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Single mom burnout is a real struggle.
You’re trying to do all the things — take care of kids, pay the bills, handle the never-ending laundry.
Before you know it, you’re mentally, emotionally and physically drained.
You know that all it’s going to take is one.more.thing. and you’re going to end up on “Snapped”.
I know the feeling.
On more than one occasion, I’ve asked myself how it’s possible to be so tired and still be alive. (And by the way, I haven’t figured it out yet.)
But the good news is, there are things you can do to avoid getting burned out.
What Single Mom Burnout Looks Like
Burnout is defined as a “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”.
Or as I like to call it, basically every day of my life.
Look, if you’re a single parent, overwork and stress are the norms a lot of the time.
Because it’s hard trying to be a parent and have a career and a social life when you’re the only adult around. It’s super easy to feel overwhelmed.
I mean, there have been days when I’ve literally cried after looking at my to-do list.
Trying to run a business and homeschool and get my kids to soccer practice and art class and co-op and do the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry–it’s a lot for anyone to handle.
When there’s not another adult you can tag in to take your place, the stress starts to pile up.
Single mom burnout can show its ugly head in different ways.
If you’re not sure what it looks like, here are some ways to tell if burnout is setting in.
7 Clues That You’re a Burned-Out Mom
1. You’re exhausted.
This one is a major giveaway that you’re burned out.
You fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow, get a good night’s sleep but still wake up exhausted.
It feels like you’re always in a fog and all you can think about is when you can go back to bed.
That’s burnout. It’s your body and mind trying to keep up as you grind your way through each day.
2. Sleeping is a struggle.
The flip side of the burnout coin is having trouble falling or staying asleep.
You go to bed feeling completely worn out but then your brain clicks on and starts going a mile a minute.
You start thinking about all the things you have to do the next day, or all the things you didn’t get done today and boom–you’re wide awake.
Your dreams can also be a clue that you’re over-stressed.
Whenever I’m getting close to burnout, I have several recurring stress dreams. I’ve had these dreams at different times in my life and every time I have one, I know it’s because I’m doing too much.
3. Everything sets you off.
Not getting enough sleep makes you grouchy. Even when you’re getting enough sleep, you can still feel like a major grump if you’re suffering from burnout-driven exhaustion.
This is one of the suckiest parts of single mom burnout.
You can easily find yourself snapping at everyone around you, kids included, and you don’t mean to do it.
But when you’re constantly tired, your fuse runs short and you end up feeling annoyed, irritated and frustrated.
4. You’re having a hard time getting anything done.
Burnout is a guaranteed productivity killer.
It’s hard to nail everything you’re supposed to do at work and home when you can barely focus. You end up doing just the bare minimum to take care of yourself and the kids.
Some days, you might have a hard time even doing that.
Meanwhile, the chores start piling up around the house, your performance at work or in your business takes a huge nosedive and you feel more stressed than ever.
And you have zero mental motivation to do anything about it.
5. You have no interest in anything (besides taking a nap).
One of the side effects of single mom burnout is that self-care ends up on the back-burner.
You don’t have time to pursue hobbies anymore and even if you do, it just doesn’t interest you.
One thing I want to say here: lack of interest in things you used to enjoy is also a sign of depression.
Single mom burnout and depression are two totally different things. If you’re not sure whether you’re burned out or depressed, consider talking to a counselor or therapist who can help you figure out exactly what’s going on.
6. You feel run down.
Too much stress can make you sick, literally.
A study from Michigan State University suggests a link between higher stress levels and health issues like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and lupus.
I mean, sign me up, right?
Yeah, no thanks.
If you seem to get headaches more often, you’ve got a cold you can’t shake or everything just hurts, that could be your body’s way of telling you you’re burned out.
7. You beat yourself up mentally for not being a perfect mom.
Single mom guilt. I’ve had it and chances are, you’ve had it too at some point.
It’s that nagging voice in your head that tells you you’re doing a terrible job raising your kids.
And by the way, your house really could be cleaner and oh my god, you’re not really going to feed your kids frozen chicken nuggets, are you?
That’s the voice of mom guilt. And if it seems to be getting louder and meaner, that’s a sure sign that burnout is at work.
How to Conquer Single Mom Burnout for Good
Being a burned-out, stressed mom is no fun.
Not for you and definitely not for your kids. But you don’t have to stay that way.
Ready to beat single mom burnout? Here’s how.
1. Know your stress triggers.
The first step in fighting burnout is knowing what’s behind it.
Early on in my single mom journey, for example, my biggest stressor was money. I was always worried about how much I was going to be able to pay the bills.
These days, my stress is usually triggered when I’m not able to manage my time effectively. There are only so many hours in the day and I want to make the most of every one of them.
Think about what stresses you the most from day-to-day.
It could be your money, your job, your ex. Grab a notebook and write it all down, every big (or small) thing that puts you on edge.
Now, brainstorm some possible solutions for making them less overwhelming.
