If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced feelings of overwhelm, confusion, and exhaustion. Well I’ve got some good news! Here are 4 simple and helpful ways to figure out how to attack homeschooling burnout!
Before we dive in, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.
Let’s start with the bad news, just to get it out of the way.
Burnout is a common hazard among homeschooling parents.
I’m sorry to be such a downer, but it’s true. The daily demands of caring for our people AND being in charge of their education are HUGE responsibilities. Couple this with our strong desire to provide our children with the VERY BEST education we possibly can and yikes, It’s no wonder burnout occurs!
Wow, thanks for the pep talk.
Don’t worry, the good news is coming! I have experienced the homeschooling crash and burn intensity many times since starting this journey. And I’ve discovered some valuable steps to help us out along the way.
Let’s discuss how to attack homeschooling burnout!
1. Accept that at some point, you probably will experience burnout
Burnout will likely happen at some point in your homeschooling journey. Because let’s face it, it’s an intense job.
Seriously!?! I thought we were at the good news part!
Don’t worry, we’re getting there. But I’m sharing this first because I don’t want you to be caught off guard.
Think back to becoming a parent for the first time. Nobody truly prepares us for how exhausted we are going to be. Sure, there are pamphlets handed out in the Dr’s office and brief comments made in passing. But there aren’t many people who take you by the shoulders, look into your eyes, and really give it to you straight.
So it’s no wonder that as new parents we doubt our abilities, second guess ourselves, feel isolated, and all too often, end up feeling hopeless.
This is what it is like for new homeschooling parents too. And I think it’s incredibly helpful for us to be honest about it.
This leads us to the next step…
2. Recognize the symptoms of burnout
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these on a regular basis, you are likely right in the middle of the burnout zone.
Exhaustion – Now don’t get this confused with feeling tired or run down for a few days. Exhaustion means you are bone-weary and barely managing to put one foot in front of the other. It is feeling so depleted that you are barely able to function.
Insomnia – Are you exhausted but still unable to fall asleep at night? This is so brutal. Your body desperately needs sleep but your brain won’t get on board and allow your body to relax.
Forgetfulness – We have so much on our plates with homeschooling. Combined with our fluctuating hormones, this can often wreak serious havoc on our tired little brains. Look, my kids are currently teenagers and I STILL feel like I have pregnancy brain! Forgetfulness and brain fog have been my new normal for over a decade now. And this is the case for many of my friends as well.
But if you notice an increase in extreme forgetfulness, above and beyond what you normally experience, please take note.
Illness – OK, so if you have little ones, chances are you feel like you’re living in a giant petri dish. You are knee-deep in the days of runny noses and coughs and you might feel like you will never be healthy again. I remember times when I thought I was going to have a cold for THE REST OF MY LIFE! But if you find that you are getting sick more often than usual, this could be a red flag.
Resentment – Do you find yourself resenting those around you? Maybe you’re jealous of your husband as he leaves for work each day. Or your friends who drop their kids off at school and then head off to pursue their careers, hit the gym, or grab coffee with a girlfriend. Ongoing feelings of resentment are a serious code red.
Changes in appetite – Has food completely lost its appeal? Are you skipping meals or forgetting to eat altogether? Or maybe you’re an emotional eater like me, relying on food when you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed?
Isolation – Are you feeling disconnected from others around you? Have you found yourself canceling plans or not returning emails and texts? Have you been avoiding making plans and engaging with the people in your life?
Anxiety – Do you feel like you are constantly in a state of high alert? A racing heart, sweaty palms, nausea, and a sense of dread? Maybe there is a sense of fear in the back of your mind? The feeling of complete overwhelm like regardless of how hard you try, you can’t seem to cross anything off of your to-do list? These are all symptoms of anxiety.
Depression – If your feelings have gone beyond occasional sadness and you feel completely hopeless, you might be depressed. Have you found yourself asking “what’s the point?” and feeling like nothing matters? Are you experiencing many of the symptoms listed above? Have you suffered from depression in the past? PLEASE be diligent about being on the lookout for signs of depression.
