By Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, author of Mommy Burnout: how to reclaim your life and raise healthier children in the process
It’s nearing the start of a new year and our minds are all filled with good intentions. Workout more- check. Eat healthier- check. Yell less at the kids- check. We all mean well but unless we understand how to actually fight stress- the old psychological saying goes, “when we stress we regress…"
And whether we like it or not, it’s true. When we are stressed out we default back into what we know and have practiced for years. We skip workouts, emotionally eat, and yell and snap at others when stressed. What ever it is for you- you probably know what your signs are but don’t really know how to fight it.
So, here are three tips for fighting chronic stress that can lead to burnout:
1. Learn how to say NO- setting boundaries is an issue that many people deal with over the course of a lifetime. We aren’t very good at admitting when our plates are full and therefore tend to overextend ourselves for fear of disappointing others. But, in order to accomplish your goals and set a good example for your kids you will need to become a better boundary setter. Practice things like saying no, or delaying your availability for a better time, and try only saying yes when it’s not only interesting to you but when you can do it without complaining! That will help as a god rule of thumb.
2. Learn how to ask for help- oftentimes we are not very good at asking for help. We think we can do it all and that if we ask for help or admit we can’t fully handle something that we are weak. The sooner you understand that asking for and receiving help is a sign of strength the sooner you will get out of the chronic stress and burnout wheel. You must learn to rely on others and accept that while your spouse may not do things exactly the way you would it’s still okay. As long as the dishes get done, the kids are put to sleep, and the laundry is clean we have to learn to let go of the need to be in control. This also applies to work situations too, learn to say yes to help more there as well to not only regain your sanity but also to be better at what you do while controlling overwhelming stress. Not asking for or receiving help wreaks havoc on our mind (anxiety) and body (higher blood pressure, weight gain, muscle tension).
3. Set mini-goals- I have noticed that people are most successful when they have a goal and then smaller more actional steps to achieve them. So- if your goal is to be healthier by way of diet and exercise set up goals that are incremental. You might replace snacking on chips with fruit. You might say that you will be in bed by 10:00 pm on weeknights. Instead of saying you are going to go to the gym 5 days a week when you currently go once a week first say you will start attending a class that you enjoy and at a time that works for your schedule. Next step would be to schedule it in like a meeting or volunteer job and stick to it. You get the point, break down each of your goals so you are successful with them, no matter how small they are. It is better to be successful at one goal than to not achieve several larger goals.
Burnout is chronic stress. A Stress in America report published that about 1:4 adults experience extreme stress. In order to tackle this very serious and all too often accepted condition of being, we have to commit to behavioral changes that can take thousands of repetitions to master. However, it is well worth the practice as managing stress will greatly improve your relationships, health and overall level of happiness. Happy New You!