You may not be able to make a huge transformation right away, but taking even one small step could cut down on stress.
2. Nail your routine.
Routines. Kids love them, right? Routines are comforting because they make you feel more in control.
They’re not just for kids either. When you’re burned out, having a routine cuts through the chaos.
I have a morning routine that I follow that helps me get ready for my day.
It seems like I get so much more done on the days when I stick to it, compared to the days that I don’t.
If you don’t have a morning routine or a bedtime ritual, start with those first.
It’s important to bookend your days with a plan. Then, figure out a schedule for the hours in-between so you have a road map to follow.
3. Pencil in “you” time.
This is a real struggle for me.
My kids are with me 24/7 because I work from home and we homeschool. Except for soccer practice and our once a month art class, we’re always together.
But alone time is something every single mama has to prioritize if they want to avoid burnout.
You can’t take care of everyone and everything else without taking care of you first.
If you think you can’t find any time for self-care, start small. Try for 30 minutes a week at least.
If you can set aside more time, great. But commit to taking that time every week to focus on yourself.
4. Make sleep a priority.
Some people daydream about their celebrity crushes. I daydream about crawling in bed and sleeping for 12 hours straight.
If you’re suffering from single mom burnout exhaustion, you’ve got to find a way to get the rest you need.
That might mean going to bed earlier, getting up later or snagging a 20-minute nap in the afternoon.
The quality of your sleep matters too.
Sleeping 8 hours sounds great unless you’re sleeping on a worn-out mattress or trying to do it with a kid jabbing their elbows into your sides. (Been there, done that.)
If you can’t increase your sleep time, make it as comfortable as possible.
Get a new mattress or a new pillow. Invest in some quality sheets. Give your kid the boot to their bed or a pallet on the floor if you co-sleep.
Do whatever you have to do, but make every minute of sleep you get count.
5. Stop multitasking.
Doing 10 things at once might make you feel more productive but the bottom line? Multitasking doesn’t work.
Not only does multitasking make you less effective, but it also makes you less attentive and less mindful of what you’re doing.
If you’re already burned out, realizing that you’re not really getting anything done and you’re zoned out isn’t going to help.
Instead of multitasking, work on one thing at a time and don’t stress about everything else on your to-do list.
6. Simplify your schedule.
Schedule overload is a fast track to burnout. It’s hard to feel energized when every day is packed with things to do.
Think about where your time goes every day, and what your kids are doing.
Look for activities that add to everyone’s stress that you could cut out.
Here’s a simple rule for scheduling if you want to avoid single mom burnout: less is more.
When you have fewer things to do or fewer places to go, you have more time to slow down.
7. Say no when you need to.
I’m super-guilty of being a yes woman.
I agree to do things when what I really want is to nope on out of the situation. It doesn’t do squat for my stress levels and it’s something I’m working on changing.
If you say yes when you mean no, ask yourself why.
Is it because you feel guilty if you say no? Or you’re worried about disappointing someone?
Those are valid thoughts mama but you have to think about what the cost is to yourself when you say yes to everything.
If it just makes you feel more stressed and frazzled, permit yourself to say no, at least once in a while.
8. Plan ahead.
It’s hard to do things when you’re burned out.
Your brain gets all fuzzy and you just can’t think straight. Or worse, you start forgetting things.
Mom brain is real and it gets worse when you’re approaching burnout level. Some simple planning can help you stay on track, especially if you’re already feeling stressed.
Prep all your meals for the week so you’re not scrambling to make dinner every night.
Pick out your clothes for the next day the night before and have your kids do the same to cut down on the morning frenzy.
These are simple things but they can make a big difference in cutting down on stress.
9. Get moving.
One of my favorite cures for burnout is exercising.
I can take a walk or go for a bike ride and mentally unplug for a little while.
Joining a gym can be a great stress reliever but if it’s not in your budget, find a way to exercise at home. Commit to 10 minutes of yoga in the morning or 20 minutes on a treadmill in the afternoon.
Remember, you’re not aiming for a perfect beach body here.
Just a few minutes in your day to get your blood flowing and give yourself a mental break.
10. Find support.
Don’t think you have to do everything yourself. Or at least, don’t think you have to do it all alone.
If you’re drowning in stress, support is everything. What that support looks like is up to you.
You may need someone to watch your kids for an hour a week so you can get out of the house.
Or you may just need a safe place online where you can connect with and vent to other single moms going through the same struggles.
Whatever it is, and wherever it is, make finding your support tribe a priority.
What Are You Doing to Beat Single Mom Burnout?
Burnout can leave you worn out if you don’t know how to fight it.
These tips are meant to help you find solutions for dealing with the stress that goes along with being a single mama.
Now, over to you —
Do you have a personal experience with burnout to share? Or a great tip for managing stress as a single mom?
If so, be sure to tell me about it in the comments.
And remember to share this post with another mama who needs it if it helped you!