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How To Prevent Burnout (Even As A Working Mom)


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Do you sometimes feel like being a working mother means living on the edge of burnout? If that’s you, then it’s time to learn how to prevent burnout.

Because snapping at your daughter for being curious, picking a fight with your partner over how he folded the laundry, and losing it with a coworker for a simple mistake aren’t exactly building blocks for success (at work, as a mother or in life).

The good news is that it’s possible to shine brightly at work and at home. . . without burning out. Let’s talk about 3 ways for how to prevent burnout so that you can master the work/life juggling act and finally feel calm, confident and in control.

The Problem With Most Advice Around How To Prevent Burnout

If you’re anything like my clients (driven, ambitious professionals who don’t want to sacrifice or settle), then you’ve likely tried every stress management, time management and other so-called hack available.  You’ve. . . blocked time in your calendar for important tasks, tried to ignore emails, gotten up earlier to work out (and for a bit of me-time), and have attempted to meditate.

Yet it’s not working.  Not only do you NOT feel much better, but you can’t keep up with it all because you still have to deal with:

  • a looming work deadline (that you’re behind on),
  • picking up slack for a sick co-worker, and
  • your daughter’s softball game (that you don’t have time for – and feel guilty about even thinking that way).

You’re left thinking that busy is the norm, overwhelm is an acceptable part of achievement and stress is something that you just put up with.  And that burnout is a natural part of being successful.

None of that is true.

The truth is, although time management and stress management practices are important, they won’t work if you don’t FIRST tackle what’s going on inside your mind. Because THAT’S where it all begins. . .

What’s Really Causing You To Feel Physically Tired, Mentally Drained and Emotionally Exhausted?

Although long work hours, looming deadlines and personal obligations are stressful, they’re not WHY you’re burning out.

The truth is that how you perceive stress (and the events that cause your stress) matters most.  That’s because most stress is caused by your thoughts and how you process them.  They create a ripple effect of. . . emotions, feelings, more thoughts, and then a reaction.

And more often than not, the reaction will be one that causes yet more stress, creating a vicious cycle that I call the stress spiral.


Blog Graphic of the Stress Spiral


When caught in the stress spiral, you’re less likely to make rational decisions and are more likely to feel guilt around saying no or doing something for yourself. It’s part of the emotional turmoil that’s created within.

What that means is that – before anything else will work to prevent burnout – you MUST address what’s going on within your mind.  Because most of your stress is being caused by how you think and process your thoughts.  They’re what convince you to:

  • say ‘yes’ to helping a colleague on a big project (you don’t have time for),
  • volunteer to be your son’s room mom at school (despite your crazy schedule),
  • put off working out for household chores (because you feel guilty for taking time for you).

It’s time to start taking control of what’s going on inside your mind (which is what the strategies below will help you do).

[Related: Why Mindset Is Everything: The Key to Success & Happiness].


Picture of stressed out woman with her hands over her forehead, in need of stress relief


How To Prevent Burnout: 3 Unconventional Strategies

Given the responsibilities of working mothers – especially those who want to succeed at work – it’s no surprise that working mom stress is a big issue.  The question is: how do you reduce and better manage stress so that you can prevent burnout?

Here are 3 unconventional strategies for how to prevent burnout (even for busy working mothers) that won’t just help you feel less stressed, but will also increase your confidence levels and help you feel more in control (of your mind, your emotions and your life).

Strategy #1 For How To Prevent Burnout: Keep Your Promises (To Yourself)

You work hard, have high standards and are always there to offer a helping hand. And you never break promises. . . except the ones that you’ve made to yourself.

I get it. The last thing you want is to let a colleague, client or family member (especially your kids) down.

The problem with this is that you can’t be everything to everyone (nor can you truly do it all). And something must give, which is why YOUR priorities are always the ones that are pushed down your long list of to-do’s.

What Happens When You Break The Promises You’ve Made To Yourself

Here’s what this looks like in practice:

  • You get busy at work and promise yourself that you’ll work out later in the week yet don’t (you’re too exhausted).
  • You tell yourself that you’ll go to bed early this week to catch up on sleep, but don’t because of a client emergency at work.
  • You set aside 15 minutes of quiet time just for you. . . and instead clean the dishes (because who else will do it if you don’t?).

Each time this happens, a voice inside your head tells you how worthless and unreliable you are.

The thing is, every time you break a promise to yourself you’re telling yourself that you’re not important. This creates an internal narrative that looks like:


Blog Graphic for What Happens When You Break Your Own Promises


Keeping the promises you’ve made to yourself is a form of self-care.  And it’s really about self-respect.  That’s why it leads to self-doubt and ruminating over decisions.

And it’s even worse when you’re a parent. After all, your kids are watching you and will learn how to treat themselves based on what they see you do (making you feel even worse when you don’t live up to your own promises).

When you keep the promises you’ve made to yourself, you’re telling yourself that you’re valuable and worthy. This builds internal credibility and boosts your self-confidence.

How To Start Keeping Your Promises

Keeping the promises you’ve made to yourself is about prioritizing the things that are important to YOU. Especially your health and wellbeing.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

Start Small + Be Realistic.

Don’t make pie-in-the-sky promises to yourself. Be realistic and start with something that’s relatively easy.

If you haven’t worked out in years, don’t promise that you’ll get 5 hour-long workouts in per week.  Instead, start with going for a 20-minute walk twice per week or riding your bike with your kids on the weekend.

As you start keeping small promises, you’ll be able to go bigger.

Be Specific.

Make sure you understand exactly what you’re promising by being specific about it. Overly vague promises are like overly vague goals (they’re built for failure).


