the truth is, our lack of attention to our physical and mental well-being comes at a cost, one that gets more expensive with time. Last week, I decided to do something about it. In addition to the recommendations in my original burn out article, I’ve been doing the below to help me fight back against burn out:
- Exercise. The dreaded “E” word. Fitness has never been a part of my life. I dabble in it from time to time, but I usually lose motivation and quit long before I’ve gotten a chance to see meaningful results or form a healthy habit. But, after weeks of eating poorly and feeling lethargic, I realized I needed to switch things up. I signed up for a free introductory pilates class at a gym near my home. I dreaded every minute leading up to the class and briefly considered cancelling. But, I showed up. I exercised. And wouldn’t you know it, by the time I left, I felt better, if for no other reason than I had accomplished something I had been putting off for so long. The next day, I found myself googling workouts I could do in my home gym, and I found myself an 8 week pilates program that fits my needs. I’m on day Day 6, and I haven’t missed a workout yet. I still dread it and curse far more than I should while I’m in it, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it even this long, which has been a positive development during a time when I haven’t felt proud of much.
- Meditation. I’ve been wanting to make meditation a part of my life for years. But, much like my physical fitness routine (or lack thereof), I’ve never been able to be consistent with my meditation practice. A huge problem for me has been that I could never figure out how to fit it into my day. I hated the idea of waking up extra early (a girl needs her beauty sleep) and at night, I was so tired, I would either fall asleep before I got to it or I would just plain forget. So, I started meditating in my car, which sounds crazy, but has really been working. After I drop off my son, I drive to work, park my car and meditate for 10 minutes. It’s the perfect time to do it because I’m alone, it’s quiet, and it helps me set the tone for the busy day ahead. So far, I’ve meditated 5 out of 7 days, and I feel really good about it. Although my practice is far from perfect, having those few minutes of calm and stillness have really helped improve my mood.
- Panda Planner. What is a Panda Planner, you ask? It’s a productivity and motivational tool that gives you a place to plan your day-to-day activities on a monthly , weekly and daily basis, while also giving you space to think about those things that will bring you mental clarity and happiness. For example, the planner gives you space to write down things you’re grateful for in the day, the habits you want to cultivate, affirmations to get you through the day, and even a space to ponder your wins, as well as how you can improve. The simple act of writing these things down is incredibly powerful, and it’s helped to keep me accountable, forced me to think about the positive aspects of my life (which are instant mood booster) and inspired me to make concrete plans for how I’ll do better going forward. These have all been a big help on days when it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. And, the good news is there are tons of productivity tools out there that might help you, if a planner isn’t your thing.
I have a vacation coming up at the end of the summer, and until then, I plan to make the most of rest days and really focus on giving myself small moments throughout the week to really focus on myself and to just “be” when I need to. I can’t say the dark days are over just yet, but I’m happy to report, I can see the sunlight on the horizon.
What are some ways you combat burn out?