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Posted on: September 8, 2019 at 8:43 am

Mommy burnout is real and over the years has finally received the attention it deserves from the scientific community. Burnout occurs when a person is in an extended state of emotional imbalance and the stress overwhelms the person’s abilities to cope. 

Life has its way of dropping all problems at once, from one child acting up at school, another sick with the flu, the washing machine crashed, and the mom is trying to fight a migraine when the toddler flushes her phone down the toilet. Even so, burnout can come at a ‘normal’ time. Moms tend to spread themselves too thin. They feel responsible for their kids and the home and everything in between. They work themselves into a burnout to fight the nagging fear and guilt of not being a good enough mother. [1]

This can happen to anyone (including fathers), and in fact, has probably already happened to most mothers at least once. The question is, why don’t they prevent it?

The Importance of Self-Care

Many mothers complain that they don’t have time for self-care, yet they manage to cram in unnatural amounts of work in a single day — all for the sake of others. It’s possible to squeeze in some “me time” into that load, whether it’s one day a month, or five minutes a day. It’s beneficial to our health – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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“You can’t just think, ‘Someday soon I’m going to take a day for myself,’” says Genevieve Shaw Brown, a mom of three and a reporter for ABC News in New York. “We have to prioritize the same as we would prioritize things for our kids. We’d never miss an appointment for our kids, because they are important. Equally important is prioritizing yourself and your own needs.”

However, self-care sounds selfish to some mothers. Taking time out to do ‘nothing’ makes them anxious as they think about the ‘more important’ things they should be doing. Their ‘self-care’ involves running to the grocery store or cleaning out shelves. That might satisfy the itch to be so-called ‘productive,’ but it won’t energize anyone long-term.

“The question I ask moms is, ‘If you were choosing a child-care provider, and you had a choice between someone who seemed stressed, tired, and overwhelmed versus someone who seemed rested, contented, happy and healthy, who would you want for your kids?’” says Aimee Danielson, director of the Women’s Mental Health Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in the District. “If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids.” [2]

One thing mothers tend to forget in the unattainable quest to become Super Mom is that they are not the only parent. Self-care isn’t just about an occasional day off or a bubble bath, it’s properly balancing the burden and responsibilities with their partner, both sides have equal opportunity for self-care. This isn’t about treating one overworked parent with a spa day, only to be thrown back into it with an unequal division of responsibility. 

Childrearing should be split 50/50. Nobody thinks badly of a mother who asks for help, because in the end she shouldn’t have to. Asking for help, implies a favour and you’re not doing your children ‘a favour’ by raising them because you’re their parent, and that goes for both parents as well. If equal division of responsibilities is not there, that is a whole other issue that needs to be addressed first, because without it true sustainable self-care won’t be achieved. 

With that being said, raising a family is universally known to be difficult. It’s a job with no breaks, not even at night — especially at night for new parents. Like anyone in a hard position, moms deserve TLC to boost their moods and energy. This care may come from establishing a self-care routine, their partner, or an outside source like a massage therapist, library, yoga classes, café, or nail salon.

Ideas for Self-Care Practices

Self-care goes beyond bubble baths. It’s all about finding whatever activity is energizing and enjoyable and working that into a regular routine.  Remember, self-care will essentially slow you down enough to reveal the joy of being a parent. Try one or two things, just to see test out this whole self-care thing if we haven’t convinced you already. 

  • Take yoga classes
  • Meditate
  • Unplug from your devices
  • Take a deep breath whenever there’s a few moments, like waiting at a red light
  • Get a manicure or pedicure
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Go for a walk or a job
  • Sit in the sun
  • Write in a journal
  • Catch up with a friend
  • Read 
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Paint or color
  • Ask for help
  • Go to bed early
  • Visit a museum
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Go on a date with the significant other
  • Sing
  • Massage [3]

Each of these have their own benefits, but massage has some particularly healthful perks. 

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The Benefits of Massage

Massage is a regular on self-care lists because it’s known for relaxation, stress reduction, and pain relief. It is also helpful for anyone who suffers from anxiety and depression/low mood. It’s the perfect prescription for a mother on burnout who is struggling with stress-management, hectic schedules, too little sleep and too much caffeine. 

