Homeschool burnout is common at this time of year. February is the middle of the school year for most of us. And it’s when homeschooling can become a slog. The kids are whiny, distracted, and irritable. Mom is bored, tired, easily annoyed and often procrastinating. No one’s having fun, and many of us start wondering if we wouldn’t be better off putting the kids in school.
It’s homeschool burnout.
The symptoms of burnout are:
- feeling tired, listless and without energy frequently or most of the time
- having trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep at night, despite feeling tired
- not being able to concentrate on anything
- forgetting things like appointments, phone calls or even basics like showers or making dinner
- feeling like you’re always sick
- feeling detached or numb, not wanting to go out or talk to anyone, avoiding social interaction
- increased pessimism and negative self-talk
- getting easily upset, and overreacting at small annoyances
Burnout can be a serious thing, and if left too long, it can lead to depression, anxiety or physical stress-related disorders and diseases. And burnout doesn’t just go away, like a flu or a cold. Burnout requires you to make lifestyle changes.
What causes burnout?
Burnout happens when there’s a lot of work for little recognition. When there’s pressure to be perfect, and little support to do all the things. Or when there’s stress, long hours, and heavy consequences for mistakes.
And when you have no time to adjust, but you just slog on and on through the stress, work, and pressure without a break — that’s when you burn out.
Who is at risk of burnout?
Certain personality types may be more at risk than others, but anyone who has an enormous amount of activity, or stress, or combination of stress and busy-ness, is at risk of burning out.
We all know about the “workaholic” personality type. They’ll take on lots of projects, put in long hours working on those projects, and are proud of their “work ethic”, even putting work ahead of other priorities in life, such as family or friends. Obviously that level of intensity can easily lead to burnout.
But burnout can happen to anyone.
If you have a busy life and little opportunity for self-care, you’re at risk of burnout.
Moms work long hours, with few breaks. Moms do a lot of things with little recognition for what they do. They certainly don’t get paid for it. And there is a lot of pressure to be the perfect mom — and homeschooling can often increase that pressure. The stress of motherhood, often in isolation and without support, can be unbearable. And the consequences of making a mistake when you’re a mom can be dreadful!
How do you treat burnout symptoms?
Start with stopping
Burnout requires a lifestyle change, so the first step is to stop the current lifestyle. It’s ok to take a break, and if you’re experiencing burnout, it’s required. You don’t expect someone with pneumonia to continue training for a marathon. And you can’t expect yourself to continue in a frenzied lifestyle that’s giving you burnout symptoms.
So push pause. Take an early spring break in homeschooling. Do Daily Minimum Maintenance. Call Grandma and arrange for a sleepover or call a friend for a drop-off playdate for your kids. Take a break.
Next, nourish yourself.
When you start noticing that you have symptoms of burnout, it’s time to go back to the basics. Get more sleep, eat better, drink more water. Taking care of your health, and making sure your body has the right ingredients to recover is the first step of treating burnout.
So with your break, now’s when you can take a nap more often. In fact, have everyone take naps or have quiet time. Often mom isn’t the only one with burnout symptoms! That downtime can solve a lot of problems with whiny kids that squabble and talk back.
Grab your water bottles and remind everyone to drink up. Wintertime can be drier, so make sure you’re staying hydrated.(And if you live where it’s summer right now, well… hydration is even more important in the heat!) So pause reading right now, and go get a drink. I’ll wait…
Get a change of scenery.
Get outside for some fresh air every day. Even if you live where’s it’s freezing cold (like me), you can still go outside for a few minutes to walk around and catch your breath.
If the weather is so bad that you can’t go outside to walk around or play, then at least walk out to your vehicle and go someplace. Malls will let you walk for free. Many arenas will have free public skating times. And libraries are always free to hang out in.
A change of scenery will help shake everyone out of the doldrums. And the exercise will help bring you out of the irritable pessimism of burnout.
Do something fun.
Self-care means taking care of yourself. Seems obvious but sometimes we forget what it really means to practice self-care. And moms are so prone to feeling guilty over taking any time for ourselves.
But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own identity just because you’re a mom.
You may have forgotten what you most enjoy doing, but that’s ok. You can do things that are just for you anyway. Maybe it’s to leave the cleaning for one night and curl up with a good book. Or maybe it’s a long phone session to one of your best friends with a favorite beverage.
Try a fun group activity like a night of painting or crafting. Or a drop-in yoga class appeals to you.
Or maybe it’s indulging in a secret midnight snack where you don’t have to share. And binge watching your favorite show.
Whatever it is, do something fun, just for you. Practice that self-care, and make it a priority.
Change up the homeschooling methods
When you are on the edge of complete burnout, but you can’t stop homeschooling forever, consider changing things up a bit. Put away your regular books and crafts, and grab a unit study instead. Or sign up for an online course.
Take a month and focus on a different way of learning. The books and worksheets will still be there. The crafts and science projects will wait. And your kids will learn just as much — or more! — with a fresh perspective on things.
Try Black History Month, Chinese New Year or Special Holidays as a focus for a month. Learn about the history, culture or language of another place. It doesn’t have to be a huge project, but you can focus on a few activities every day.
Change up your routine
Burnout comes with checking out mentally and emotionally, and that can happen when routines get stale. So take some time out to really look at your routines and make changes.
Maybe you need to start a new family tradition in your daily routines. Or maybe you switch things around. We often will rearrange our household furniture to clean up and breathe new life into our homes. You can rearrange your family’s routines in much the same way. And the effects can be similar — breathing new life into your everyday habits.
Sometimes, you may need to seek help.
Burnout is more than just the winter blahs. And sometimes, you may need to get help for your symptoms. There’s no shame in going to your doctor because you’re struggling with your mental, emotional and/or physical health! You aren’t going to get a badge for just pushing through. So make that appointment and talk to your doctor. (And if they don’t listen well, get a
Medical treatments might vary from supplementing your diet with extra vitamins and minerals, to getting a prescription and an appointment with a therapist. You may also be suffering from undiagnosed infections or lingering illnesses. Or some of your symptoms might be early warning signs of something more serious. So go get checked out.
One winter, I came down with the flu, and it seemed to linger. I chalked up my never-ending fatigue to having a baby and ongoing flu symptoms, never thinking much of it. But a routine doctor’s appointment for one of my children ended up being something very different. My doctor checked me over, and diagnosed me with walking pneumonia — which explained the fatigue! With antibiotics and rest, I was able to recover a lot quicker than if I’d just tried to live with the feeling.
Burnout is no joke.
And you don’t have to put up with the symptoms of burnout. Yes motherhood is exhausting and homeschooling can feel overwhelming. But when the overwhelm and exhaustion start to impact your relationships and your health, it’s time to do something about it. Don’t wait for burnout to change your life. Change your lifestyle first, on your own terms. And beat burnout before it beats you.
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