Burnout is a nasty thing. I can always tell when I’m getting there by my level of overreaction to minor things. If I feel like a complete failure after seeing a pile of dishes in the sink and it makes me want to get in the car and stuff myself with ice-cream until go into a hyperglycemia-induced coma so someone can do the housework for me while I’m in the hospital , it’s time to take things down a notch. Burnout has a way of spiraling into depression, so I’ve been trying to get more proactive about this self-care thing. And it’s hard. Juggling multiple priorities is not my strong suit, so I tend to put basic things like sleep on the back burner. Here’s a few things I’ve been working on. A lot of basic stuff, but surprisingly easy to forget about.
Sleep. This is a tough one. There seems to be an inverse relationship between Frodo’s wakefulness and my own.
We have a system in place. When I’m getting all burnt out on lack of sleep, Strider takes over while I rest. When it’s time for Elanor to nurse, he just brings her in, puts her beside me, and takes her when she’s finished. This is also one of many areas where it helps to ignore the experts. If Frodo is having a restless night and wants to sleep with us, then that’s where he’s sleeping, and Weissbluth, Ferber, et. al can stuff it.
Of course, even when they do sleep like rocks, there’s that temptation to do stuff. But I’m (very, very) slowly realizing that sacrificing too much sleep to get stuff done just isn’t worth it. For me, sleep can mean the difference between “what a beautiful morning, life is fanfreakingtastic!” and “what’s the point of all this we’re probably all going to die in a flu pandemic ten years from now if I die I hope I get bitten by one of those tsetse flies and get sleeping sickness.”
Eat (mostly) healthy food. This is kind of a simple one, but it makes such a huge difference. I’m trying to be diligent about making sure I get plenty of iron and protein for energy and B vitamins and Omega-3 for the mood boost. I take a B-12 and Omega-3 supplement and so far I think it’s helping. But nothing beats ice-cream for making aspermama happy.
Let go and enjoy the moment. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just forget about everything and be silly with the kids and Strider. Works. Every. Time.
Create a safe space. I love my family more than anything in the world. But when I get that frazzled feeling, sometimes the best thing to do is get away from everyone for ten minutes. Sometimes that might mean a bath in the dark, or going for a walk, or sitting on the porch, even just sneaking off to the closet for a candy fix. When I can’t physically leave the room, I might mentally escape by picking up a book or staring at something shiny. This is crucial when I feel I’m about to blow my lid, and it works.
Protect that “me” time. This is a big one for me. Stimulating my brain and doing things with my hands are as big of a need for me as sleep and eating. Unless there’s something that absolutely needs to be done, I set aside some me time every day, either when they nap at the same time or, since that rarely happens, in the evening after they’re in bed. Sometimes I feel a bit of guilt over it, but I try to think of it as my lunch break. The longer we work without a break, the less productive we get.
Limit Internet. This one is a little ironic since I’m sitting on the internet typing this in a blog. And I’m not going to pretend I’ve got this one figured out yet. But I’ve realized how quickly it can get away on me. It can steal my focus away from things that are far more important than what some troll said in a comment at HuffPo. It is the biggest time-suck ever invented even if those cat videos are adorable. It sends my anxiety over the top. One minute I’m googling “strange spot on toddler”, half-an-hour later I’m freaking out over his rare, dangerous skin condition. My nerves just don’t need that crazy roller-coaster. My goal is to keep certain times reserved for living life and other times for writing about it on the internet. And arguing with trolls in my head.
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