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Feeling exhausted after a tough year? Here are some positive things you can do to feel better

This year has been a tough one for everyone, but none more so than parents who’ve had to juggle the demands of lockdown, home schooling and their own work responsibilities. After months of lockdowns and long dark days, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling exhausted. But the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.

We’re working with Family Action this year on an empowering Mother’s Day campaign. It’s all about giving time back to Mums. We understand how difficult this year has been for you, so we’re aiming to reclaim 100,000 hours of ‘mumpaid labour’ ahead of Mother’s Day, and give it back to all you hard working mums, parents and carers. We hope that our campaign will help you find the time to rest, recuperate, and do something that brings you joy after a tumultuous few months in lockdown.

If you’re feeling burnt out, check out the advice below from Family Action expert X. 

Find out more about how our mumpaid labour campaign is here to help you this Mother’s Day by heading here

1. Cut yourself some slack 

Nobody can be everywhere, doing everything, all at once. Parents are fantastic multitaskers, but we can’t make miracles happen. So the first thing to do if you’re feeling exhausted and burnt out is to cut yourself some serious slack. You’ve had a lot to deal with this year, and under the circumstances nobody can expect you to do any better than your best: whatever that looks like. 

Don’t beat yourself up about what you think you could or should be doing. In fact, leave the comparisons at the door and instead focus on what you can and are doing, with the time and energy you have available. All your family really needs from you right now is your love and your presence. Give yourself the respect you deserve for being there for them and doing the best you can.

2. Don’t suffer in silence

If you’re struggling, the worst thing you can do for your mental health is keep it all in. A problem shared really is a problem halved, so talk to somebody you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. Whether it’s a friend, partner, neighbour, colleague or helpline like our FamilyLine, letting someone know that you’re exhausted and burnt out is the first step to inviting them in to help and support you. You need to accept support if you’re going to find the time and space to replenish your depleted energy reserves.

3. Identify the main sources of your exhaustion, to help you understand what you need to do to feel better

Pinpointing the sources of your burnout will help you map out a route to feeling better. It will also help you work out where you need to share the load with your partner, colleagues or family in order for you to feel more relaxed and in control.

If it’s juggling work with childcare responsibilities and home schooling that’s proving difficult, you could talk to your employer about working flexible hours, or to your partner about sharing the load more equally. Maybe you could explore childcare options, or work with your partner to restructure your days in a way that feels more sustainable for everyone.

Whatever it is – whether it’s work, childcare, health anxiety or financial pressures – pinpointing the source of your exhaustion and overwhelm will help you make the necessary adjustments to cope better going forward.

4. Come up with an action plan to lighten your load 

If you want to replenish your time and energy reserves when you’re feeling burnt out, you need to press pause and make some positive changes. You can then feel good about taking action to take care of yourself.

Once you’ve identified what it is that led you to burnout in the first place, decide on what change you’re going to make to ensure you can cope. If you’re struggling to find five minutes to yourself to do those jobs that need doing, or haven’t had time in weeks to do something just for yourself, your action can be carving out at least one hour at a specific time every week to do that thing. 

It might seem impossible, but it’s vital to try and make it happen. You have to prioritise your own wellbeing. You can’t do your best by your family if you don’t do your best by yourself.

5. Start to do at least one activity a day that helps you to feel calm

When you’re incredibly busy and feeling overwhelmed, it can feel like you’re hurtling along on a train that’s never going to stop. But making time to do something each day that makes you feel calm can help you to feel in control. It’s important to prioritise this, and know that everything else can wait. You will be able to deal with your other responsibilities later, and will cope with them far better if you’ve taken time to protect your own wellbeing and to get a little bit of perspective.

Find something that works for you – be it a 10 minute walk in the morning before the work day starts, a 15-minute yoga session, or twenty minutes to sit and read your book before going to sleep. Or just a few minutes each day when you stop, close your eyes, and breath. Whatever it is, make it a daily priority and lose yourself in that activity for its duration.

6. Each time you feel yourself approaching overwhelm, think about whether you’ll still be concerned this time next year 

A good way to get perspective when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed is to consider whether you’ll still care about the thing that’s worrying you this time next year. If the answer is no, you know it’s not worth your energy or stress.

There are many things going on at the moment that are deeply concerning. But there might also be lots of smaller things bothering you that – if you let them in – will contribute to your sense of exhaustion and burnout. It’s these smaller things that we must learn to let go of in order to protect our wellbeing. The likelihood is that a messy house, un-hoovered carpet, unsuccessful home-school lesson or missed work deadline won’t matter to you this time next year, so try to let them go for now and focus on the bigger picture. 

7. Get outside and just breathe

The health benefits of going outside have been well-publicised during the pandemic, yet even so it can sometimes be hard to take that step outside the front door and commit some time to just walking and breathing. This is especially true when we’re busy, and don’t feel as though we can spare the time. But the likelihood is, after taking a break to walk outside and breathe the air, you’ll come back to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to focus on whatever it is you need to do. You’ll probably be even more productive as a result! 

There’s a reason why we’re always being encouraged to get outside, be amongst nature and move our bodies during lockdown. It really does work wonders for mental health.

8. Pledge to take back some time for yourself this Mother’s Day 

Mother’s Day is almost here and we know many mums have gone above and beyond this year. To raise awareness, we’ve partnered with Red Letter Days to call on the nation to help us claim back 100,000 hours of Mumpaid Labour for all you hard-working mums before Mother’s Day. To take part, we want you to pledge your time via Red Letter Days online counter, and use that time to do something for yourself. See the pledge as your digital commitment to carving out some me-time, so you can do something that makes you feel great. 

To make it easier for you to do something you love, with Red Letter Days, we’re hosting a FREE Time For Mum Virtual Festival on Saturday 13th March. It’s set to be a day of fun and feel-good virtual classes and workshops (and we’re even hosting activities to keep the little ones busy, too). Register now to secure your free space and take the time to do something for you. You deserve it!

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