Burnout from Work: How to Recover

Burnout from work and life is real. That’s the first thing we all need to know as fact. Often people make light of work-related stress, but burnout is a real state of mind and body. If we don’t stop to look after our well-being, the mental and physical symptoms can have lifelong repercussions. 

The good news is that we can support ourselves to prevent and heal from burnout. We can look after our physical and mental health even with limited time and despite ongoing stressors. It’s partly about setting boundaries to give ourselves that much-needed rest and support.

woman in red shirt seen from behind, walking down a road in fall

I’m focusing on moms in this article, whether you work outside the home or inside. This is especially for moms who homeschool their children on top of being a mom and having a job. But I think that everyone can benefit from understanding burnout and how to recover from it.

Why does burnout happen?

Psychology Today defines burnout as a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Every mother I know has experienced this at one time or another, especially if she is home educating the kids.

Burnout is real, extremely serious, and creeps up on you before you know it. Have I been burned out? Yes! Many times. I’ve seen it in my husband Scott at times, too.

Most people will experience some type of burnout in their lives at some time or another, but certain personalities are more susceptible. Those most susceptible to burnout are Type A personality, high achievers, and perfectionists. 

Of course, not getting enough sleep increases the likelihood of burnout, as does working too much without time to relax or socialize. If this doesn’t sound like a working and/or homeschooling mother, I don’t know what does!

I’ve learned that I have the risk factors for burnout, so I have to be keenly aware when I may be headed down that road. It’s best for me to head off burnout at the pass. That means practicing some preventive self-care.

Burnout can happen whenever anyone feels overworked and undervalued. Lack of recognition or reward for good work and a feeling of lack of control over one’s life are major dimensions of mom and job burnout. It is important to recognize the problem as early as possible, so that recovery is manageable and quick. 

Another contributor to burn-out is just the crazy busy-ness of modern life. Way back in 1869, a neurologist came up with the new medical diagnosis neurasthenia for the tiredness and anxiousness Americans were experiencing in bustling city life. It was still the days of horse and buggy, and already people were getting stressed out to the point of needing medical help!

Today, working moms and dads often experience burnout syndrome. Many of you may be working outside the home, then coming home to a whole new workload. Work-life balance is extra hard when several areas of life demand our efforts. Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do anything but work! But there is if we make rest a priority.

How do you know you’re burnt out from work? 

The symptoms of burnout from work vary. Everyone experiences it a little differently. Burnout symptoms may include:

  • emotional exhaustion
  • feelings of negativity
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • physical fatigue / feelings of energy depletion
  • stomach ache / loss of appetite

Some people experience burnout as general feelings of hopelessness.

NOTE: Depression is a potentially serious medical condition that may require medical help. If you experience persistent symptoms of depression, please reach out to your doctor as well as your pastor, family, and friends. Resources are available to help.

You can recognize burnout in many ways, physical and mental. When you begin feeling continually drained and tired with increased headaches and muscle aches, along with not having the energy to accomplish minor tasks, you need to step back and evaluate. More often than not, you will be more susceptible to illnesses, such a colds and the flu. 

Healthy Chicken Soup with homemade chicken stock, recipe by Stacy Lyn Harris from her Harvest Cookbook
If you do get run down, this chicken soup can nourish your body.

Another determining factor is loss of interest and lack of motivation toward a goal that used to be important for you. In the case of homeschooling moms, that’s taking the role as primary educator of your children.

It’s incredibly important to recognize the symptoms and do something about it as soon as you diagnose your burnout. Or better yet, recognize where you’re headed and take steps to avoid burnout all together. 

How do you recover from burnout while working? 

For many years I was having babies, raising children, and teaching them from home. I was helping my husband with his business, too. Add public appearances and a TV show, and I was barely able to catch my breath. I actually love to live a kind of fast-paced life, but if I’m not careful, it sets me up for getting majorly burned out. 

Whether you are working from home (remote work) or outside the home, the best solution if possible is to cut back on the non-essential work or just quit. But not everyone can do that! There are remedies and ways to keep from getting burned in spite of having to continue to work. 

How do you avoid burnout from work and life?

The most important advice I have is: take back control of your life. Be intentional in the things to which you commit. Evaluate your motives and reasons for committing. With children of any age living at home, keeping outside commitments to a minimum is a necessity. You are in control of your schedule. It’s OK to say “no.”

Stacy Lyn's planner notebook with many scribbles and lists

Prioritize Family, Social, and Work Commitments

Crazy to think about it, but the first very real time I had burnout was the summer before I entered college. Can you believe someone so young would be burned out, but why not? Cheerleading, student council, prep for college, working, transition, a huge breakup with a boyfriend, and I was already going to school with no break in-between. I’d been performing for my parents (they didn’t expect me to perform; it’s just who I am), friends, school, and really everyone around me. I was drowning.

