Whole Parenting Family

7 Ways to Pull Yourself Back from Burnout

whole parenting family

Burnout doesn’t discriminate. You have one child or twenty. You work or you stay home. You are a single parent, you have a partner. Every mom I’ve ever asked has confirmed: she’s experienced burnout.

The funny thing is that not only does burnout look different for different people, but we cope with the experience and find our way out of it differently. Last fall I was so burnt to a crunchy crisp of a brussel sprout roasting in the oven after too many commitments. Only after I faced my overcommitting tendency was I able to really look and see, yes, I was burning up & out, but yes, I also can pull back. I also can feed my kids whipping cream for breakfast.


How I’ve pulled myself back this time, and I’m writing it down so I can remember it the next time it ratchets up.

1) See the burnout, look at it, acknowledge it.

Naming it is half the battle. And no shame here. It’s okay to say parenting small children, and heck, older children, is hard. That doesn’t make you a weak parent. It doesn’t make you a less-than parent. It doesn’t mean your children “won” and you “lost.” It means you’re experiencing something very normal that most of us go through. All of us, really.

2) Stay hydrated and respect the hormones.

I never am hydrated enough. Especially as I am nursing. Water helps everything. It also helps stabilize your appetite and mood. Drink up. Maybe infuse it. Contemplating buying one of these. Maybe add ice. Just drink up.

Hormones are powerful. If you’re within a year of having had a new child enter your life, your hormones are in flux, birth mother or heart mother. It’s serious stuff! And add poor sleep onto it? Hormones a-blaze. I react more than unusual and with greater fervor. I’m a hormonal mess.

3) Ask for help.

Just do it. Call the babysitter. Call the in-laws. Call upon your well-intended friends who made vague niceties about “wanting to help.” Talk to your supervisor. Talk to your spouse.

Ego has already been checked at the door of motherhood. It’s humbling but just ask for help. To take PTO or have a mother’s helper. To have someone bounce the baby so you can slink into a hot bath. To seek counseling or medication. Ask. It’s waiting for you.

A few months back I broke down sobbing in the kitchen. I literally sank into the floor sobbing as my children watched in perplexed horror and my mom held me. She scooted the kids off to play and just listened to me process my exhaustion and burnout. She offered to help me once a week for a whole day, even making dinner that night. It has been a lifesaver.

After this, I called Liz and went over to talk about what this could be, and how I could approach it. She offered comfort and counsel. Have a friend like that in your life. Or email me if you’re missing that friend!

4) Say no.

Say no to everything and everyone except yourself, your immediate family, and the milkman. I had already practiced a round of saying no last fall//early winter, and I had to go through it again, culling out things that were unnecessary to my very being and stressors. It sucked. It still sucks. But I have to say no because I want to say yes.

And with the extra space of all that “no”–I can do my managing & editing role for Blessed is She, my etsy shoppe, my blog, while being at home with three kids all day long because I have the space! Family first, then my projects. Prioritizing has truly fundamentally helped.

5) Prioritize.

Meals. Tidy rooms. Reading lessons with SuperBoy. Laundry. Naps. Outdoor time. Dollhouse with SweetPea. Nursing & carrying the tot. This will look so different for all of us, but it’s really about narrowing what we think we will accomplish on our list.

For me, anything else is icing on the cake. If we get to the museum, great. If we don’t, that’s fine. If I respond to the emails in my inbox, great. If they wait a few days, fine. If I don’t weed the garden, call my friend back, or brush my hair, I do not care.

6) Do one thing for yourself each week.

Maybe you do this more than once a week. For me, it’s been a blend of a hot bath, a minnesota chocolate, a long phone call with my sister, a night of nothing. Just once a week I consciously say, I am going to identify a need and meet it. Pause the rest of the world. I need to tend to myself.

7) Light a candle.

My friend Sarah made me this candle and it’s been so precious to me. I love lighting it and although it’s almost seen the end of its wick, its presence has been calming for me.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Meditate. Make a little mental space for peace. Greet the burnout. See it. Touch it. Bid it adieu. I have a prayer from Saint Francis I say to re-center:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


I hope your burnout is over and you’re back at it, friend. Linking with Kelly//7 Quick Takes.


  1. Erin@HumbleHandmaid on June 25, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Numbers 1-5 hit the nail on the head for me, especially.

    I was burned out to a crisp just yesterday, and it was ugly. So ugly. Like, my little sister stopped by to say hello took one look at me I burst into tears and she took the kids all to Chick-fil-a for lunch and brought me back a salad and chocolate and iced coffee then did the dishes UGLY.

    But you know what? I texted my mom last night and told her “thank you for giving me a little sister.” I thought about how my wild, beautiful children who are all close in age will cry into each other’s shoulders and bring iced coffee and chocolate to one another on a burned-out-hard-day in the future. And I ended the day praising God.:)

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 26, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Your sister is amazing. And it sounds like you have a wonderful mom too. What a BEAUTIFUL reflection to end on!!

    • Amanda on July 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      I am having ‘one of those days’ and this comment made me cry. I currently have two little girls, 10 months and 3 years. Picturing them as you said, helping each other later on in life, really pulled me out of myself and the rut I seem to have fallen into today.

      Thank you.

      • Natural Mama Nell on July 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm

        You’re a great mom. I have those days A LOT!! XOXOXO

  2. Ann-Marie on June 26, 2015 at 7:28 am

    This is great and very timely for me.

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 26, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Sending you hugs, sister.

  3. Erika on June 26, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Oh the candle idea is a gem! I used to have a prayer room in my apartment, but since getting married and having a baby, we have no such room. I find myself longing to get away for prayer and distressing sometimes but it’s hard to find space. Lighting a candle seems like a great solution to turning any little corner of the house into a prayer space for a few minutes! Thanks, mama!

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      Just a candle makes it a peaceful prayer space. I am amazed by what one candle can do!

  4. Kelly Meagher on June 26, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I needed this! Burnout is hitting me hard and we just bought a house that needs a lot of fixing up! Thanks for sticking this out there and making me feel it alone!

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 28, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      I’m right there with you!! New house projects are wonderful but exhausting!! XXOO