I snapped a few weeks ago. Completely, lost-my-crap, snapped. The truth was, I was burned out.
This wasn’t just stress, this was a different level of desperation. Psychology differentiates between stress and burnout. I spend most of my days stressed and overwhelmed, which is likely what created my recent sorry state.
It was a Wednesday, and I won’t forget the shift. I went from panicky, racing around mode to shutting down. Suddenly, I not only had no desire to tend to my duties, I was rendered unable to do them. The needs themselves didn’t change, but Meredith had left the building. Caring for yet another sick child, making another grocery run, or managing the needs of a fussy insane dog had ceased registering on my radar because I had stopped working.
I was tired, sure. But my brain had also stopped working–I couldn’t remember things or form words when writing a simple lunch box note for my son. I would have been angry and mean with my family, but I was beyond caring–I wanted to talk to no one. I had to stop midway through my workout because the room started spinning and I tripped over my own feet. Within a couple days’ time I got sick, really sick with vomiting and a high fever. The signs of burnout? All there.
I love how this article describes burnout: “as if the body decided to go on strike”. That was it; my body and my mind had decided to go on strike.
Rudely, they hadn’t filled me in on their plans, and I had failed to preemptively direct our life savings to setting up in a round-the-clock in-home nanny service so I might take leave while still ascertaining the general safety of my children. So here we were: a mom who had checked out and two kids who needed a mom to be there.
A break was needed, yet there was no visible room to take one.
As a stubborn, of the bull-headed variety sort (let’s not share this admission with my husband), I couldn’t accept this impasse. And regardless of my acceptance, it was simply no longer possible to press on. It was time to stop.
I read a devotional a bit ago about a woman who found herself in a similar situation of being burned out, so she took the weekend off and parked it on the couch. She spoke of how needed this rest was and how far it went in healing her weary body and soul. It was a super message with an important heart. I could well wrap my head around shutting down work and the social component of my life for my well being, and I thought her plan was genius. Also, I am very partial to my couch…but kids.
So I hearkened back to early days when I had no clue how to mother and I told myself that as long as my children were safe and cared for, it would be okay. Anything else? Happiness, fun activities, proper mental stimulation, etc. were all secondary to covering the very basics.
And this is how I got my Burned Out Break. This is how I took a rest in the corners left by necessities and found my own much-needed dose of healing.
I did the necessities: I poured bowls of cereal and packed lunches. I drove them to school and I picked them up. I sorted through backpacks and forced them through homework. I made them brush their teeth and read them a bedtime story.
I did not do anything beyond the necessary: I did not wash dishes or fold laundry. I did not cook dinner; peanut butter sandwiches sufficed. I did not read multiple bedtime stories. I didn’t fight with them to clean up toys. I didn’t cart them around town for playdates or play yet another endless game of War with my son.
They: watched more TV than they should have, played together for hours on end, and figured out how to get themselves snacks.
I: holed up and binge-watched Hart of Dixie and played my word game on my phone in between the necessities.
This went on for FOUR DAYS. I pulled the stops well into the weekend. And when my Burned Out Break was over?
We, as a family: were all the better for it.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Only, I wouldn’t wait until I was at the point of complete dysfunction. I will execute a Burned Out Break on a more regular basis as a sanity protector vs. a sanity saver.
The thing is, as moms, our breaks will look different, way different than those sans bums to wipe. But we can still take them.
We must take them while still functioning. This is unlike the woman in my devotional, and it’s sad. But it’s also only for a season of this life. I promise you, friends, some day we will be able to take a sick day. Or heck, just a chance to curl up on the couch and be lazy because we feel like it.
In the meantime, I don’t know what your personal Hart of Dixie is, but find it. Say hello, meet up with it, make friends, and spend time with your Burned Out Break. It won’t be a pretty scene. There will be lots of whiny kids and lots of Mommy screaming, “I am taking Selfishness Time!” as she works overtime to mentally feel peaceful about her choice to “take time off”.
But it will be right. It will be of the purist intentions and heart–Mommy righting herself so she is able to continue selflessly serving the cadre of people who fill her home.
Friends, I challenge you to take your Burned Out Break. Before it becomes too late for your health or sanity to recover. Shut it down, grasp onto the basic needs of your family, and call it a day as you take that time your soul needs…that time your soul needs to breathe.