It’s no secret that the demands of the childcare industry put childcare providers at risk for experiencing burnout. As a childcare business owner, you are already well aware of the daily stressors you must face in caring for little children, whether in your home or at a daycare center. In the following guide, we offer a gentle reminder of the importance of taking care of yourself to combat childcare provider burnout. Read the article for practical ways you can practice self-care and proactively avoid burnout.
Why Your Annual Vacation Will Not Save You from Childcare Provider Burnout
One of the common mistakes childcare providers make when it comes to taking care of themselves is thinking their yearly vacation will save them from burnout. The reality is that a week of fun and relaxation, as great as it may be, is not enough to combat the daily stressors you experience on the job (and in life in general) the rest of the year. Intuitively, childcare providers know this, but they still hope the annual trip to the beach will be their saving grace from the chaos of daily life with little ones. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Here’s why:
- Often childcare providers delay vacations, cut vacations short, or don’t take them at all because they don’t feel like they are able to step away from the demands and responsibilities of owning a childcare business.
- Many times, preparing to take a vacation and then anticipating the return to work can put so much stress on a childcare provider that the fun and relaxation achieved by the vacation is mitigated by the stress and anxiety of planning the trip and returning to work.
- A vacation planned for six months from now will not help childcare providers combat the daily stressors they are experiencing on the job today, right now.
Are we telling you not to take a vacation? Absolutely not! Vacations are an important part of self-care that help you create memories, cultivate rest and relaxation, and get “away from it all.” However, we are emphasizing that an annual vacation is not going to help you avoid burnout from everyday stressors if you’re not doing anything else to take care of yourself the rest of the year.
Rhythms and Routines that Will Help You Avoid Childcare Provider Burnout
If your annual vacation will not save you from childcare provider burnout, what will? The most important thing to keep in mind when combating burnout is that you will need daily and weekly rhythms and routines to help you cope with the daily and weekly stressors that come with being a childcare business owner. It only makes sense to address the demands and challenges of childcare work as they arise, instead of gritting your teeth and pushing through problems as if they will go away on their own.
As a reminder, you may be heading toward burnout when you begin to experience the following symptoms, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic:
- A cynical view of your job and a tendency to be critical of yourself and your team members
- A sense of dread over the impending work day or work week
- A lack of energy to be consistently productive
- Inability to concentrate
- A lack of satisfaction from your professional achievements
- A change in sleep patterns, like having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Stress headaches, fatigue, stomach problems, and other physical ailments
Experts say burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.
As you can imagine, or perhaps have experienced firsthand, burnout can be a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can take care of yourself so you can avoid getting to that state of burnout. If you’re already there, implementing self-care can help you regain your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Check out the following ideas for taking care of yourself in the midst of a demanding childcare career.
Daily Rhythms and Routines
- Establish a morning routine. Get up at the same time every day. Give yourself enough time to make a nutritious breakfast, get ready in a relative state of calm, and preserve a moment or two of quiet for yourself before the day gets rolling.
- Eliminate unnecessary hurry. Excessive busyness and hurry contribute to a sense of overwhelm and stress. Try eliminating any habits or routines that are contributing to urgency. For example, try to avoid scrolling through your social media accounts and work emails first thing in the morning. Doing so will save you undue stress and time.
- Create priorities. As a childcare business owner, you will always face the dilemma of too much to do in a day and not enough time to do it all. You may feel like your to-do list is a mile long, and the only thing “done” at the end of the day is you. Instead of fighting a losing battle, create realistic expectations about your day. Prioritize the top two, three, maybe five items you need to do today. You will find yourself looking back at the day as a “win” instead of a “waste,” helping you reframe your perspective.
- Take time for yourself. In the hustle and bustle of a crazy day with little ones, it is absolutely essential that you learn how to take time for yourself in the midst of it all. You will need to be proactive in order to create little moments throughout the day when you can take a step back, take a few deep breaths, get off your feet, have a nutritious snack, etc. For example, instead of using nap time as an opportunity to clean up after the kids, reserve five, ten, fifteen minutes (whatever you need), to take care of yourself. The work, the children, the demands will be a constant presence. You can’t afford to wait until there’s time left at the end of the day for you. Make yourself a priority. You and the little ones you take care of will be better for it.
- Establish a night routine. End the day on a positive note with a night routine that brings closure. Put away the screens at least an hour before bed. Give yourself time to wind down from the day. Go to bed at the same time every night and give yourself plenty of time to sleep. Naturally, you will feel much better when you are rested and your outlook, as well as your ability to cope with daily stressors, will be much improved.
Weekly Rhythms and Routines
- Protect your weekends. It’s easy to use the weekends as an opportunity to catch up on all things business-related. Once in a while, you may find you need to work on the weekends but take care that you don’t make it a practice. Instead, protect your weekends as the time you spend away from the demands of your childcare business so you can focus on taking care of yourself and enjoying life outside of work.
- Check in with your team. If you’re feeling the crunch that comes from daily stress on the job, chances are your team is feeling it too. Make it a priority to check in with your team members weekly to see how they are doing and what they need from you in terms of support, leadership, and guidance. As a team, you can establish the practice of looking out for each other. As a result, you will combat burnout together.
- Change things up. As you go through your week, take note of what’s working for your childcare business and what’s not. Do the kids seem restless and bored? Try rotating toys to add interest and excitement to a predictable routine. Need to burn off some excess energy? Get outside and take a walk or play on the playground instead of enforcing sit-still activities. The more flexible you can be, the more effectively you can rise above each challenge you meet.
- Enforce your policies. A lot of undue stress is added to the plate of a childcare provider who finds themselves unable or unwilling to enforce their business policies. For example, you may need to address parents who are consistently late to pick up their children or who regularly make late payments. Quick problem-solving will help you minimize added stress.
- Do something fun. Make time every week to do something fun, unrelated to your childcare work. Participating in a hobby, reading a book, doing something outdoors, date night with your spouse or significant other, a fun activity with your children, a seasonal outing, or anything you enjoy should be a regular practice you build into your week. Life is too short not to make time for the things you enjoy. You will discover having fun is a great remedy for stress and burnout.
Can you see how practicing daily and weekly self-care will help you maintain your well-being and avoid burnout in ways that your annual vacation just won’t cut it? We hope that by practicing self-care regularly, your vacation won’t need to be the thing that saves you from a year of floundering and exhaustion—it will be something you look forward to with purpose, peace, and presence because you are already prioritizing your wellness every other day of the year.
You can learn more about avoiding and managing burnout by reading Your Time to Thrive by Mariana Khidekel and Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski PhD.
The Honest Buck Accounting team knows that running a childcare business can be stressful and overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to handle the financial side of your business and free you up to focus on what you love most about it. Schedule a call with us today to speak with one of our expert accountants and learn how we can help you eliminate overwhelm and create the financial foundations that will lead to long-term success.