Are you approaching burnout? (I was!)

Is the first thought you have when you wake up in the morning “oh no, here we go again”?

You rapidly brush that from your mind as all the stuff you have to do takes over. There are kids to feed and dress, clients to keep happy, events to organise, a car to get serviced, groceries to buy, a never ending to-do list. And it’ll be the same story tomorrow. And the day after that too…

Are you tired, irritable, snappy? Does it all seem too much? Can you even remember the last time you really had fun? I mean proper, full-on fun – when you laughed so much you couldn’t stop?

Shattered, even if you have had a good night’s sleep?

That’s where I was a few weeks ago.

The worst thing of all is that I was so tired and stressed out I couldn’t face doing anything about it! On impulse, I happened to download Stress Proof Your Life by Elisabeth Wilson. The reviews said it had lots of really practical stress-busting tips you could do right now, so that didn’t seem like too much work. (The fact the Kindle version was free might have clinched the deal, too!)

It’s a great book, well worth checking out. But it one questionnaire in it told me if I didn’t sort myself out soon, I’d be in the doctor’s surgery. Scary.

It was time for action, and I thought I’d tell you about what I did because I bet I’m not the only mum approaching burnout.

I picked two things that I thought would make the biggest difference to me and that I could actually face doing:

1. Give yourself a break

It wasn’t practical for us to head off on holiday, but there are lots more ways you can give yourself a break on the spot.

I decided I had to take some pressure off myself. I gave myself permission to post less often than my 3-times-a-week routine here at Business Plus Baby, I scheduled a few weeks of posts upfront and I took a little time off the internet. That helped to give me some distance from everything I was doing and I was able to see my projects objectively. I had to drop a couple of projects because, when I was really honest with myself, I could see I didn’t have the time to do them justice.

The easiest thing in the world, if you’re running an internet business, is to work your butt off but make very little money. It takes focus, creativity and strategy to avoid this trap and that’s nigh-on impossible if you’re burned out.

There are other ways of giving yourself a break – allowing the family to eat convenience food for a few days (honestly, it won’t hurt them just for a few days…), going to bed really early for a week, stepping away from the computer and reading a good book. It doesn’t have to mean spending money, getting childcare or even leaving the house (although those are all good too).

It’s about changing your state of mind rather than your location!

Is it time you gave yourself a break too?

2. Clear some space

Groan….I don’t have time for that!

Well actually, step 1 helped me make some time at last.

In our house we had a monumental declutter – we set aside a week and got rid of years-worth of accumulated junk. It was the right thing for us, but but you don’t have to do it all at once.

Declutter what’s stressing you out the most. If it’s your wardrobe, tackle that. If it’s your inbox, start there. Once you’ve built up some momentum it’s easy to keep going and chuck out more junk.

One of the the things I needed to declutter was my diet. I got into bad eating habits during my first pregnancy (morning sickness so bad that I had to eat anything that would stay down) – four years and 2 babies later it was time to get back on track. Finally, I was going stop using chocolate to keep me going when I felt tired and fed up because that was getting to be at least twice a day!

As part of the massive declutter I threw out the last of my old work clothes. They were four years old, dusty and at least a dress size too small. It hurt because I was saying goodbye to a period in my life that has well and truly gone, the days when earning a living didn’t mean working around two small people. The days before I was carrying baby weight….but I’m hoping the healthy eating will fix that.

If this seems like a ton more work, well it isn’t really. If you’ve freed up a little time, you can do it instead of your normal to-do list, rather than as well as your to-do list.

And there’s a magic to decluttering: you feel like you’re regaining control, letting go, starting afresh.

Getting rid of the old makes space for the new to come in.

I’m feeling much better and thinking more clearly now. The challenge from now on is to make sure I don’t end up heading towards burnout again. Oh and finding new homes for all the stuff we actually decided to keep!

