Burnout in mothers: When the superpowers run out

18. July 2019

Being a mother has its challenges. It is a task that every woman must first get used to. After the birth of a child, life is upside down. Even if the environment is supportive to the best of its ability and the general conditions are right, motherhood is an enormous stress test. If you then have to return to work after parental leave, the load can sometimes grow to unimaginable proportions. And what about the household chores? That doesn’t take care of itself! To start with, a little stress doesn’t do us any harm, but rather drives us to peak performance.

Stress is a bit like our beloved chocolate: in moderation it’s perfectly fine, but by the kilo it’s bad for our health. If the stress load in the role of mother is constantly too high over a longer period of time, this can lead to burnout in mothers.

Burnout as a Mother – When the Superpowers Run Out

To call mothers superheroes is hardly an understatement. (As elegantly as possible), they manage a small business called family while also being a telephone operator, chauffeur, counselor, moderator, mediator, lawyer, cook, decorator and much more. Not to mention: Many mothers also continue to practice their previous profession after parental leave. Often with a reduced number of hours, but the time gained in this way can rarely be described as free time.

High demands on the role of mother We would now like to introduce you to two figures that are up to mischief in many people’s minds. Almost no one is immune to them, but mothers have an even higher risk of being pushed and shoved internally by these two pests. We present:

The inner driver

Our inner driver keeps us on our toes. She can really spoil our every break with battle cries like:

“Be fast!”“, “Be perfect!”, “Be strong!”, “Be popular!”, “Put in the effort!”, “Look good!”


Sometimes she is useful and we need her motivational shouts. But often she also exaggerates and makes us no longer even recognize when we actually need rest periods. By the way, you can find more about the inner driver in Transactional Analysis (form of psychotherapy).

The inner critic

We do our best and do a very good job. But the inner critic is never satisfied and scolds:

“You didn’t do that well!”, “Anna can do that much better than you!”, “You think that’s enough now?”

Listen to yourself more closely: What are the standard sayings of your inner critic? With what she hits your personal sore spot?

Those inner voices can be quite annoying, right? If they are accompanied by very high expectations of yourself and your role as a mother, the result is a highly explosive mixture and the risk of mom burnout increases.

Mental Load: Moms have it all in their heads

Another interesting phenomenon is mental load. Mothers’ heads are often cluttered. The family calendar is stored there, the opening hours of the daycare center, hairdresser and bike store, the pants size of the little ones, the shopping list from the day before yesterday, the broken light bulb in the bathroom, the To Do list at work… How can you still concentrate on the present moment and relax?

How to recognize the signs of burnout in mothers

If the stress is too great, it makes itself felt in the body and mind. The batteries no longer recharge, even with longer breaks, and the state of exhaustion becomes chronic. The symptoms of burnout vary from mother to mother, but typical patterns can be identified:

  • Exhaustion, inner emptiness and dejection
  • Irritability, nervousness and restlessness
  • Fits of rage and tearfulness
  • Headaches, stomach and intestinal problems, circulation problems
  • Libido loss

The term burnout is mainly known from the world of work and we spontaneously tend to think of stressed top managers, teachers or career women. For the diagnosis, since 2019, it is also necessary that the disease results from too much stress in the work context. Perhaps some still have a hard time thinking of being a mother as work (even the mothers themselves). However, it is a full-time job and therefore the term burnout in mothers is also applicable in this context. Feel free to read more about burnout here.

Burnout Prevention for Mothers

The workload for mothers is high and cannot be reduced at will. Some obligations must be met and children need education, care and love. However, to prevent “mental burnout”, there are some tips & tricks that you can take to heart if you experience burnout as a mother:

  • Know your own limits and perceive early warning symptoms of stress
  • Train mindfulness for how you feel.
  • Learn to say no: No one has to do everything he or she is told to do!
  • Know the inner driver and inner critic and do not follow them blindly.
  • To ask for help and accept help.
  • Allow yourself weakness and vulnerability.
  • To set aside time for oneself.
  • Schedule time to do nothing.

Already too late? The treatment of mom burnout

If the stress load has already led to burnout, it needs professional help. Because alone you can hardly free yourself from the spiral of stress and exhaustion. Just admitting that help is needed is an insane achievement and the first step in the right direction. For although many mothers think they are the only ones who collapse under the weight of multiple stresses as a mother, this is not the case. Many clinics therefore offer special programs for burnout in mothers, for example as part of a mother-child cure or during a stay in a psychosomatic clinic.

Allow yourself something

Perhaps you recognized yourself reading this article and noticed mom burnout in yourself. Maybe you are a superhero mom whose inner driver and inner critic, however, rumble quite loudly in your head?

Then we have an idea for you: You can take the wind out of the sails of the inner driver and the inner critic by replacing them as often as possible with the inner enabler. This inner enabler has a warm, soft voice and allows us time and again to pause, calm down, and make peace with ourselves and the situation. Because even superheroines need to catch their breath now and then!

References

(1) Wittchen, H. U., & Hoyer, J. (2006). Clinical psychology & psychotherapy (Vol. 1131). Heidelberg: Springer

(2) Deutsche Gesellschaft Zwangserkrankungen e.V. (n.d.) http://www.zwaenge.de/diagnose/frameset_diagnose.htm Accessed on: 19.07.2019

Categories: Burnout Therapy

Friederike Reuver
Autor:in Friederike Reuver
"Die LIMES Schlosskliniken haben sich auf die Behandlung von psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen spezialisiert. Mit Hilfe des Blogs möchten wir als Klinikgruppe die verschiedenen psychischen Erkrankungen näher beleuchten und verschiedene Therapien sowie aktuelle Themen vorstellen."

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