The in-flight message you hear on an aeroplane just before take-off is particularly pertinent here: 'Before you assist other passengers, please secure your own oxygen mask'. In real mother terms, what this means is that before you attend to the needs of your children, husband, family and work colleagues, secure your own oxygen mask by prioritising your own core needs.
This may sound selfish. It is often in opposition to how we as women and mothers have been conditioned. We are instinctively, consciously and unconsciously programmed to be caregivers and to generally towards self-sacrifice. That is why putting your core needs first is often the most difficult step in the prevention and recovery process.
What is burnout?
It is a loss of functionality and wellbeing. Often it is the end result of ongoing stress or one's reaction to chronic stress. However, it may also be like reaching a crossroads, an opportunity to dig deep into who you really are and go in a new direction. You may need to make a change and choose how you are going to continue working, thinking, living and being. Burnout can be the teacher. The lesson: prioritising self-care and a change to living in alignment with who you are.
Who is at greatest risk of burnout?
It mainly strikes high achiever mothers who are 100% committed to the task(s) at hand. The modern mama's tasks involve juggling many 'balls', trying to be a supermom and doing it all perfectly. If you are a high achiever mom, then you need to take note. This blog is for you!
Burnout happens when the demands you place on your body outweigh your reserves and ability to keep up with the pace of your life. It is a scenario of depletion. Think of it like a gas tank that needs ongoing replenishment and servicing to keep the engine running smoothly and prevent it ceasing. Energy depletion can occur in the physical, emotional, mental arenas or on all three levels simultaneously.
Burnout can manifest as a range of illnesses such as depression, chronic fatigue, thyroid and hormonal imbalances, chronic pain syndromes and autoimmunity to name a few examples. So don't be fooled and think burnout is something only affecting extreme, hopeless cases because it affects a whole range of our population.
Giving your body what it needs is the foundation for burnout prevention. The best prevention is to avoid burnout in the first place. The older you get, the more difficult it is to recover. So the challenge may be to be self-aware early on in motherhood so you can develop healthy self-care habits and rituals that provide meaningful nourishment.
Many people focus on superficial and short term solutions such as taking a vacation or a visit to the health spa. While these are enjoyable things to do, I will rather focus on learning to prioritise your core needs because unless your life is one permanent vacation, you will need tools to survive in the real world of being a mother in her natural habitat.
What are your core needs?
Make sure you aim for 7-9 hours uninterrupted sleep every night. This should include 1-2 pre-midnight hours. Sleep hygiene is an important consideration when setting the scene for better sleep quality even if you can't always get the hours in. Briefly, optimal sleep hygiene covers minimising exposure to blue light at night by sleeping in complete darkness and avoiding screen use the hour prior to bedtime. Not eating late at night (after 20:00) and having a cool ambient room temperature (around 18 C) also helps support the regenerative power of deep rest.
Eating regular and balanced meals is equivalent to filling and refilling your gas tank. Start your day with breakfast and eat enough protein and a range of colourful whole foods to keep your blood sugar balanced and stable. Include healthy snacks throughout the day and avoid processed carbohydrates and excessive stimulants in the form of tea and coffee.
This is my piece about exercise. We all know how important it is and yet exercising is not always everyone's priority. I'm not going to lecture you about exercising but rather about the value of healthy movement and breathing. Going for a jog, walking the dog or even joining a gym class may not be a daily possibility for everyone but there is definitely no excuse when it comes to being active. It is easy to incorporate daily exercise by just moving more. For example, take the stairs instead of the lift, go for a walk with a friend instead of sitting in a cafe, ride your bike to the shops instead of taking the car, carry the shopping bags rather than using a trolley and remember that housework also counts as exercise!
4. A purpose that serves you and others
Finding your tribe and being committed to a purpose that nourishes you is possibly the most important piece in preventing burnout. It can involve your career, a hobby, passion or a lifelong dream. The key is that you keep it alive by feeding it little bits of nourishment even in times when the harsh realities and daily slog of motherhood threaten to overwhelm you. We are told that being a good mother is one of the highest ideals for women. Finding your personal purpose in your community as well as exquisite self-care provides 'oxygen' so you can be a balanced, effective and healthy human.
5. Nourishing Rituals
Having a dedicated moment, hour, morning or day of regular 'me-time' to do the things that make your heart sing is vital for our wellbeing as mothers.
I want to share with you my nourishing ritual... the ritual of making a 'power' smoothie. I love smoothies because they are a quick and easy meal that I can pack with nutrients and healthy ingredients that I would otherwise not eat for breakfast. Making a smoothie for breakfast is a delicious gift of nourishment to myself and helps me start my day with the right intention.
If you follow these basic strategies, I cannot guarantee that you will never experience burnout but you will definitely reduce the likelihood of being struck down without noticing any warning signs.
If you are concerned that you may be burnt out or heading in that direction, don't wait! Please reach out and get help!
The bottom line is that if you are burnt out it will affect your ability to mother and the quality of your mothering. Are you ready to acknowledge and prioritise your own core needs?
Book a free 'meet & greet' call with me to discover how personalised wellness care can help you manage and prevent burnout.
About the author
Nicole is a Functional Medicine Practitioner and Classical Homoeopath with almost 20 years experience in clinical practice and wellness care. She thrives on solving complex disease puzzles and providing bespoke personalised nutrition and lifestyle plans to her International client base. She created Wellness Place International for burnt-out mothers, chronic illness sufferers and health seekers looking to reclaim and maintain their health. Nicole has a passion for helping people find the answers to why they cannot get better and stay well by going back to nature and using the latest scientific research in wellness care.
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