The challenge of balancing home and work, away from your usual support network, can sometimes be too much. For some of our Mamas, a diagnosis of Burnout was the wake-up call they needed to reorder their priorities and finally ask for help. Here they share their advice and recommend the resources in Amsterdam and the Netherlands which helped them.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is the result of chronic stress, leading to emotional and physical exhaustion and feelings of incapacity and apathy.
General Advice from our Mamas who have Experienced Burnout
Act early. Do not wait until things reach breaking point. Delaying can cause further damage and make recovery much longer.
Call in sick at work and speak to your employer about your need to take time out. Expect to require extended leave to heal and, when you return, do so with reduced responsibilities for the first few weeks.
Look after yourself. Prioritising your wellbeing is essential in order to care properly for your children. This is being a good parent, not being selfish. Say ‘no’ when you need to. Do not seek perfection.
Recognise that it’s not your problem to solve. Empower other people to take the pressure off.
Push away all the toxic things (and people) in your life and hold on only to those things that bring you energy.
Know that it is going to take time, but you will get better if you allow yourself the space you need.
Who Can Help?
Pyschologist: It is helpful to get a psychological assessment. The huisarts might refer you to a POH-GGZ, which is an in-house psychologist. If a course of sessions with a psychologist is prescribed by your huisarts, it should be covered to some extent by your basic insurance but do call them to check. Some psychologists specialise in burnout. You can work on stress management together and it can be less expensive than a burnout coach. Sessons can sometimes be conducted by skype. Try to find someone who speaks your mother tongue. Mamas suggest that English speakers try the Expat Medical Centre.
Exercise: Pilates and yoga can be great ways to reconnect your brain to your body, stay focused and become more aware of your stress points and your breathing.
A Support Group: This can be a great way to connect with other parents experiencing burnout. Try looking for a mothers/parent group in your neighbourhood or join this (non-professional) Facebook group.
Life Coach: Can help with your work and home-life balance. Can be expensive but the long-term benefits are a big pay-off. Some companies with help employees with the expense. Mamas recommend De Gezonde Zaak and Prezens. Amsterdam Mama, Jane Stephenson, offers equine coaching, which one mama found highly beneficial.
Your Employer: Speak to your boss about reducing your work load and get them to take some responsibility for finding a solution. They are obliged by law to help sick employees and some will help you with the cost of your treatment. For more information, contact the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment or a union, such as the FNV.
What Can Help?
Meditation: Mamas recommend this as a way to find peace, clear your mind and recharge your energy. Soaking up the sun’s rays while meditating in the morning can feel especially beneficial. There are also guided meditation apps that you can use on your phone.
Massage: This forces you to stop, to release tension and reconnect to your body.
Practise Mindfulness: Learn to focus on the present moment and take pleasure in it. For a small group that respects your privacy, minden.nl is recommended. Headspace is a useful app which takes you through the mindfulness training process and offers various mediations. Click here more information on local practitioners.
Acupuncture: Might help with alleviating pain and tension. Seek out a qualified and reputable practitioner.
Reordering your Priorities: What do you and your family need? Are less important things taking up too much of your thinking space?
Writing: Penning your thoughts can be a useful way to make sense of what you are feeling. It can also help you prepare for the conversations you may need to have with your work, family and friends.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal: This can help re-wire your brain and has numerous benefits. It helps you focus on the positive and is great to look back on when you are having a tough time. It can also improve sleep. Apps for your phone are available to prompt you to write.
A Trip Away: Go somewhere on your own where you can relax and find yourself again. Here are some of our suggestions.
Leisure: Do the things that make you feel good. This might be reading, running or going to the cinema.
A Healthy Diet: This helps your body function properly and heal itself. Cutting out alcohol and caffeine can also help promote recovery.
Medication: Included tentatively, but many mamas have found being prescribed anti-depressants, such as Prozac or Fluoxetine, helped them cope with the every-day and get back on track.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
A Pace of Grace by Linda Kavelin Popov Adrenal
Burnout, the 21st Century Syndrome by Lawrence Wilson
For case studies of what burnout can feel like and how you can recover, read Amber Rahim's story and From Operations Manager to Burnout to Creativity and Motherhood.
This list has been compiled from the recommendations of our members on the Amsterdam Mamas Facebook group.
Deborah Nicholls-Lee is a British national who moved to the Netherlands in 2009. A former French and English teacher, she now works as a freelance writer and editor while raising her two children. See her website to find out more about her work.
photo credit: Flickr