Mommy Burnout: Can Therapy Help?
Charlotte stares blankly out the kitchen window watching the trees become a hazy blur as last night’s dinner slid down the drain of the sink. She was too tired to care. This wasn’t the first time she had this apathetic reaction. Quite frankly, this had been going on for some time, off and on for months. She feels overwhelmed, anxious, impatient, and uninterested in parenting. Then it hit her as her 2-year-old was tugging at her leg screaming, “I want cookies!”; she was “burnt out.”
She was toasted, literally like an old piece of bread left in the toaster oven burnt to a crisp.
This startling realization offers little consolation and she knows she isn’t alone. She can remember vividly talking to a friend who described her current parenting experience as exhausting, overwhelming, and overall feeling emotionally dissatisfied and withdrawn.
Numerous research articles, books, journals, and surveys exist supporting the evidence of these emotions. More and more women are finally discussing these feelings of motherhood that used to be taboo to admit, and even more, are realizing that these feelings are unfortunately quite normal.
The official term for this is called “mommy burnout.” It is a real and potentially dangerous problem. Burnout makes you irritable, moody, unable to manage responsibilities, and disinterested in parenting.
Ultimately, mommy burnout impairs your overall emotional and social functioning as well as the ability to care for yourself and your family. It can affect you and your entire family’s well-being. It’s a dark and lonely place that more and more moms are finding themselves lost in.
The causes of mommy burnout are unrealistic expectations, whether self-imposed (“I’ve got to be SUPERMOM!”) or societal (You’re expected to be SUPERMOM!). It may be the result of an absence of familial support or hyper-involved parenting.
The highest risk associated with mommy burnout is reaching an utter state of exhaustion which can lead to emotional detachment from yourself, your children, and your spouse. More importantly, this can lead to feeling like a failure as a parent and then can ultimately spill over to feeling like a failure at everything. The good news is that mommy burnout is preventable and curable.
One solution is reaching out to a therapist, who specializes in maternal mental health. Here are some benefits of starting a therapy journey to combat mommy burnout.
1. A therapist can help you focus on yourSELF.
The therapist may ask you a series of questions associated with your nutrition and sleep regimen, as well as the burnout symptoms you may be experiencing. Education is key and it's important to get a clear understanding of how mommy burnout can affect you.
When a mom remains in a burnout state, there is more room for those headaches to turn to migraines, irritability can shift to rage, verbal aggression can intensify to physical aggression, sleep deprivation can transform into insomnia, and worry can lead to anxiety. All of these symptoms and a desire to de-stress can lead to an overall decline in functioning and can lead to substance use or self-medicating.
When mom is struggling, the entire family unit suffers as well as our lives, our work, our relationships, our marriage, and our children. It’s important for a mom to PRIORITIZE herself so she can then prioritize her children.
2. A lot of women believe that there is no way out of this constant struggle of mommy burnout. Most of the time, women just need permission to say “no.”
A therapist can teach you effective ways to say no and establish boundaries that protect your family and focus on your FAMILY VALUES. It’s important for mothers to realize that it is okay to say no to social invitations or extra-curricular activities that do not bring your family JOY.
Determining your core values and prioritizing them is key. Setting up a schedule that promotes these values is important and can create less anxiety and in turn, mommy burnout. This may mean realizing that extra social support reinforcements are necessary such as a nanny or help from your mother-in-law or other family and friends. It's important to understand that parenting is not a “one size fits all” concept and realize what works for your family may look different than what works for others.
3. Prioritizing self-care is not selfish. It is necessary!
It is a crucial component to maintain your mood, your decision-making, and your overall approach to your day. It is also necessary for your health. Continual stress increases inflammation and cortisol levels that can lower your immune system and damage vessels over time.
A therapist can help you focus on SELF-CARE. Your therapist could help you identify what you need, what those needs look like for you personally, and help you to find ways to meet those needs on a daily basis.
4. Do you FIGHT, FLEE, or FREEZE in the face of stress?
A therapist can help you determine your stress triggers and better understand how you respond to stressful situations. Knowing this can help you recognize and prevent these types of situations as much as possible. Your therapist can teach you self-awareness and help you create positive coping mechanisms to manage your REACTION to STRESS.
5. Your therapist can help you CREATE A PLAN to treat mommy burnout. Here are some components that your therapist may discuss with you and help you implement:
Establishing a nutrition and sleep routine.
Identifying your stress style. This was addressed above.
Implementing coping mechanisms to be proactive with stress.
Compartilizing your life by creating life-work boundaries.
Finding positives in every situation. Stop the BLAME game.
Staying connected with other women. Find women who you can talk to, vent to, and laugh with. Women need other women.
Limiting social media usage. We’ve seen an increase in anxiety and depression associated with too much time being spent on social media for moms.
6. Is it burnout, depression, or anxiety?
Mommy burnout can have serious ramifications. However, it is not genetic and medication is not required to treat it. This is different from anxiety and depression which are psychiatric disorders that may require medication and therapy for healing. All three can have serious implications if left untreated. If you need help determining if you are experiencing mommy burnout, postpartum depression, and/or anxiety, please reach out to a mental health professional.
If you feel that you are struggling with “mommy burnout”, postpartum anxiety, and/ or depression, please reach out to me at 954.391.5305.
My office is open for online counseling via phone or video across the state of Florida and in-person at our beautiful Fort Lauderdale office. I look forward to talking with you soon and helping you become the best version of yourself!