5 Things Moms Can Do To Avoid Pandemic Burnout

Listen, I don’t care what any of the upbeat bloggers say, having kids during a pandemic is f*cking hard. Frankly, I’m in survival mode. I went from baking cookies and doing “fun” science experiments in March and part of April to hating my kitchen and anything involving crafts or corn starch. My snack drawer is the bane of my existence; it’s usually empty or doesn’t contain what one child wants at a particular time or whim. I mean, I thought I was part of the TV generation, having grown up in the 80s, but now? Sh*t. These kids will be the TV watching, YouTube subscribing, mug cake-microwaving, TikTok-making idiots of our future. Whoops! Let’s just get through it. Right?

But how? How are we supposed to get through it when we can’t get away from it? Between work, homeschooling, the endless task of making f*cking dinner, finding some alone time is as easy as finding a unicorn swimming in a pot of gold over the rainbow. Amiright??? So, how do I do it? I prioritize. MYSELF. MOI! ME! Yup! It feels selfish, but if I neglect my needs, I tend to get really whiny and pissed. Remember how they used to say, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others” as the plane was pushing back (God, I miss flying!)? You, mama, are no good to anybody else if you’re no good to yourself. So, embrace putting your damn oxygen mask on first. I’m not saying every day needs to be a spa day, but at the very least, drink some cucumber water and take some calming breaths. Here’s what you need to be doing to make sure you don’t burn out.

1. Make Time For The Things That Are Important To You

Like I said, prioritize yourself. I know you’re probably reading this right now thinking, that’s f*cking great, Deb, but there’s not enough time in the day, let alone time dedicated just for me. I know! I feel that way every day! But, I always make time for myself. Between writing, podcasting, Zoom calls, homeschooling, snack-making, lunch-making, dinner-making, I somehow find a way. I make sure to get a workout in or read an article I’ve been looking forward to, or do anything else that has the potential to put a smile on my face for at least 10 to 15 minutes. And sometimes that means getting up at the crack of dawn, but it’s worth it. And, once you get used to it, it’s not that bad.

2. Have Sex

Remember that you actually love your significant other. Remember that you chose to spend the rest of your life with this person. Remember that you have a partner and that even though your kids need you (all the f*cking time), getting some QT with your partner is just as important as taking time for yourself. Yes, I know that we’re 100% in competition over who is doing more work (and of course we are), but sex feels good, for both of you! And, it’s a great reminder that no matter how hard things are right now, you’re not alone. No S.O.? No problem! Quality time with your hand or personal massager—seriously. You’ll release those same endorphins and help you let go of the stress. 

3. Work Out

Not for a damn six-pack or a beach bod, but because it’s another one of those things that just feels good. It’s kind of like sex… You know how sometimes you don’t feel like doing it, but then about a minute into it, you’re reminded how much you love it and how great it feels? It’s the same thing with working out. I mean it! No time? That’s bullsh*t. See number 1. We make time for the things that are important to us. And especially now, during the pandemic, there are a ridiculous number of workout apps that range in level and time. Make it a habit, a non-negotiable part of your day (like all of those annoying Zoom calls).

4. Two Words: Play Date

Schedule weekly play dates—for you, not for your kids! Obviously, I’m talking about Zoom play dates considering we’re in the midst of a pandemic, but a  Zoom cocktail is a pretty incredible mood-booster. I know that we’re all pretty Zoomed out, but it’s different when you have a cocktail in your hand, some chips (or cheese or cookies or cake) nearby, and the kids are asleep. Catching up with a friend (even over a screen) can be powerful, and allow for those happy hormones (dopamine) to release. 

5. Set F*cking Boundaries

We are so used to being “on” and available that we don’t have any idea how the hell to turn “off”. It’s especially bad now that we aren’t leaving our houses as frequently. We used to be out and about, busy doing errands, etc., which would oftentimes excuse us from instantly answering a text or email. But now that we’re home 24/7, we feel as though we don’t have a reason to be “off” because people know we have nowhere to be. Well, you do have a reason. It’s called self-care. And, it’s okay to be home and unavailable. It’s okay to not be accessible all the time. So, walk away from your phone. Walk away from the urge to respond immediately. Just walk away, and come back when you’ve had a change to regroup. Permission granted.

