I’m Putting a Stop to Running on Empty
Not too long ago I was scrolling through Facebook and came across an article about tired moms. Well, the exact wording was “Signs You’re Burnt Out as a Mom.” Normally I wouldn’t click on this type of article because we all know moms + tired = NO DUH! But this article caught my eye. Burnt out – were there really moms out there who felt that tired? I decided to click on it (if anything, out of sheer curiosity). As I skimmed through it, I could not help but notice that the signs of a burnt out mom seemed strikingly familiar. Here I was, reading an article, thinking surely it did not apply to me, horrified to find that it was spot on.
At first I was a little amused, but when I stopped to think about it, I realized how much truth it really held. Lately I had felt forgetful and tired and snippy. I even looked up the definition for “burnt out” and you know what it said?
Burnt out: to cause to fail, wear out, or become exhausted especially from overwork or overuse (Merriam-Webster)
It’s true. Picture this: each day you start with a full pitcher. Throughout the day you pour some into your children, significant other, job, and home. By the end of the day, there’s not much left. In fact, more often than not, there’s nothing left. You’re completely spent; emotionally and physically drained. Subtract some sleep and “me” time, and the next day you find yourself feeling a little less ready. Not much time passes before you feel you’re running on empty, scraping by, trying to make it to the end of the day.
Surely I cannot be the only mom who feels this way. But I want to know – why? Why do I have to feel this way? Why is it expected that every ounce of my energy be completely spent? Why do I wear my lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion as a badge of pride? Why do I feel like if I’m not running on empty I’m doing something wrong?
After taking a long hard look at myself, I decided to try a little experiment. With a few tweaks, I found there is a way to put a stop (or at least pump the breaks) to running on empty.
1. I prioritized my to-do list.
Here’s a rundown of how my to-do list usually works. I have a notepad on my desk at work. The beginning of each day, I list things to do. As the day progresses, I check things off my list and add more things to it. By the day’s end, I’ve added more to the list than what I have actually accomplished. Seriously. My to-do list ends with 10-15 extra tasks. Instead of leaving work feeling accomplished, I leave feeling overwhelmed by my unfinished list.
I decided to prioritize my to-do list by putting the top 3 tasks on my list. Those are the three things I have to accomplish by the end of the day. Then, I draw a line under those three tasks and label everything else “lagniappe” (a little something extra). Let me tell you how much better I feel, leaving work knowing that I accomplished my top three tasks. I know it sounds like a mental game (because that’s exactly what it is), but you know what? It works.
2. I spent time focusing on myself.
I think this is the hardest thing for any mom to do. I know when I’m running on empty, just trying to make it to the end of the day, the first thing to get dumped is anything involving myself. For example, when I was in graduate school, working full-time, with a newborn, I often would not even think about going to bed until past 11 pm. Gym? Forget about it. And my tired-all-the-time meals included coffee, coffee, and junk food. Did I mention coffee? It’s been over a year since I finished graduate school, but I’m still in the middle of my less sleep, more coffee cycle.
Recently I decided that, no matter what I’m doing, by 9:30 I should end my day and get myself to bed. It usually gives me enough time to mentally wind down and snag seven or so hours of sleep. Who knew mom also needs a bedtime? I’ve also worked toward making sure I spend some time in the morning eating a decent breakfast and time in the evening going to the gym. It might sound a little vain but getting my hair done and putting effort into how I look does wonders with making me feel human again.
3. I learned the power of saying “no thanks.”
I’m an introvert, and I’ll be the first to admit that sitting on my couch in my comfy clothes is my favorite way to recharge. A lot of times I feel like I need to overcompensate for my introverted ways by saying “yes!” to every event/occasion/thing. Lately, I ask myself “is this something you really want to attend/volunteer/go to?” before committing. If I really want to attend, I find it to be a lot less draining. Yes, I know this is the sort of thing that puts us introverts in the hot seat. People often think introverts try to find excuses to play hooky; however, I also feel there are instances when you need take time for yourself.
I haven’t completely stopped running on empty, but I’m working on it.
To the moms out there also running on empty, I see you. I know what it feels like to be completely drained and just want to get through the day. I’ve been there when you choose something for your family over something for yourself. I, too, have asked myself if I am doing enough, while simultaneously wondering when will it ever be enough. To the tired, burnt out moms running on empty I say: