While remote work gives solo moms the flexibility to work from home, it brings its own set of challenges. One of these challenges is burnout caused by overwhelm. Burnout will ruin your remote work life if you don't intentionally put steps in place to manage your everyday life.
So whether you're a remote work employee or a solopreneur balancing solo parenting with working from home will require a new mindset on how to successfully create a life free of burnout.
Burnout can cause a range of health-related issues, including anxiety and depression. You should try to recognize the signs that lead to burnout. Issues may arise if you try to tackle both tasks at the same time. Burnout can be prevented and your true self restored.
So when burnout happens focus on restoring yourself first.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is mental and emotional exhaustion that gives you a feeling of overwhelm. It comes as a result of continuous, never-ending stress levels. If left untreated burnout can affect many areas of your life.
People who experience symptoms of burnout are also experiencing chronic stress.
What are some of the symptoms of burnout?
So how do you know when you're experiencing burnout? Anxiety disorders, lack of sleep, emotional exhaustion, are just some of the symptoms of burnout. Even if working remotely gives you the flexibility to set your own hours, the combination of mothering solo and working from home can create burnout over a prolonged period.
Other signs of burnout includes:
loss of motivation
feeling tired or hopeless
feeling little or no control over your life
negative attitudes or negative outlook
How can burnout ruin your remote work life?
For many years you dreamed of working from home. You envisioned a time when you could walk your child to the bus stop and have dinner ready when they got home from school. Your daydreams gave you a feeling of euphoria at the ideal of working from home while looking at butterflies flittering outside your window.
But what happened to that dream?
Lockdown happened. And although it was a scary time for most. You got your vision of working from home. But that vision quickly became a nightmare because your children were on lockdown too.
In addition, working from home brought its own set of challenges that coupled with lockdown created a lot of chaos. But more devastating, it created a sense of foreboding because you didn't stop working. You no longer had to get on a bus or train or drive your car to work. So you just kept working. Whether it was due to fear of losing your job or you used work as a distraction from the chaos that was happening around. You never stopped working. From constant Zoom meetings to always being "on" for work. You never stopped working.
Then you had to supervise the children to make sure they stay on top of their school work. Worse, you might have had to homeschool them on top of doing your own work.
You forgot to take a break. Or you were never able to take control of your schedule. Soon you became overwhelmed and suffered the symptoms of burnout.
What burnout does to your body
Burnout Prevention and Treatment
As a solo mom you have a lot of responsibilities. But when all your responsibilities gather under one roof, it can create a higher risk of burnout. So how do you prevent burnout from happening in the first place? And what action can you take if you experience burnout symptoms. How do you balance your remote work life without jeopardizing your well being?
Talk to a professional
Talk to a health care professional whether a medical doctor or a therapist. They can help you diagnose burnout symptoms and help you create a treatment plan. They can also give you list of wellness tips to help prevent burnout in the future.
Health care professionals use tools such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) which is a scoring system used to define burnout in individuals. The system uses a questionnaire that measures the degree of occupational burnout by scoring your answers to several questions.
Once your health care professional eliminate and or treat the symptoms of burnout, it's time to focus on putting some action steps in place to prevent burnout from happening in the future. Because burnout, left untreated can cause long term mental, emotional and even physical problems.
So you want to do what you can to avoid relentless chronic stress on your mind and body.
Talk to your supervisor
If you feel safe doing so ask your supervisor if your workflow could be adjusted or can you shift your work hours to better suit working from home. Don't be surprised if your employer is not very flexible with you since some may think you already have privilege because you work remotely. If you think it won't damage your stance? at work, go ahead and ask for what you want.
Beyond involving your employer, there are several steps you can take not only to maintain your wellbeing but also to prevent future burnout from happening.
Separate your work environment from your home life
Keep your work area separate from other parts of your life. For example, don't work in your bed or at the kitchen table if you can avoid it. If a separate room doesn't exists just for work, find a corner or closet where you can lock away your work products when you are not working on the job.
Then customize and decorate it as your workspace. Add your favorite photos or drawings from your children. Or a favorite painting. Include a vase of flowers from your garden or add a potted plant. Make the space pleasant to work in no matter how insignificant it may seem.
Take frequent breaks
Learn to step away from work. First, take scheduled breaks. Second, schedule and take a lunch break. If all you have is one hour break, divide it into three breaks: 30 minutes for lunch; and 2 15 minute break periods where you do not do anything. Be sure to let your supervisor and colleagues know your break hours so you being away from your desk doesn't cause you additional stress.
This is where you will need to avoid the temptation to do the dishes or add a load to the washing machine.
It may seem like you're being efficient but it's still work. That said if using one of your break time to do house chores relieve your stress level, it may be worth doing but only occasionally.
Use break time to take a short walk, do some stretching or meditation, or any other stress relieving activity.
Work a hybrid schedule
I personally love working from home full time. But I had a conversation with another solo mom the other day and told me she did not like working from home all the time. She said she felt stuck and that she was "on" all the time when she was forced to work remotely due to lockdowns.
So maybe that's the answer for you to avoid burnout. Split your work week between the office and home.
Use meal time to connect with your children.
If your children are home with you, have lunch with them if you can. However if you have very young children who will need your attention during lunch, hire a nanny who can attend to their needs during these meal times.
The additional help will allow you to focus on the act having the meal rather than having to take care of your children's needs during your lunch break.
Take vacation. Even if it's a staycation.
It may be even more imperative to take a vacation when you work remotely. Even if you can't get away due to financial and other restraints, it helps to take longer break periods from work just like if you were going to the office.
If a staycation is all you can muster, create space in your home that will inspire you to relax. Spend time with the kids or not but use this time to rejuvenate yourself and recharge your batteries.
Reduce the number of daily tasks
When I get overwhelmed with too many tasks swimming around my head, I find making a list helps. What I refuse to do is to put pressure on myself to finish everything on my list within my work day. What I find helpful is to get the small but important stuff out the way first. That way I'm free to divide and conquer the bigger tasks.
Still, to avoid job burnout try to avoid overloading on too many responsibilities.
Make self care a priority
One more thing to do right? Maybe so. But taking care of yourself need to be a priority to avoid burnout. How you practice self care is up to you. But this should be one of those non negotiable like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Yes it's that important.
So whether you take the first few minutes of the day to pray and read a Bible verse. Or you take a deep soak in the tub once each week. Practicing self care will go a long way to help you recover from burnout and will help you avoid burnout in the first place.
If you're at a loss as to where to start, my 30 Self Care Ideas should give you plenty of ideas on what you can do to develop a sensible self care routine that works just for you.
Hire a baby sitter
If your child or children are too young for school hire a babysitter or nanny to take care of them during your designated work hours. This will give you peace of mind so you can focus more on your work.
For other times if you have an older child, he or she can be task with making sure the younger ones have their meals or distract them so they do not interrupt your workflow.
If you've developed a good relationship with a neighbor (see tips on building connection when you move to a new neighborhood in this episode). If your neighbor is an older adult they may welcome the opportunity to serve and connect with younger children.
Cook in batches ahead of time
While it would be nice to take it easy on weekends and not do much, making a huge batch of meals for the week ahead can cut down on unnecessary trips to the fast food joint while giving you a break from everyday cooking.
Get the kids involved if they are old enough. Give them tasks to accomplish such as loading the dishwasher or washing the vegetables. Your kids will be grateful to contribute. So go ahed and make them part of the team. They will also enjoy participating in the meal planning process.
Batch cooking saves time. You can also make more delicious meals if you use an Instant Pot or slow cooker. Recipes like overnight oats makes delicious breakfast on the go for the whole family.
Engage family members or another solo mom
If family members are close enough and are willing to help don't be afraid to ask for help. But avoid drama as it only adds to your stress levels.
Maybe there's another solo mom you can connect and with whom you can exchange baby sitting time; connect for a walk in the park or you can arrange a sleepover for your children.
Find ways to connect with others. Not just so you can get help but also you can mutually and beneficially be there for each other. Everybody needs somebody. And it does take a village.
Create a social support network in your community or online
In addition to engaging family members or another solo mom build connection in one of two online communities. I'd caution against joining too many as this can cause you to waste time jumping from community to community.
When you first join the group read comments to see if that would be a comfortable place for you. Ask a question and see the response. If you feel uncomfortable with answers, just leave. You do not need to take any meanness from anyone.
You need a safe space to connect and you have the power to chose where you find that connection.
Include short exercise in your day. Exercises such as walking while you're on a phone call or short yoga exercises can go a long way to reduce stress and keep your muscles flexible and your mind clear.
Tip: Squat while brushing your teeth. I use an electric toothbrush that has a 2 minute timer. I can do about 50 squats while I brush my teeth. Takes the boredom out of brushing my teeth and my booty looks awesome!
Managing work life balance when you're your own boss
As an entrepreneur I sometimes have to remind myself to eat, among other things. While it maybe beneficial to grind and hustle you may want to take a step back and examine some of my recommendations above. Owning your own business should be a long game.
So don't let the urge to get there fast lead you to burnout and overwhelm. Take your time. Enjoy the nuances of owning your own business because that in itself is stressful enough.
Take time to rejuvenate after a long protracted period of work. Make yourself take a day or 1/2 day off even if you don't go anywhere. It's important for your health to find ways to wind down and protect yourself from mental exhaustion.
Some practical tips:
Hire someone to help with everyday tasks
Avoid burnout by delegating some of those everyday tasks like updating email lists, social media posting, managing your appointments and other daily tasks that are repetitive. If you can't afford an assistant full time, hire someone from Fiverr.com or Upwork.com. These are just two platforms out of many that are available online.
When you're your own boss you can get overwhelmed with the myraid of tasks and responsibilities you have to learn, master, and perform on a daily basis. By hiring someone to take on those repetitive tasks you can free yourself up to pursue more opportunities and to network with other professionals.
Handing off small tasks also reduce the heavy workload that comes with doing everything yourself as an entrepreneur. So protect your physical and emotional health by leaving some breathing room in your day.
Creativity is an entrepreneur's superpower. But if you lack creativity due to burnout your excellent work will begin to suffer. One more reason to learn the art of delegating.
Take your work to another location
Tired of working from home day in and day out? Why not change the scenery one of two days a week. Work from the library or a co-working space in your town.
Going out can also create networking opportunities and help expand your resources.
As one popular quote says "a change is as good as a rest".
Adapt simple and consistent daily habits
No matter the reason why you work from home simple habits like journaling, meditation and deep breathing can help you develop coping strategies to help you avoid burnout. One seemingly mindless activity - adult coloring can help your brain relax and give you a mental respite so you can get back to work rejuvenated.
Eat a healthy diet
Food plays a very important role in our well being. So stop to eat but eat good food. Use meal prep to ensure the foods you eat on a daily basis strengthen your body and gives you the energy you need to parent solo while working from home.
Even when you eat a healthy diet you may still need some help maintaining your health especially if you are highly stressed. Multivitamins can help you maintain bone health and improve cognitive function.
So go ahead and add a good multivitamins to your diet. Take a free quiz and learn what vitamins are best for you.
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Learn to say "no"
Developing the habit of saying no will help you maintain control over your work life balance. Whether it's no to extra work from your employer or no to the unrealistic expectations of friends and loved ones who don't respect your working dynamic. Learn to say no when saying yes only cause you undue stress and add to the increased possibility of burnout.
Take your work outside
At my last job I worked remotely part of the week. I used to take a walk with my iPad. I lived near the ocean and just loved to sit and watch the boats lazily sail across its surface. But I was still working. I had my phone where my boss could reach me and I had my device from which I could check my emails.
Being outside broke up my day when I felt emotionally drained while working from home. Taking a walk by the ocean was helpful to my peace of mind especially when my kids got noisy. And since they were old enough to be by themselves it worked out.
And it helped to dispel symptoms of burnout as a result of work related stress and disruptions from family members.
Take a power nap
Find ways to get adequate sleep at night. If you intentionally develop good sleep hygiene you should be able to work through the day without needing to sleep before bedtime. Especially if you can adopt some of the recommendations above.
But if you're feeling tired during the day, it's ok to take a power nap. Power naps helps to refresh your brain and body. So when you feel like the air has been let out of your sail. Sit or lay down, and take a nap.
Take action today
Don't wait until you feel the symptoms of burnout before you start taking action. Begin taking care of your mental and physical health now. Develop a plan of action to avoid burnout. Learn to detect the signs of burnout.
Life may not be perfect. But protecting your health is your number one priority. Because if you are sick and stressed out continuously how can you properly care for your children?
Put your oxygen mask on first so you can survive to help others.
Burnout doesn't have to be a part of your everyday life. As a solo mom living life to the fullest does not mean that you run around like a chicken with your head cut off. The tips and strategies included here can help you to recognize the symptoms of burnout. They could also help you to develop a plan of action to help you avoid burnout. But should you experience burnout they will help you find simple ways to get help.
You are in control. Learn to ask for help. Involve the kids. Build connection with friends and loved ones.
These strategies will help you create the work life balance you desire while working from home. They will also help you stay in love with working for yourself when you learn to delegate some tasks that you do on a day to day basis.
Need some quick ideas that can help avoid burnout? Download my free guide: 30 Self-Care Ideas