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Stay At Home Mums Can Experience Burnout too

A fertile womb is not a prerequisite for motherhood. A mother is born the moment a maternal bond is established between a woman and a child. Her life will never be the same, as she sees her heart forever walk outside her body. Celebrating each success and lamenting each loss. Though it is one of the most rewarding roles it is one that is 24*7*12.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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Irrespective of which society you talk of, shades of patriarchy still exist. Working or not the majority of the onus of parenting is usually borne by the mother. 

Managing this delicate balancing act is no easy feat. In some cases, this leads to burnout. 

Surprising to some, even stay at home mothers can become overwhelmed and get burnt out.

"A 36yrs old, stay-at-home mom came to me saying she was exhausted and yet could not sleep. As she described her daily routine she kept crying and repeatedly said that she ‘should’ be able to do better. At the same time, she felt that she didn’t have it in her to keep up with things any longer. Her appetite fluctuated from zero to binge eating. In her words, she was operating like a robot."

This is a classic case of burnout as described by Counseling Psychologist Purnima Sahai.

“Burnout happens in an insidious manner,” as she describes it. Highlighting that this is why it often goes undetected and that we notice it only when we are collapsing. The advantage of this is that we can catch and curb it right at the outset. All it needs is just a little bit of training. 

Below are some tips Sahai advises her clients to use when dealing with burnout:

  1. Awareness – Watch your patterns. Look out for deviations from what is normal for you. For instance, are you eating more than usual, is your sleep disturbed, are you getting more angry/irritable/sad/hopeless, are you drinking/smoking more than usual, are you getting snappy at people? Identify your triggers i.e. what sets off these reactions in you. Make a note of all of these.
  2. Damage Prevention – One of the primary factors that make it difficult to change a pattern is the weight of the damage that it has already created. Once you know your pattern, list all the points of damage so that we can start addressing those. For instance, in anger if you tend to yell at your spouse, that is damage that you would want to prevent; if in distress you tend to go silent and fail to represent yourself at the office meeting, that is definitely something that you would want to undo. 
  3. Cool Down – In the triggering situation, when your emotions start to rise, train yourself to cool down by a method that works for you. Experiment with some of these methods to see what suits you best – Deep breathing, mindfulness, progressive muscular relaxation, go for a walk, run, skip a rope, drink water, exit the tense situation, talk your heart out, take a shower, cook, clean, or meditate. The list is endless. No method is better than the other. What you practice is what works. For instance, if you tend to get anxious in a situation that leaves you feeling paralyzed, slow down, take deep breaths to a count of 7(inhale)- 4(hold)-7(exhale) till your nerves feel calm, and then enter the situation. 
  4. Exercise – No better remedy and prevention than this! Exercise is the one thing that is an absolute must in your schedule if you want to remain healthy and prevent burnout. Even people who are in the process of burning out can salvage themselves by taking on whatever little movement and exercise that they can manage. 
  5. Rejig Routine – The best way to prevent burnout is to have a balance of work, personal time, entertainment/leisure, and socializing in your lifestyle. If any of the items are missing in your daily schedule, that’s what you need to fix. Right now, most people have a very skewed proportion where work is eating away at most of their days. While it's important to work and feel productive, it is equally important to make sure that we maintain all our relationships as that is one of the most anchoring and happiness-generating aspects of our lives. We need to socialize and interact with other human beings around us and also take out time to unwind and so something that in our definition is leisure.
  6. Consistency! Consistency! Consistency! – This additional point is just to emphasize the importance of consistency without which none of the above will work.