This year was one with many changes. We moved cities, I started work after a break, my husband started a new job, and we had to change our nannies thrice. Managing work and my daughter without consistent and reliable help in the first eight months of the year was very, very challenging and took a toll on my mental health.
I started feeling burnt out and couldn't manage my different roles. My husband and I have been on the parenting journey together, and when I cannot contribute, he has always stepped up. I could not cope with my responsibilities on the work front and had to take frequent leave. Fortunately, I have a flexible work environment, and my clients understand my challenges and are supportive.
Until October, it was somehow stitching it all together to scrape through each day. By the end of the year, the burnout and fatigue affected my physical health as well. It was when I decided to take a “wellness break” until the end of the year to recoup and rest.
My main goal during this break was to improve my physical and mental health. I signed up for personal training, dance, dietician, and yoga. However, the burnout continued, and I was physically exhausted and resting apart from doing yoga and therapy. When I regained my energy, I started walking and getting into a routine.
During my wellness break, there is also no complete break from parenting as that is not practical and possible. I put a lot of expectations and pressure on myself regarding parenting and get overwhelmed in the process. Consequently, there is no me time or self-care.
As I work from home, working without distractions is impossible once my daughter returns from her daycare.
Therapy and yoga are helping me stay in the present and giving me many coping mechanisms to deal with my day-to-day challenges. However, being a toddler's mother, each day is different and throws different curve balls at you.
Managing work and parenting a toddler is not easy, and I sometimes feel I should take a step back from work and only focus on parenting. But then I know that I will not be happy with the decision. I have always liked to be financially independent and intellectually challenged. Therefore, a complete break from work may not work for me.
As I wrap up my break, I am thinking of ways to avoid burnout again. I learned through therapy that there are different forms of rest, and each of these is critical for your health (both physical and mental). These are physical rest, social rest, creative rest, mindfulness, and gratitude journal.
Physical rest, as the name suggests, is giving your body rest by good sleep hygiene and nutrition. Social rest is interacting with your friends and family; creative rest is expressing your creativity through writing, coloring, dancing, or any form of creative expression. Mindfulness includes mindful meditation and doing your activities, staying in the present, and in a mindful manner. Finally, it is maintaining a gratitude journal and writing three to five things you are grateful for.
In addition, physical exercise (preferably walking) and sunlight are necessary to maintain your mental health and avoid burnout.
In the last two weeks of my break, I am slowly trying to incorporate these in my days. One may feel it is challenging to include all these rests in your day, but I think with discipline and determination, it should be doable.
Building these elements into my routine and parenting is very challenging. But planning to slowly incorporate it and take it one day at a time.
I am unsure if I can avoid another burnout entirely, but at the least, I can ensure its impact can be cushioned.