What does it mean to be emotionally burnt out?
Burnout is a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress. In many cases, burnout is related to one’s job. Burnout happens when you’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands. | Source
Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout. People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation. | Source
Stepmom burnout. It’s a thing. A real thing. A really dangerous thing.
We all know that burnout sucks, and the best way NOT to become burnt out is to be proactive. When I feel irritable, tired, or my patience wearing thin, I know it’s time to check myself before I wreck myself.
As in, have an outburst about a sock on the floor, that isn’t really about the sock on the floor, but no one knows what’s wrong so I look like a crazy person for freaking about a sock. Get me?
Keep reading for some of the ways I prevent stepmom burnout…
PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIGNS
If you tune inwards and check in with yourself on the regular, you’ll begin to see the patterns. Maybe you realize you haven’t done anything you enjoy recently, like journaling in the morning or going to a movie—in short: making time for yourself.
You could be snapping at your partner or step kids more often.
You might be more irritable than usual, and things that don’t normally bother you, like making dinner or cleaning up, start to feel like enormous burdens.
These small but important things can be signs that burnout is creeping its way in, so don’t write them off as nothing—pay attention when they happen.
Noticing the signs is the first step of prevention.
TAKE A STEP BACK
When I say “take a step back” I’m not saying, “not my kids, not my problem.” I’m asking myself—do I really need to insert myself in this issue or conversation? What will it add? Will it harm more than help?
Taking a step back is about letting your partner take the lead. When they begin disciplining your stepkids, instead of offering comments from the peanut gallery, just walk away.
The magic of this technique is that you get more alone time and less stress in your life. It’s a win-win.
You don’t need to announce these boundaries either. You can simply say, “Oh sorry I’m not available for that,” or “I’m not sure, go ask your mom/dad.”
Taking a step back doesn’t have to be a big event. You don’t need to hold a family meeting to tell everyone you’re done with the BS and you can’t handle it anymore…
Actually, I recommend you DO NOT go that route. You can privately and internally make the decision and then act on it. You don’t need anyone’s permission. They may not even notice.
DELEGATE + ASK FOR HELP
Stepmoms get caught up in the idea that we have to do it all. We feel like it’s all on us.
It’s not. This is a pressure we’ve put on ourselves or an expectation we’ve created by going all in. Often, as stepmoms we feel like we have something to prove.
But, then, we become the person packing lunches, waking up the kids, coordinating the schedules and monitoring screen time.
We become the ones carrying the mental load.
It becomes the expectation.
Is that what you want?
Think about it.
You’ll be surprised what happens when you simply ask for help.
Ask your stepkids to help you clean the house because you need extra hands.
Ask your partner in advance to plan dinner because you don’t have the mental capacity.
Remind your partner to coordinate the pick up and drop off with his ex.
Ask your friend / family member to pick up the kids from school one day.
What’s the worst that could happen if you ask for help?
If you don’t ask, they can’t say no.
Hint—When it comes to the kids and partner, kindly asking versus demanding with resentment will make a difference. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake. Don’t wait until you’re pissed off to make the request. It doesn’t go as well.
EASE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Sometimes our partners are afraid to jump in because we’ve told them we will handle it, or we don’t like the way they do things.
They’re scared they won’t do it right.
But, like Mary T. Kelly once said, are the dishes the hill you really want to die on?
Maybe your partner doesn’t make the bed the way you like it.
Is that going to matter in a year? A month? A week?
Maybe it’s not done the way you would have done it. But it’s done and it’s one thing off your “to do” list.
I know letting go of expectations is hard work. But if you can focus on the bigger picture, and not that the sheets aren’t tucked in perfectly, you’ll have more mental space for the things that matter.
EXAMINE THE TRIGGER
Sometimes when I think one thing is an issue (e.g. stepkids not cleaning up, or snow pants not coming back from their other house), it’s actually something else (e.g. your partner not backing you up) that I’m upset about.
Ask yourself “What is this REALLY about?”
“Is this about the snowpants or is this about the fact that I miss my partner and we haven’t been on the same page for months?”
“Is this about holiday schedule or do I resent the fact that child support seems to be going towards trips without the kids”
There is often an underlying stress contributing to it all.
Meditate for five minutes, or journal. Take some time to come down from reactionary mode. When you do, you’ll see that usually when you we are angry or triggered it has a deeper meaning.
Triggers have meaning—they usually mean a need is not being met or there is an unresolved wound. So figure out what that need is, and talk to your partner (or fellow stepmoms) so that it doesn’t come out at the kids.
Even though it sometimes feels that way, you don’t actually always have to be ON.
Seriously, you don’t.
You can go to bed before the kids do.
You can tap out after dinner.
You can put your phone on airplane mode.
You can spend the night binge watching Chicago Fire or reading a book.
Plan the girls night, book the yoga class, go do your thing.
Stepmoms often feel like they need to be on whenever it’s “their time with the kids”.
This isn’t true. In fact, it’s a big mistake.
You don’t need to be at everyone’s beck and call.
PRIORITIZE REST AND SLEEP
Another way I clock out is by simply getting in bed early.
If I’m feeling done with day, I honour that feeling and shut it down.
Sleep (and rest) are the best medicine.
Getting in bed early means extra sleep which means more patience and resilience the next day.
And if us stepparents are anything—it’s resilient!
So please, when you feel burnout coming on, or you’re in the trenches of stepmom stress, use these techniques to come back to yourself.
It’s not selfish; it’s generous, because it’s what is best for everyone. You know what they say, If stepmama ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy.
When you’re not at your best, your family doesn’t get your best.
That’s the intention that got you burnt out in the first place right?