More than anything else, you are not alone. There are millions of moms (and dads, but we’re not talking about them now) struggling through how to raise our kids in a pandemic. It’s not easy. And it feels almost unbelievable that this is our reality. But it is. And, one way or another, we have to make the best of it. So, start with YOU! Because YOU are important. You are worth it. And, your kids need you to be their pillar of strength. So, get after it! 

Images: 4dgraphic / Unsplash

Is Your Work-Life Balance Making You Sick?

Late 20s culture is many things: your friends all getting married when you can’t even get a second date, your idea of cooking beginning and ending with boiling water to make pasta, and wondering at what age you officially have to start making your own doctors appointments. But probably the biggest aspect of late 20s culture is being stressed. Stressed about dating, stressed about work, stressed about the fact that our planet might be beyond repair and we may all die very soon in the real-life incarnation of 28 Days Later. And it’s no wonder we’re all stressed about work: college tuition has more than doubled since the 1980s, leaving many millennials saddled with debt ($17,126 per graduate who took out loans) that nearly half say wasn’t worth it. On top of that, millennials are underemployed, comprising 52% of hourly low-wage employees (yet about 61% attended college). More than half of millennials have a side hustle. Given all that information, it’s safe to say that we as a generation spend a lot of time thinking (worrying) about employment and money. So it should be no surprised that “burnout”, a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress, is not only an official term, but now an actual medical condition, according to the World Health Organization.

Late 20s culture is calling yourself an alcoholic who will never find love, but getting low-key offended when people tag you in memes about binge drinking and being alone forever

— sarafcarter (@sarafcarter) May 9, 2019


Do you feel that? That’s probably a weight getting lifted off your shoulders now that there’s an actual term for the crushing pressure you’ve been feeling for years. Or maybe that’s just me.

So, first of all, the fact that the WHO classified burnout as a real medical condition is a pretty big deal. Many look to the WHO for guidance, and since they included burnout in their latest handbook for recognized medical conditions (called the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health), it gives legitimacy to people who experience burnout. Think of it this way: the next time I cry to my dad about being overworked at my job (when really I’m just having a bad Adderall comedown), and he tells me that I need to do something to manage my stress, I can be like, “look, I have an actual medical condition and it’s not just stress”.

 

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A vicious cycle.

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In other words, if you are actually experiencing burn-out, it’s important that the actual condition is recognized by the WHO so people don’t dismiss you as just being “stressed” or “tired” or “on your period”. Because, first of all, burnout only refers to the concept in the occupational context, so like, going on too many dates and being tired of searching for a romantic partner doesn’t qualify as burnout in the medical sense. It also has three qualifications to meet the definition:

1) Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion,

2) Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, or

3) Reduced professional efficacy

Cool, so I am like, 99% positive that I suffer from burnout right now. Or at least, that I have definitely suffered from it in the past (I go through those symptoms in waves). So the question is: What do I (or you, since you are reading this article) do about it?

In short, nothing really, right now. In theory, you could go to the doctor and get diagnosed with burnout (ruling out other similarly manifesting conditions, such as adjustment disorder, anxiety, or depression, The Cut notes). But then what? Can I use that to request extended time off, like would it qualify under short-term disability coverage? Can I get a Xanax prescription for it? (Kidding.)

Of course, burnout being classified as a medical condition by the WHO is a good thing, especially since, as the last two symptoms imply, it is bad for employers as well as employees. That might be the only way to get employers to actually care—to make it clear that overworking their employees can affect their own bottom line. It remains to be seen just what the impact will be of burnout being recognized as a medical condition, but, much like Instagram removing like counts, it’s better than nothing, and fixing our overly demanding corporate culture has to start somewhere.

Do you ever put a bullshit task on your to-do list just so you can feel like you accomplished something? Like “empty out trash folder” is not an accomplishment but it’s where I’m at today

— Betches (@betchesluvthis) March 15, 2019


Images: sarafcarter, betchesluvthis / Twitter; whenshappyhr / Instagram