STOP: Before you read any further, please take a few minutes to assess your current physical and mental state.
Looking over all of these symptoms listed above, are you in a season of complete burnout? Even more critical is recognizing if you might actually be depressed.
If you do recognize symptoms of depression, PLEASE reach out to a trusted loved one IMMEDIATELY. If you are lacking the energy to even have a discussion, have your loved one sit down with you, point to this post, have them read it, and just nod and shake your head when they ask you any questions.
And know that I am so, so proud of you for reaching out and taking this critical first step.
Again, if you do notice symptoms of depression, please, please, PLEASE reach out to a trusted loved one IMMEDIATELY!
3. Focus on PREVENTION
Do the following to establish a solid foundation for yourself:
- Recruit your people
- Sit down and list all of the people you know you can trust as part of your support team. These must be people you know have your best interest at heart. Explain to them that in order to prevent homeschooling burnout, it is important that you have a support team in place.
- Identify your favorite ways to practice self-care
- Schedule your self-care on the calendar
- This might feel like overkill. I get it. But self-care is so important! And it’s usually the first thing to go when life gets busy. Schedule something daily, weekly, monthly, and perhaps even semi-annually or annually.
- Get your partner on board
- Explain what symptoms of burnout they need to be aware of. Show them the list above.
- Write yourself a letter
- Do this on a good day when you’re genuinely feeling positive about homeschooling. Start this letter by listing all of the things you love about homeschooling. Then tuck this away in a safe place where it will stay until you feel like you’re losing your mind. When you feel burnout creeping in, get out your letter and read it.
- Don’t be a martyr! Ask for what you need!
- Let’s not expect our spouse to read our mind, OK? Let’s not assume that our people are going to pick up on all of our needs and react accordingly. We need to take responsibility for our self-care. So do your best to communicate and ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED!
NOTE: A typical burnout time during the school year is in April and/or May. The academic year is nearly over, there is more daylight, and spring is in the air. But the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always visible. We’re often still muddling through the grind and trying to stay motivated. It can be an especially exhausting time.
It’s also normal to feel burnout during the winter months, especially in January and February. The busyness of the holiday season is over, the days are shorter, and depending on where you live, the weather might mean you’re spending most of your time indoors.
Friends of mine who are teachers at public or private schools, always remind me that these are normal times for them to feel burnout setting in too. TOTALLY normal. You are not alone.
It’s important for us to recognize that ALL jobs carry the risk of burnout, especially those with long hours, high expectations, and lots of stress. Combine these risks with inadequate self-care and insufficient support, and the potential for burnout is great.
Incorporate the following on a regular basis:
- Take your vitamins and/or medications
- Have your morning coffee or tea
- Drink water throughout the day
- Get outside – walk, garden, or sit and read
- Play some music
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook while cleaning or making dinner
- Move for 10 min – walking and stretching totally count!
- Meditate for 10 min – if meditating isn’t your thing, don’t worry! Can you give yourself 10 min of quiet each day?
- Implement a daily family quiet time. Establishing this early on is critical. I required an hour quiet time when my kids were young but were no longer napping. They could read, draw, listen to audiobooks, and play in their rooms but they needed to stay put for an hour. This gave me an hour to rest as well and allowed me to recharge before the late afternoon and early evening hours.
- Give yourself a daily treat. Maybe this means you get yourself a latte on those weekday mornings you’re out and about. Or perhaps you enjoy a little dark chocolate and a glass of wine at the end of the day. The point is to have a treat every single day. Something you genuinely look forward to, enjoy whole-heartedly, and that brings you a feeling of contentment.
- Read a book or watch a show or movie
In addition to the daily tools you’re incorporating, schedule the following and PUT THEM ON YOUR CALENDAR:
- Creative Pursuits
- Include a regular CHUNK of time to engage in creativity. I don’t mean 20 minutes here and there, but as much time as you can realistically schedule to bake, draw, paint, sew, garden, take pictures, play the piano, make candles, or whatever your little heart desires.
