What to Do When You’re Burned Out

Burned out. Fed up. Ready to quit. Exhausted and stressed out.

Not pretty, huh?

Those words describe me years ago. The exact circumstances don’t matter because we can all find a list of reasons why we’ve gotten to this point at one time or another.

But in looking back I can see physical, emotional and spiritual reasons why I reached that point. And boy, am I grateful that I hung in there and climbed out of that black hole, one handhold after another.

Like everything I write — been there, done that. I can say hard things because I’ve done the journey and in fact, I’m still on it. Dealing with the discouragement and overwhelm that so easily ensnares is an ongoing process but I can tell you that you can get better at it.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but here are some things, in no particular order, that helped me when I reached a low point in my life:

Quit being a loner. I’m not naturally a real people-person, so it was easy for me to remain isolated when we moved to a new state and I had a new baby a few months later. And another one two years after that. At the age of almost 46. Eventually I realized that I needed relationships — some with skin on, some online. Online classes and groups were a lifesaver during that season. At present I have regularly-scheduled lunches with different groups of friends.

Embraced femininity. This sounds odd, but I had forgotten about perfume and lacy underwear and sparkly pins on my coat. It was part of the healing process for me to buy a swirly black skirt with red roses and a matching red cardigan. It fed my spirit to fix up and feel pretty.

Got real with God but moved past the getting real part. What I mean is that I began to journal and tell Him all about it, but I forced myself to not stay there and wallow in my self-pity. Like the Psalmist, I had to get to the good part of the “nevertheless” and the “think on these things.” It helped to realize that this was a relationship, not rules. God wasn’t mad at me and He’s in a good mood.

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable. ~ Maya Angelou

Got out of myself and got support. At one point I realized that I hadn’t attended a homeschool convention in five years. We were supposed to go to one and it fell through at the last minute and I wept like a baby in the shower that morning. That was it. We made sure I went to the next event. I also sought out sources of support and education in between events.

Admitted to myself that I had mostly dug the hole myself. Being a martyr mom, always last in line for anything new, resigning myself to staying home when others had fun, blaming my husband, blaming my kids, blaming my circumstances, giving in to bitterness and resentment over my hard life…..It was my choice to do and think those things. The truth set me free.

Started taking better care of myself. The only time I took care of myself was when I was pregnant, and even then I didn’t do it very well. This was a fundamental issue of self-worth, thinking that I didn’t deserve to take care of myself. I finally realized that I was worth the cost of special supplements to support my depleted body.

Changed what needed to be changed. New homeschool curriculum. Simpler schedule. More dates with my husband. Anything that refreshed and filled my cup.

Quit being mean to myself.  I became aware of the constant barrage of thoughts like “You are such an idiot “ and “That was stupid” and on and on. We’re meaner to ourselves than anybody. It was a process to break the habit and develop a new pattern and I’m still working on it, but filling myself up with good input helped.

These things all worked together, among others, to bring me back from the brink of despair. It was a quiet and lonely desperation. I’m a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mom and the mother of a large family. Any one of those roles brings with it a certain self-protection mechanism against the judgment and criticism of others.

These lessons were learned well for the most part. My inner and outer life have been transformed and I am one happy woman now. I open my eyes in the morning and think grateful thoughts for the love of God and the blessings in my life. I still catch myself going down the wrong road in my thoughts and have to rein myself in and take those thoughts captive, but I’ve gotten much better at it.

If you’re feeling burned out or just discouraged, maybe some of these ideas will make a difference for you. If I was there I’d give you a great big hug and assure you that it’s going to be all right, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Have you found ways to deal with feelings of being burned out? Please share them with us, it will help others.


  1. Denise Baligad says:

    What an incredible post Charlotte! Everything sounds so similar including some of the remarkable changes I’m experiencing in my life from your encouragement. Thank you so very much for your candor and honesty….I knew we were kindred spirits all along! I am so blessed to have found you!!
    Aloha in Christ,
    Denise :o)

  2. Carolyn Lange says:

    I have just come through a dark period in my life similar to what you are describing. We moved to new state, adopted internationally twice, had a death in the family, and I had a hysterectomy all withing five years. Whew! No wonder I was burned out. I think acknowledgement that there is a problem and harnessing your thoughts are crucial to begin the climb out of the pit. Once you can admit you need to change some things, you have begun the journey. The ‘Martyr Mom’ syndrome is so true. I found that when I began to rely on God again and on my husband rather than myself, things started turning around. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Charlotte, that was beautiful. It’s so easy to feel sorry for ourselves and blame everyone else for our sadness. Congratulations on pulling yourself out of that dark place and thank you for sharing the staircase that led you into a happy, healthy life. I love your stories!