Stacy Lyn in group of high-school cheerleaders in black and gold outfits

I did the best thing I could think of. I quit just about everything. I was able to recover, but it took a long while. I said I’d never run for student government or anything of the sort ever again. I didn’t want to be front and center in any way and loved not being so for that time. Interestingly, there were quite a few honors I received in spite of not trying so hard. I learned if it’s meant to be, it will be.
Well, fast forward quite a few years, and I am still living at full speed, but I say a polite “no” a lot. My priorities are pretty much set in stone, and I try not to veer too far from them while I have kids who are still living at home.

My rule of thumb will not make you popular, but will keep you sane. When my children were very young, and even now to some degree, I would not commit further out than a week. You never know when unexpected illnesses or emergencies may occur. I felt that I was pretty much “on call” at all times. Now I am able to commit to a little more since my children are older, but I am careful to avoid long-term commitments. I cannot tell you how much this has saved my sanity. 

To ensure that I keep God’s priorities for me, before I fill my weekly calendar, I write my top priorities in order and place my “to do” list for those priorities under each heading; this way I know I am living each day the way it should be lived. Depending on the need, there may be more or less in each category, but by keeping my list in this way, it ensures I do not get off-track.  

My list looks like this:

  • God
  • Scott
  • Kids
  • School
  • Home
  • Extended Family
  • Church and Younger Women
  • Errands
  • My Business

 I also try to run all my errands on one day of the week. My errands are more organized, and I am able to stay at home adding more time for other things each day. 

Periodically Re-Evaluate Your Work Schedule

Early in my homeschooling career, I did not take the time to evaluate activities, curriculum, and my schedule as much as I should have. Throughout the years, I have found that evaluating quarterly is the perfect balance to maintaining confidence concerning the direction of the family, education, relationship, and service. 

Each quarter, I do all in my power to take a day to look back over the most recent quarter and evaluate what worked, what may be needed for my relationships with Scott, the kids, my extended family and friends, as well as any educational progress or failures. It is truly amazing the discoveries and small but significant tweaks that will help you avoid burnout.

To Avoid Burnout, Set Aside Time Each Day for Your Health

As a young mother, it is difficult to find an hour of time all at once to dedicate to exercise or even reading a book, but you can probably find 30-minute intervals. I recommend that you work hard to carve out an hour or two half-hour segments for your mental and/or physical health. And if you can’t find a half hour, take 15 minutes for yourself

Stacy Lyn drinking water in exercise clothing, leaning on weighted bar - exercise break to prevent burnout

One of my best friends enjoyed a half-hour bath each night after her husband came home from work. She said it gave her back every bit of energy that had left her during the day. You may get your calm and energy from yoga, meditation, or running. Whatever it is, you need it!

Just knowing you will get this time to yourself is enough to keep you motivated at times. 

Develop Like-Minded Friendships to Fend Off Burnout

For me, finding friends that have been a step or two ahead of me has helped me tremendously, as well as helping those younger homeschool parents that are a step or two behind me. It always helps to know you are not in this alone. Hearing that homeschooling is paying off in other’s lives, and sharing with friends what my kids are doing gives me the assurance that great things are taking place and our work is not in vain. 

Prioritize Good Nutrition and Sleep

I hear you!! Neither of these is easy to a mother of young children, BUT it is a goal to be worked towards. Make sure to get enough protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. This power salad has it all. 

healthy salad with chicken in white bowl, drizzled with homemade avocado green goddess dressing
This power salad makes a tasty, nutrient-packed, satisfying meal. 

Watch the sugar and sweets, too. Sugar may give you a quick rush of energy, but frequent indulging can make you more tired and less able to deal with stress. I am not a believer in depriving myself of desserts, but I am careful to control the number of times a week I indulge. Everything in balance! 

As far as sleep goes, it is highly important that you do what you need to get the sleep you can. With newborns, I rarely slept through the night for almost a year, so Scott would give me the weekend mornings to recover. This was a huge blessing to me. I believe it has kept me young! 

Kids Get Burnout, Too! Make Time for Play.

Homeschooling moms, if you and your children are getting humdrum about school, take a few days to just have fun. Go to the park, stay in your pajamas, eat popcorn, and watch movies for a day, or take a day trip to the lake. Whatever brings you alive, do it! If you have kids in regular school, you can still do something special as a family on the weekend.

girls having a tea party in white wicker chairs on Stacy Lyn's porch

You don’t have to forsake education just because you are taking a break from the regularly scheduled school session. Take a trip to the zoo and study animal habitat and behavior for the week, or go to a local museum or library and study artists from the different centuries. Let your creativity be your guide! You’ve got this.

Sometimes, as little as a 15-minute break will do for kids, too. I call it the 15-Minute Rule. With young kids, they need to see you laugh and play. Sometimes I may only play for 3 minutes and others maybe I will play for 15, but even a little time changes the tone of my home from a serious place to a world of wonder, laughter, and imagination.

I hope you find these thoughts on burnout helpful. If you have any thoughts for others here, please leave them in the comments.

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