It’s also specifically helpful for mothers experiencing postpartum depression. Besides for the relaxing part, it can ease pain in the body, reduce swelling, regulate hormones, and improve breastfeeding. Advanced massage therapy can help restore the body to its pre-pregnancy state and assist the healing from a C-section birth. Be sure to find a massage therapist that specializes in prenatal and perinatal, and postpartum women. [4]

For mothers or anyone suffering from anxiety, stress, and bad moods, massage has been a tried and true treatment. It decreases cortisol levels causes the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body and brain. It also enhances the immune system, which tends to suffer during periods of stress. [5]

Reduced anxiety symptoms have been recorded in many studies about massage, particularly those with participants suffering from asthma, depression, arthritis, back pain, job stress, and multiple sclerosis. A study published in Depress Anxiety found their subjects to have experienced significant reductions in anxiety after a 12-week massage treatment period, and these improvements were still clear by the 26-week follow up. [6]

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Everyone has felt the effects of stress like insomnia, poor eating habits, irritability, depression, and even panic attacks. It affects the body negatively, and neglecting the body in this state can prolong these unhealthy reactions. Stress management is vital to happy, healthy life, and self-care like massage is a good way to fend off stress and all of its misery, allowing you to be kinder, more pleasant, and happy. Self-care is the key to a true Super Mom. [7]

Now we are left with one last question.

What Type of Massage Should You Try?

You may have tried massage once, hated it, and decided that massage is just not your thing. Perhaps that type is not, but you’ll love the effects of another. Here are 12 different kinds of massage, and you decide which one speaks to you.

  1. Swedish massage – good for those with a lot of tension and knots and are new to massage
  2. Hot stone massage – best for those with muscle pain and tension
  3. Aromatherapy – involves emotional healing to boost your mood along with relieving pain and tension
  4. Deep tissue massage – uses more pressure than a Swedish massage and is helpful for those with chronic muscle problems
  5. Sports massage – good for those with a repetitive use injury from a sport or other activity, or if you’re prone to injuries
  6. Trigger point massage – suited for those with injuries, chronic pain, or specific issues or conditions
  7. Reflexology – good for relaxation and restoring natural energy levels
  8. Shiatsu massage – best for emotional and physical calm, relieves anxiety, and muscle tension
  9. Thai massage – involves a form of yogic stretching and can improve flexibility, circulation, and energy levels
  10. Prenatal massage – safe for women during pregnancy to reduce body aches, stress, and muscle tension
  11. Couple’s massage – choose any massage, usually between Swedish and hot stone, and do it with a partner, friend, or family member
  12. Chair massage – a quick massage that focuses on neck, shoulders and back; good for beginners [8]

The good thing about mommy burnout is that it is preventable with the proper self-care plan in place. It’s important to know your strengths and limits as a mother and to ask for help when needed. Your mood affects the moods of your children, so self-care is truly a productive investment. So have a massage or enjoy some other pleasurable, de-stressing activity.

You’re a mother, one of the hardest jobs in the world. You have earned a break a hundred over.

  1. Sarah Hubert,* and Isabelle Aujoulat. Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028779/ June 26, 2018
  2. Lindsey Roberts. Why self-care is an important part of parenting, and how to make time for it https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/in-defense-of-a-parents-day-off/2017/01/23/270ffafc-d8f2-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html?noredirect=on January 24, 2017
  3. Carina Davio. 45 simple self-care practices for busy mamas https://www.mother.ly/life/45-simple-self-care-practices-for-busy-mamas?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5
  4. American Pregnancy Association. Postpartum Massage https://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/postpartum-massage/ August 2015
  5. James Lake, MD. Massage Therapy for Anxiety and Stress https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/integrative-mental-health-care/201810/massage-therapy-anxiety-and-stress October 19, 2018
  6. Karen J. Sherman. Effectiveness of Therapeutic Massage for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922919/ May 1, 2011
  7. Katherine Star, PhD. Therapeutic Massage for Anxiety and Panic Disorder https://www.verywellmind.com/massage-therapy-for-panic-disorder-2584306 May 29, 2019[8] Debra Rose Wilson. What Are the Different Types of Massages? https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-massage#chair June 20, 2018
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Sarah Biren
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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