Think about what’s entailed when making the promise to yourself, what might get in your way, and plan for it.  And then set aside time for it in your calendar.


When you’ve fulfilled your promise, take time to celebrate it. This will help counteract the negative thoughts you previously had about yourself and create new positive pathways (that will eventually take over).

[Recommended Reading: 10 Life Tips For How to Excel In Life].

Strategy #2 For How To Prevent Burnout: Simplify Self-Care

Now that we’ve established that the first strategy for how to prevent burnout (keeping your promises) includes self-care, you might be wondering HOW to fit that into your busy schedule.  Let’s face it: for many working mothers, self-care is HARD to prioritize.

That’s because self-care (1) is often misunderstood and (2) has become overly complicated.

What Self-Care Really Is

Self-care is often thought of as something you do to feel good or to escape from your busy life. But that’s not what self-care is (because lots of things that feel good in the moment aren’t self-care).  And if you feel the need to escape your life then it’s a sure sign that you need more self-care in your life.

At it’s core, self-care is about being well. . . Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually.

And you don’t have to drink a green smoothie, get up earlier, meditate daily, work out a specific way, drink bullet coffee, or count your steps (or calories, or fat, or anything else) to take good care of yourself. [This list sounds exhausting to me – which is the opposite of what self-care should be].

Could these things be part of a healthy self-care plan? Absolutely. But you don’t need to focus on these things as much as you likely are.

Moreover, self-care isn’t selfish (even though many feel selfish when taking time for it). Just as a parent must first put their own oxygen mask on before securing their child’s, you must prioritize your wellbeing to be and do your best for others.

It’s time to simplify self-care and make it a natural extension of how you live.

[Recommended Reading: 5 Reasons You Feel Guilty About Taking Care of Yourself].

What It Means to Simplify Self-Care

Simplifying self-care starts by identifying what you need NOW and then doing something that aims to satisfy those needs. And then building from there.

Note that self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You can fit simple self-care practices into your life (without adding any time to the mix). Here are a few examples:

  • Practice gratitude with your children on the way to school.
  • Meditate while running or walking.
  • Listen to an audio book (or jam out and sing to your favorite music) on your long commute to/from work.
  • Call your best friend when doing regular household chores.
  • Every time you go down your stairs, jog 4 times up/down them.

See how simple self-care can be?

Be sure to ask yourself what you need daily – as it will change based on circumstances and how you feel in the moment.

Self-care starts from within – in how you think about it. By approaching it this way, it can more naturally become a way of living and being (as opposed to a bunch of things that you do, log and track).

As your approach to self-care changes, the right practices for you will become more obvious and easier to fit into your life. That’s when self-care becomes fun (and something you truly prioritize).

Strategy #3 For How To Prevent Burnout: Let Go of What You Can’t Control

The third (and final) strategy for how to prevent burnout is to let go of what you can’t control.  From a (mostly) reformed control freak to another, I understand how hard it is to let go of the things you can’t control.

But the simple fact is that you can’t control:

  • What other people think about you and your choices;
  • How others behave;
  • The exact outcome of your efforts; or
  • Your circumstances (at least once they’ve occurred).

The world is uncertain, working hard doesn’t guarantee your outcome and life isn’t always fair (nor are the people in it).

The problem with trying to control these things is that it will only make you feel more out of control than ever. It’s not just exhausting but dispiriting and certain to (eventually) burn you out.

For help with how to take control of your mindset when things feel especially uncertain, listen to my podcast episode about Leading In Uncertain Times (With Calm Self-Confidence) here.

The Secret To Letting Go of What You Can’t Control

The secret to letting go of what you can’t control is to take control of what you can, which starts with your mindset.  Because feeling in control is about being content with who you are and how you make decisions for yourself.  So that you can respond intentionally to whatever may happen (instead of reacting emotionally).

And your mindset determines how you think, what you think and how you respond. It’s what ultimately creates your reality (and either limits you or helps you achieve big things).

Note that I’m not saying that having the right mindset means that you’ll make perfect decisions (or be successful at everything you do). But it will help you to achieve more while being less stressed. And it’s going to help you be content with who and where you are in life – regardless of whether you’re working to be and do better.

Taking control of your mind is about learning how to tame your inner critic, overcome fear and self-doubt and build a resilient mentality so that you can be calm, confident and in control of your emotions.

Luckily, you can do this through application of simple practices on a consistent basis.  I’ve already covered how to overcome fear and self-doubt in my article 5 Effective Tools to Stop Living in Fear and Worry (and recommend that you read it).

Here are a few additional tips for letting go of the things you can’t control:



Summary & Next Steps For How To Prevent Burnout As a Busy Working Mom

You’ve learned that burnout isn’t a required component to succeeding as a working mom.  And you’ve discovered how to prevent burnout through use of 3 unconventional strategies:

  • Keeping the promises you’ve made to yourself,
  • Simplifying self-care (so that you can once-and-for-all prioritize it guilt-free), and
  • Letting go of the things that you can’t control by taking control of what you can.

The good news is that these strategies aren’t as difficult to implement as you might think. For help with getting started, don’t forget to download 5-Minute Stress Solutions, my free resource of 8 effective mindset and stress management strategies to help you cultivate the healthy, confident mindset you crave.

Additional Resources for How To Prevent Burnout

Want more ways to manage stress and anxiety (so that you won’t ever have to worry about burning out again)?  Take a look at the following articles:

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Hey there, I’m Heather

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I’m here to help purpose-driven lawyers and other professionals (like you) build your ideal career to support the life you actually want. Because you shouldn’t have to choose between professional success & personal happiness.

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