We all deal with burnout now and then, whether we’re homesteading, homeschooling, raising a family, gardening, or doing any mix of all those things and more! Here are six practical ideas to implement right now to help manage and deal with homestead burnout.
Seasonal Considerations of Homestead Burnout
The absolute first thing I want to say is that I always feel some measure of homestead burnout in:
- Spring – planting season
- Fall – harvest season
It doesn’t matter how I plan or prepare, I always feel a mixture of exhaustion and overwhelm these two times of year.
Why? Because they’re insanely busy seasons on the homestead and I’m a human being! So are you, and if you’re struggling to keep the vision of homesteading while you slog through the work of these times, that’s ok.
Think about other times you feel overwhelm with homestead work and be aware that you might need some special care during these events.
Is Homesteading Hard Work?
The short answer is yes, homesteading is hard work. The truth is that anything worthwhile is going to require our best effort. Sometimes, this can cause feelings of pressure and frustration.
For example: We spend all spring carefully tending seeds and seedlings, only to have an early summer or a mass of grasshoppers decimate our first crops. It’s tempting to feel like all that hard work was in vain; as if the effort was wasted.
- So is it the hard work we’re really weary of?
- Is it the hard work that has us labeling what we’re feeling as homestead burnout?
- Is our time really wasted when we suffer setbacks?
What are Some of the Challenges of Homesteading?
I think what we’re really feeling is that we don’t seem to be able to do all the things we had planned. We forget that no effort is ever wasted because we learn from each experience. It’s really that simple.
But our feelings seem to prey upon us, becoming especially pressing when we experience challenges like:
- Poor health
- Family discord or break up
- Money troubles
- Land woes – too much to manage, or no land while we wait for our dream homestead
- Livestock struggles from health to breeding to harvesting
- Food production setbacks from weather or insect pressure, and more
- Lack of adequate time to complete goals
- Shortage of labor to assist with all the work
We could list challenges to the homesteading lifestyle all day long, right? As I said, this is like any worthwhile endeavor – it has its vagaries as well as its joys!
Put Your Energy to Better Use for Homestead Burnout
There’s nothing unnatural about feeling frustrated, but perhaps you and I can put our energy to better use by learning a few lessons as we mature in our homesteading efforts. These lessons may not entirely cure us of homestead burnout because sometimes we simply get tired!
However, I gently submit the following ideas for you to try to see if they help assuage some of the exhaustion and irritation you may be feeling on the homestead right now. Before you throw in the towel and give it up to homestead burnout, try a few of these things and see if they can help talk you back down off the ledge, so to speak.
How to Manage & Deal with Homestead Burnout
My first point may not take you by surprise because it’s probably something you already know you need to do.
#1 – Rest Right Now
If you’re in the middle of feeling homestead burnout, manage that feeling immediately by ensuring that you get enough rest. The frustrated feelings you’re having are telling you what you aren’t listening to with the simple cues your body has been sending you.
Stop. Breathe. Rest.
You may not feel like you can, but that feeling is false. If you are overwhelmed, you must take the time to rest or you will shut down through poor health and put yourself in a worse position.
Sometimes resting can feel impossible but that only means that you need to have a plan for rest/recuperation as you do for anything else. Here are a few ideas that might work for you this week:
- Give yourself 30-60 minutes more sleep per day. Often, the most basic need our bodies have is to simply sleep more .
- Take 30 minutes in the morning or at night to pray/ponder/meditate, read quietly, and journal.
- Bathe every day. This may sound too basic to mention, but hygiene often suffers when we feel too busy to even breathe.
Reasons Not Excuses
Before we go any further, it’s important to mention that there are occasionally reasons why we don’t meet our goals each day. Sometimes a shower doesn’t happen because we rush off to deal with an emergency the second our feet hit the floor. These things happen. God invented tomorrow so that you can get back to your goals.
You and I should refrain from making excuses for ourselves, however. If we truly feel on the verge of homestead burnout, then it is imperative we take things in hand and make a change. This isn’t a little thing – this is our whole lifestyle!
If we don’t respect this fact, we will have to learn to live with regret and self-reproach as we realize that it wasn’t the work that did us in and made us give up. We will have done that to ourselves because we refused to improve the small things that would lead to great change. Hippocrates is credited with saying:
Before you can cure a man, ask if he is willing to give up the thing that made him sick.
Homesteaders don’t have the luxury of excuses, so don’t allow yourself to make them up in your head as you read along. If your body is telling you to sleep thirty more minutes a day, do it. Don’t waste your energy finding excuses why you can’t give yourself this extra half hour of rest.
Are you willing to give up the thing that is making you experience homestead burnout?
#2 – Learn to Let it Go
Whatever “it” is, release it out from under your control because you aren’t actually controlling it. Let me give you an example from my life this year.
Early in the summer, I had a brown recluse spider bite my right shoulder. I’ve lived in Missouri for years now and this was my first recluse bite. It was horribly painful, but I managed to feel grateful this was the first time it was happening to me. I was also grateful I got bit and not one of my kids!
The recovery time was nearly a month and I was ready to get back to work in the garden. That turned out not to be the plan, though!
Midsummer, I was bitten again, this time in a place that prohibited my movement – I couldn’t really walk. This bite also triggered a hyper-immune response that caused severe rashes, fever, aches and pain, etc. In short, I was a mess.
All philosophical thoughts of gratitude and patience went out the window. I had no control over my ability to work and I did. not. like. it.
Make a List of Disposables
I’ll continue with my saga, but here is my favorite way of figuring out what to “let go” of and how to actually accomplish that.