Please make me feel better and let me know I’m not alone in getting crispy around the edges (thanks to Nicki Cawood of Curly and Candid for that phrase – sums it up perfectly).

Creative Commons License photo credit: jamestruepenny



14 Replies to “Are you approaching burnout? (I was!)”

  1. Good post – I bet lots of people feel the same. I did end up in the doctors – just going along for some skin cream (so I thought) but had a real good talking to by the doctor who made me realise I couldn’t just expect to keep slapping cream on to get rid of a skin complaint when the underlying cause was brought on by stress.

    I had been just getting on with things for so long it didn’t even occur to me there was another way. I felt driven to work every minute my daughter was at preschool (3 mornings) and son at school as this was the only time I had to work. I’d race home, slap some washing on, give a whistle stop clean round and crack on. Now one morning I don’t even come back in the house after I’ve done the drop off. We’re lucky enough to live near the coast so I take myself off to the beach for a walk/jog for 40 minutes. I feel so much better for it.

    One evening a week I also go to Yoga. I had to realise that with your own business you will never ‘finish’ your tasks and taking 40 mins out here and there is only going to help you – give you more energy, be better for your well being and a fresh approach when you come back to work!

    Phew – got that one off my chest!

    1. It’s SO tempting to work every ‘free’ second you’ve got, isn’t it? I also fell into the trap of just getting on with things and thinking there wasn’t any other way. In fact it’s still hard for me to resist the temptation to fill all my child-free time with work. I used to do yoga before my kids were born – maybe it’s time I went back to it?

  2. I think everyone one of us who has just about survived the school holidays can relate to this post, Helen! Six weeks of even more stress, more childcare worries, more mess and the same amount of work to do.
    “Summer Holidays” – pah!

    1. Agree! And then the run up to Christmas starts – the busiest time in family life, but also in business terms for many mums. Let’s hope we can all give ourselves a break sometimes!

  3. A great post and really important that we listen! Thank you for saving us time by reading the book for us! I’ve not been full-on since about April when I had lots of hassles around a house move. At first I felt incredibly guilty but I’ve had a great rest (well Ive been moving, painting, decorating etc but you know what I mean) and I’m raring to go from next week. I think we expect too much of ourselves sometimes and try to be all things to all.

  4. Yes. I’ve been reading that book as well, and having a couple of “DUH!” moments. They tend to be along the lines of – I used to do that, why have I stopped?

    Back to school on Monday for us teachers, and I’m hoping the brand new start I’ve made will continue!

    1. Oops, sorry it’s taken me a while to reply, Sarah! I know what you mean, so many of my stress-prevention techniques have disappeared since I had kids. Right when I need them most, too. I hope the new term is going well!

  5. Thanks Libby, yes we do have really high expectations of ourselves. It’s no wonder we struggle, really. There are only 24 hours in a day and there’s only so much you can cram in to them. Glad you’re raring to go now!

  6. I had a really scary couple of months last year where I felt totally overwhelmed by all the different parts of my life and all the ‘hats’ I had to wear – mum, partner, boss etc. It is hard giving yourself permission to take back time for yourself, but once you do it its so much better for everyone around you as well as you! Great post!

    1. Thanks Rachel! The more I read/hear, the more I think all of us business mums sail close to burnout every now and then. I guess the trick is to recognise it and do something early enough.

  7. This is me to a tee! I need to take stock and sort things out. I will have to invest in the book you mentioned and take it from there. Thanks for this post.

  8. Many business mums will identify with so much of what you’ve mentioned Helen. I have a history of doing to much and not knowing when to say no – just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it! It’s about learning when to slow down, take a step back and realise that you feel overwhelmed, and that you can do something about it!
    I hope many more women read this post and take it on board. Thank for sharing it!

  9. Great post Helen. I need to take a step back from my on-line life, and declutter my email in-box. I have unrealistic ‘to do’ lists but I just can’t help myself! I read posts about taking some ‘me’ time and nod along in agreement but then don’t actually do it!

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