Have you seen that meme that says something like, “Moms complain they need a break from their kids and then don’t want to leave their kids. It’s me, I’m moms.” Hands up if you could have written this yourself. I probably have this thought once a week and even though I know I deserve a break and should take one for my own health, I struggle with it. Mom burnout is real and it’s definitely taking a toll on us.

Before diving into the rest of this post, I need to address two very important topics relating to needing a break.

First, I understand that I am in a seat of privilege when it comes to having a partner in my husband who sees when I’m nearing my limit. I know not all moms have this kind of support within their own walls. If you’re one of those moms, I hope that some of the tips that I share below give you an idea of what you can do in just a few minutes of your day – and I know, if you’re a single mom even one minute can be a lot – but I hope it can help.

Second, if you find yourself needing a break, I need you to know something, you are not a bad mom. You are a human who has physical and mental limits. You were never meant to be everything for everyone every hour of the day. You are no less of a mother if you need a few moments, an afternoon or even a night to fill your cup. Always remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup and you and your children deserve the best version of yourself.

Signs of Burnout

So, how do you know if you need a break? According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the most common symptoms of caregiver burnout (and yes moms, you’re caregivers) are:

  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless.
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring.
  • Irritability.

Does any of that look familiar? I know I have reached my limit (or I’m near it) when the mom rage comes out. I find myself growing impatient with my daughters and my husband and that turns the entire house upside down. Another one that is a sign for me is when I stress eat. When I’m being productive and practicing healthy habits, I’m able to focus on fueling my body the right way, when I’m at the end of my rope, I tend to mindlessly eat because it’s easier to go through a drive-thru or grab a piece of candy for a sugar rush in the middle of the day.

When Burnout Hits

Did you know there are 12 stages of burnout? This model was developed by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger and his colleagues.

  1. Excessive drive/ambition. Think of it as trying to be the perfect Pinterest Mom by being Super Mom – or at least wanting to be super mom.
  2. Pushing yourself to work harder. Ambition pushes you to work harder.
  3. Neglecting your own needs. You begin to sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
  4. Shifting Blame. Instead of acknowledging that you’re pushing yourself to the max, you blame circumstances or everyone else around you and not the fact that you just can’t do it all.
  5. No time for social needs. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome, instead of enjoyable.
  6. Denial. Impatience with those around you mounts. Instead of taking responsibility for your behaviors, you blame others, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, and overbearing.
  7. Withdrawal. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. You skip moms night out or meeting up with that friend for a coffee date.
  8. Behavioral changes. Do you find yourself snapping at your kids or spouse more?
  9. Depersonalization. Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life.
  10. Inner emptiness or anxiety. Feeling empty or anxious. You may turn to thrill seeking behaviors to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
  11. Depression. Life loses its meaning and you begin to feel hopeless.
  12. Mental or physical collapse.  Mental health or medical attention may be necessary. If you find yourself at this point, please stop listening right now and call a trusted friend or medical professional for help.

Overcoming Burnout

While stress may be unavoidable, burnout can be preventable. Here are three steps you can take that may help you fight off burnout. As always, check with your medical provider or a license mental health professional to find what works best for you.

  • Exercise When I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I turn to moving my body with intention. Whether that’s a quick walk around the block or practicing some stretching or calming yoga movies, when I move my body I can automatically feel my body let go of the stress I’ve been carrying. You don’t necessarily need to have a full 30-minute work out or something super intense. Mini workouts and short walks are convenient ways to make exercise a daily habit.
  • Practice good sleep habits. Okay, you can stop laughing now. I get it, as moms we sometimes stay up late to have a little peace and quiet or watch that one Netflix show we can’t watch with the kids around. Seriously, I get it. As much as we have our our plates, we need to be sure that our bodies get plenty of time to rest and reset, which is why healthy sleep habits are essential for our well-being and our families. According to the National Sleep Foundation, avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual, and banning smartphones from the bedroom can help promote sound sleep hygiene.
  • Reach out for help. If asking for help feels difficult, consider developing a self-care “check-in” with close friends and family members so that you can take care of each other during trying times.

Not feeling burned out, but worried about friends and family members who may be burnt out? Listening to their concerns, validating their emotions, and offering specific types of support can help lighten the load.

As moms, we often care for everyone else under our roof before we even have time to realize that we are in need of a serious break. If you find yourself on the brink of mom burnout or just in need of a quick break, take it. Whether you’re working long hours or taking care of young children, remember to sprinkle some joy into each day and practice fulfilling moments of rest. You do deserve it.