  4. A great reminder, Charlotte. You continue to be an inspiration, to us all. I have felt so many of the same things you state, moving, being separated from others and feeling all alone. You’re truly a Titus 2 woman teaching us to love our husbands and children. It starts with going to God and accepting that he loves us unconditionally and then, loving ourselves and we then can start pouring out to others. Self-reflection is great when it is done in a positive light rather than self-condemning focusing on all of our failures.
    Those burned out times is when I cry out to God in prayer, it is reading the Bible and the passages of what God thinks of me and getting a right perspective. Feeding off of negativity only produces more negativity.It is knowing that we are not alone in our journey there is a big God who cares about every single thing that happens to us.
    My husband is also a great sounding board. He knows when to take action and help or when to just listen and give a hug. That relationship doesn’t just happen it takes being vulnerable, open and honest with each other.He is my greatest prayer warrior and defender of my sanity.
    Counting the blessings and not the failures sure can change any perspective.

  5. Katelynne says:

    Charlotte, God sent you to me today! I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement! May He continue to BLESS you in awesome ways!!

  6. Ellen Summers - Stillwater says:

    Take advantage of what is at hand. Ttapp month by month changing routines and keeping a calendar (visual). Mediterranean Cooking Class at church! Financial Peace University, second time around and working on securing ‘more’ of the baby steps to wealth building. Declutter/organize class-to promote hospitality and free myself of useless stuff; adding things of beauty. Favorite quote “bring nothing into your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Wm Morris

  7. Holly Peterson says:

    Awesome! Thanks for being real. It is so important for moms not to believe the lie that we don’t need “me time’ or social lives. If I hadn’t joined the homeschool group and co-op this fall I don’t know what would have happened to me. Also, sometimes your spouse is in the way of you taking care of yourself. Grow a backbone and do it anyway! He’ll like you better after you are feeling better. I am finally going to see the chronic illness specialist I should have seen a year ago (ok, 10 years ago, but I didn’t know about him then).

    I love how you can simplify ideas and communicate them so well, and I love your e-mails! They are the perfect combination of real and positive, without being whiney and fluffy or hard and accusational. 🙂

  8. Hi Charlotte,
    I don’t know why I hadn’t pictured you going through these things before. I’m going to keep these words close-by so I can keep working in getting out of my desperation feelings. Getting feminine? I had never thought of that as helping!
    Gena at ichoosejoy.org

  9. Thank you, Charlotte. I can honestly say that one thing I do when I’m on a downer to lift myself up again is to look at your blog. It’s a regular mood-booster for me. I also find that taking a nice hot shower and, as you said, “getting feminine” can make me feel like a new woman. I often imagine that the water is washing away my anxiety and troubles and that putting on my makeup is like painting a picture on the outside of myself of who I really am (or can be) on the inside. A hot cup of herbal tea, scripture study, and a walk, even to the mailbox or garbage dumpster, are all very simple but helpful practices on those long, dark days. And coming up with something, anything, to look forward to–even the arrival of a catalog in the mail–gives me an easy and enjoyable goal to work toward. Thanks, again Charlotte! I think your blog is such a selfless act of service for the women in this world.

  10. tabitha dresser says:

    Charlotte, Thank you so much for your blog. Today’s words made me cry! The good kind of cry that lets you know that God is using this blog once again the help heal my heart and build my spirit back up. I am thankful for you!

  11. Charlotte Siems says:

    Ladies, I am touched by your responses! It never ceases to amaze me that the more transparent and “real” I am, the more it ministers to others who are going through the same thing. This has been a journey out of my own tendency to be protective of myself because of my early life. It has been totally worth the work to be able to encourage each of you. Thank you so much for your own honesty and real-ness–you’ve encouraged ME!

  12. Charlotte,
    Thanks for the encouragement to continue to take thoughts captive!!! I love when you said, “And I am one happy woman now.” It made me smile. I thought to myself, I am happy too. I couldn’t always say this either.