- Give yourself a weekly treat
- Do you get take-out on Fridays? Is Thursday evening your yoga class? Or maybe you go out to breakfast on Saturday mornings? Like your daily treat, make sure this is something you look forward to, enjoy, and makes you feel content.
- Dates with Partner
- This does not have to be fancy, let me be clear. For example, every Saturday morning, my kids attend Japanese school for a few hours. During this time, Renaissance Man and I walk Max. Sometimes we walk to the library and Trader Joe’s, other times we have no destination in mind, (other than getting me a latte, obviously!) My point is that it isn’t fancy or expensive, but we have a chance to catch up on our week, connect, and enjoy each other’s company.
- Regular friend time
- Look, it would be amazing if this means you hit happy hour with a couple of girlfriends, go see a movie, or head out to book club. But when this isn’t realistic, how about an hour walk around the neighborhood or meeting up for coffee? Or pick up the phone and call a friend or text a few friends. Just make sure you’re connecting somehow, someway.
Remember to schedule all of this and PUT THESE THINGS ON YOUR CALENDAR!
- This will be the same as your weekly tools but perhaps a bit bigger. Maybe your creative pursuit involves a friend. Your monthly treat might be a pedicure. Date night might be dinner and a movie instead of a walk on Saturday morning. And friend time might be breakfast and a hike with a few friends.
Remember to schedule all of this and PUT ON YOUR CALENDAR!
Semi-Annual or Annual:
- This does not mean your family vacation! Look, I love family vacations. I adore traveling. But let’s be honest here. When you are a parent who is still raising children, vacations are not of the restful and relaxing kind. They are working vacations and as such, they are not to be included here!
- This is something you do for YOU on a semi-annual or annual basis. Maybe this looks like a once a year creative pursuit. An annual gathering with your friends. A weekend getaway with your spouse. A solo getaway. You get the picture.
Yep, you know where this is going. Schedule. Calendar. Go!
4. When necessary, declare a “mental health day”
Sometimes you just need to know when to wave your little white flag.
On days like these, abandon your usual plan if at all possible. Got get doughnuts and hit the park. Take the kids and go see a matinee movie. Get take-out for dinner. Put your feet up.
If you feel guilty or panicked taking a day off, consider this: Most states require 180 instructional school days per year. Subtract this number from the 365 days in a calendar year and you’re left with 185 days. That’s 185 days you have to cover whatever it is you miss when you need to take “mental health days” for your well being. There is no doubt in my mind you can handle that!
So to recap, here are the methods I’ve used to attack homeschooling burnout:
1. Accept that at some point, you will experience burnout
2. Recognize the symptoms of burnout
3. Focus on PREVENTION
4. When necessary, declare a “mental health day”
I hope you find some tools here that resonate with you. Because caring for ourselves really is so important!
Have you ever experienced burnout, either in homeschooling or during another season of your life? Were you able to discover any helpful tips to navigate that challenging time? If so, I would love to know what worked for you!
What a great post! I really like how you broke it down so well and gave tips about how to identify burnout and what to do to get back on track and to work to prevent it, or at least minimize it, from happening. One thing I scheduled for myself is to read for a while each night. But, like you said, it can often go by the wayside. I need to make sure that I do make time for that treat in my day each day. I am always happier and more content when I do make the time for something I enjoy.
One tip I want to share is trading kids. Recently a good friend of mine started homeschooling. Once a month she would bring her kids and their schoolwork to our home for the day and once a month I would take my kids and their schoolwork to her home for the day. The kids had a great time having a school day together and each of us had a day off of school, yet knew our kids were still getting (most of !) their work done as well as having a day with their friends .
Sarah Takehara says
Mary, this is such a great tip! A way to incorporate social time with friends and practice good self-care – fantastic! And I completely relate to how important reading is for many of us. It is one of the simplest and most effective ways I practice self-care, and yet it’s easy to forget about this when life gets crazy. Thanks for sharing!