Are you one of those lucky few who have never experienced homeschool burnout? I went through at least two sessions of homeschool burnout during the twelve years we actively homeschooled, probably more (time has a way of blurring those days/weeks you would like to forget). You would think an unschooler would have no reason for burnout, wouldn’t you? But even unschoolers can have expectations both for themselves and their children that are sometimes unrealistic or unattainable. Unschooling moms are not immune to placing tremendous pressure upon themselves in the same ways that all moms do around the world.
You might wonder how I could experience burnout when I am no longer really homeschooling. Ah, but you forget, I now have a very active toddler living here! And toddlers have been known to cause life burnout, which is exactly the variety of burnout I just went through. Not that it was the toddler’s fault! She really is a wonderful little girl and I love having her here and am grateful we are able to provide her and her mommy a safe place to land … most of the time, anyway.
It’s just that I have taken care of children for over twenty-three years now. With our last child graduating in May I though that time of my life was done and I had been eagerly anticipating doing some new things, something that did not necessarily involve children! I had also become used to quieter days and being able to pick up and go as I wished, when I wished. Suddenly I was thrust back into those toddler years where you plan around naps and diaper changes and such. Talk about a big change!
Add to that all the other changes that have occurred in our lives the last two to three years – children moving in, children moving out, weddings, the birth of our first grandchild, moving to another state, my father’s health issues – and you can see that my life has been more than a little eventful recently. Normally I am pretty even tempered and adapt to the highs and lows that life throws my way quickly and easily. But suddenly it felt like more than I could handle.
Signs of Burnout
About mid-July I began to realize that I was not adapting as easily as I would have anticipated and by August the signs of a full-blown Life Burnout were readily apparent:
- Extreme tiredness
- Snapping at people for no reason
- Mentally running through the list of the negatives in my life over and over
- Physically aching all over
- Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated
- Eating too much junk food
- No interest in activities that I usually enjoy, such as crocheting and writing
Dealing With The Physical
It is one thing to recognize the signs, though, and quite another to begin doing something about them. Thankfully I realized that one thing I could easily do was begin to take my vitamins again. I am very good at reminding others in my family to take their vitamins, but not so good at remembering to take them myself. To be honest, in the past I never really noticed much difference in how I felt whether I took them or not. But as I near the half century mark, I find that I now notice a big difference and I do need to take them, especially my B-Complex and Omega’s. After just two weeks of starting back on a daily supplements regime, including a new packet of vitamins designed especially for women my age, I began to have more energy and the physical exhaustion eased.
The next step was to cut out the junk food, which was easy enough since I am the one who buys the groceries. If you don’t buy it and don’t have it in the house, it is much easier to avoid. Instead, I stocked up on fresh vegetables and fruit and snacked on them whenever I had the munchies. And I renewed my efforts to not drink soda, since I do not believe the corn syrup in soft drinks is good for us. Even though I love the taste of root beer, it does not quench my thirst but instead leaves me wanting more, which is not really the intended result of drinking a liquid, unless, of course, you are the manufacturer of that liquid and wish the consumer to purchase more! So I went back to drinking mostly water, which I like to drink, and my hot tea and morning cup of mocha. I still have the occasional soda, maybe one or two a week, but not on a daily basis.
Tackling The Mental
Once I began to feel better physically, it was easier to deal with the mental stuff. I knew I needed to pare back my expectations of what I could accomplish each day. I spend a lot of time each day working on this blog and my website: writing new posts, updating old articles, checking links, adding new information. Caring for a toddler means a lot of distractions and those distractions make writing new material an almost impossible task for me. So instead of writing, I focused on the areas I could do more easily with distractions, which is checking and updating links. Doing so immediately lowered my levels of stress and frustration and increased my enjoyment in my granddaughter again.
Along the way I made an interesting discovery. By lowering my expectations, I actually accomplish more. Of course, this doesn’t happen every day, but often enough to be encouraging.
Burnout is survivable. The key is recognizing burnout for what it is, an overload in a particular area, whether homeschooling, life, expectations, whatever, and then taking steps to reduce that overload. Many times those steps mean changing our own expectations of ourselves, our children, our lives. We are not SuperParents. Life will sometimes throw us a curveball or two and we have to step back, regroup, and start again.
How do I know that I have survived burnout this time around? By my renewed interest in crocheting and writing, which I do purely for my own enjoyment. I decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this coming November, but I have been thinking about brushing the dust off an old novel attempt and working a bit more on it. And my current crochet project, a Celtic-design wedding afghan for my son, is exciting the heck out of me! I would like to do nothing more than sit for hours working on it. My passion is back! Burnout is gone! I survived, again!
If you would like to know more about Homeschooling Burnout – what it is, what causes it, how to conquer it – please read my article, Surviving Homeschool Burnout.
Have you survived burnout, whether Life or Homeschooling? If so, how did you do it? And what did you learn from your burnout?