  13. Charlotte Siems says:

    I’m glad you’re happy, Edwena! So thankful for the realization that my thoughts don’t have to rule me.

  14. Charlotte, you are such a blessing! You have been my inspiration for T-tapp, I just remember be consistent like you say and in 4 months I am down 40 inches and as you know experienced many other benefits. This post though was much needed balm for my soul. It spoke to me in so many ways. Thank you.

  15. Oh my goodness, thank you for posting this one. This is so very much how I have been feeling for a while now. So, I started doing exactly what you have said and so glad to know I am moving in the right direction. Also, have found many friends, homeschooling moms that feel the same way. So, I have been passing on what I am learning to them. God led me to do what you put into words. So, glad to know I am not alone in all this. Thank you again for posting this.

  16. Thank you for this Charlotte! My part-time pastor hubby recently became a full-time co-pastor (bi-vocational), we homeschool (2 girls), we have a VERY active 19 month old…and she is sick. again. (this winter has been a very difficult one for sickness). I have been battling the world of ‘what if’ for a couple weeks now and am feeling the place of ‘I don’t really care anymore/ I give up’ creep closer and closer. Thank you for sharing this. I feel encouraged and am excited to print out and keep this list nearby. I have been counting my gift/blessings, which helps a lot (change of perspective!), but felt at a loss of what else to do. Now I have a whole list of ideas!

  17. Charlotte Siems says:

    Shannon! Congratulations on 40 inches GONE!! You go, girl!

  18. Charlotte Siems says:

    Jen and Tami, when I was in that burned-out season I would have loved for someone to be honest and share some things to do to help, so that’s exactly why I wrote this. Soooo glad it’s helped you! (Come to think of it, I did ask for help once on a forum and was told that I should be happy at home. At the time it was hurtful because I knew I should be happy, I just couldn’t find my way there. I didn’t need someone to encourage my self-pity but it didn’t help to hear that I was simply wrong for feeling the way I did).

  19. Stephanie says:

    Here is my list of burn out busters that I schedule into my calendar for the year.
    Delegate a meal per week to able children – even a 6 year old can put together hotdogs and baby carrots with verbal help
    A weekly homeschool co-op that’s fun for mom and kids
    Starting our day a little later when we are tired
    My favorite high calorie chai on Friday mornings.
    Purchase a premade frozen meal weekly for a tough day.
    On a cranky morning, take a walk/bike ride around the block
    A monthly lunch date with a friend (without kids if possible)
    A monthly field trip or nature day for school
    A bimonthly exercise date (30 min) with a friend. We met at the Y (childcare there) or a small park with a track around it
    Every 4 months, kids spend a night or two with grandma
    A yearly mommy vacation scheduled around the homeschool convention. Kids with grandma for 3-4 days and nice mommy lunches downtown sometimes dinner out with husband. Also spend some money on encouraging books or CDs.
    This is my 16th year homeschooling my 7 children and my third year to implement this list of things. We have had a better year and a more joyful mommy. I think the key has been to do these things consistently. Thanks for sharing Charlotte. It’s great to know that we are not alone.

    1. What a practical list! Thank you so much for posting this reply to an already helpful article.

  20. Charlotte Siems says:

    What a great list of ideas, Stephanie! Good idea to have a “schedule” for these things, too, because otherwise it tends to not happen. 🙂

  21. Hi Charlotte,
    Thank you for this post….
    I have been reading through you blog the last few days, and I really, really like a lot of what you have to say. This post has given me hope and some good advice on how to work on my current burnout.
    My husband works a “secular job”, we don’t homeschool, we live in a different country on another continent, and my family is relatively small (we have three children), but I find a lot of what you share resonates with me.
    This Resurrection Sunday has reminded me of the hope we have in Jesus because he is alive!
    Happy Resurrection Sunday to you and your family!


  22. Charlotte Siems says:

    I’m so glad to be an encouragement to you, Ruth! We all have different circumstances but share the “woman” experience! There IS hope, so hang in there!

  23. I’m also a pastors wife & homeschooling mama of 5, 9 & under… I think I’m going to read this post again tomorrow too. Thank you so much for writing it!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Liz, you’re in a challenging but wonderful season–hang in there!

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