- Get your journal or a piece of paper and a quiet space to think for a few minutes.
- Say a prayer and/or tell yourself that you’re going to be very honest about your time and schedule in the next few minutes.
- Write down everything you do every day. All of it. Every last thing.
- Ponder your list and look for items that can be stopped for at least the next month. You can’t stop feeding the children or the livestock, but do you really need to provide snacks in Sunday School every week? Sunday School is just an example, of course – find the thing that is most relevant to you.
- Mark at least five small things you can stop doing for just one month. It’s just five things and it’s just one month. Highlight these items in yellow.
- Look at your list again and find five things you can delegate. You can’t have your ten-year-old go grocery shopping for you, but what can that 10-year-old do? If you’re turning the compost every day, have the chickens or pigs do it instead. If you are not someone who likes delegating, get over it for this month and do it anyway.
- Pick five things to delegate this month and mark them in green.
- Last but not least, find another five things on your list that you can do quicker or more efficiently. These are things that must be done by you, but every system can be improved. Where are you wasting time and energy? For example, if it’s your job to make breakfast every morning, write up a meal plan. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like meal schedules or have failed at them in the past, write it up anyway. Now use it every day this week. If you miss a day, start back up the next day and see if this helps you. Did you save yourself twenty minutes this morning because you weren’t deciding what to make and then running around looking for ingredients?
- Mark these goals for more efficiency in blue.
- Keep this list where you can see it and use it every day.
Questions on This Process?
- Yes, you can pick other highlighting colors. The colors given are simply examples.
- Yes, this is a difficult process. You can do hard things
- Yes, I know this process works because I just barely used it again this month while laying on my heating pad and ice packs while trying not to be a whiney baby-boo.
Our choices are to give up to homestead burnout or to get over it. Which will you choose?
I Am Indispensable, Aren’t I?
One of the emotional things that plagued me most during my recovery from the spider venom were my worries over the gardens. This was our first year here and we’d worked so hard and so fast to install gardens to grow food for our family. We worked overtime and did, in a few months, what I usually have us do in a full year to start growing.
I’m also the main gardener in the family. With the loss of my labor, things began to flounder. My family was fantastic, but there just weren’t enough hands.
It is in my nature to work and to work thoroughly and accomplish what needs to be done, even if I’m tired or otherwise indisposed. In order to not descend into bitterness and frustration with my situation, I had to make a conscious choice to simply let the garden go.
I continued to pray over it and to help direct my family as much as I could without actually laboring. I deliberately looked for silver linings as the challenges of a cold/wet spring switched immediately over to an abnormally hot/dry summer.
See that word “deliberately”? This was a choice, and not one that is in my nature to make. It took a lot of effort to stay positive and allow myself to heal indoors. I wasn’t always successful in my efforts, but I recognized that it was decision making process.
So, How Did the Garden Turn Out Without Me?
Something I discovered was that I am not as indispensable as I thought, and it’s mostly because of the nature of things. Even without my tending it, the garden grew. Nature didn’t need me to micro-manage her efforts, and God certainly didn’t need me telling Him how things should go.
My family did what they could, we prayed all the prayers, and we learned to live with weeds. And crops that didn’t get planted. Some crops didn’t even get harvested, but sat on the vines dying.
We couldn’t do everything, but we did what we could, and we ate vegetables all summer.
Things have a way of working out, and we need to trust in that process. The world was turning long before we got here and it will continue its axis after we’re gone. We can take time to rest and heal because we’re the only thing we have control over.
#3 – Get Some Help
There comes a point when you might need help. There’s only one of you but there’s usually enough work for twenty people on the homestead! Here are a few ideas to finding extra hands:
- Hire someone, if you can afford it. Perhaps you can’t find a willing worker on the homestead, but perhaps you can find a willing babysitter or dish washer. Whatever it is you need done, hire it out in small amounts. Just enough so you can get your head above water.
- Swap projects with another homesteader where you work on their project, and then they come work on yours. This requires no capital other than your labor and time. Many hands really do make light work, and this sort of trade agreement can make a world of difference on your homestead.
- Trade for work. If your homestead produces surplus food, trade it for labor instead of charging money. This can work particularly well in urban settings where people are now wanting to learn more about growing their own food, but don’t know where to begin. You can help them gain knowledge and experience and produce, while they help you with the very real work on the homestead.
- Consider an intern, when possible. I once had and “intern” who was a homeschooled lad who really wanted to learn about the work involved with gardens and livestock. He knew he wanted to be a farmer but lived in a big city and had no experience. I gave him experience and he gave me his labor. He and his family also gave us their friendship, which was priceless.
And Then My Back Went Out & the Bathroom Exploded
Not quite fully recovered from the last spider bite and in the final stages of preparing my latest book for print, I threw my back out picking up a chicken waterer. I felt it pop a bit but was able to finish the chore and figured some time on ice packs and heating pads would see it righted.
After several weeks and an emergency bathroom remodel thrown into the works, I was not only unable to walk again, but displaced from my home and gardens because of no working bathroom.
It was time to get real about managing my attitude because I have never, in my twenty + years of homesteading, been so burned out.
#4 – Plan a Picnic & Help a Friend
At this point, I finally realized that what I was experiencing was a deliberate test. Even if you’re not much into the idea of God, surely you have had those times when the challenges you face are so obviously helping you strengthen and grow that in a weird way (much later on), you’re actually grateful for them.
I finally accepted that this was how the growing and harvest season were going to be for me this year and I needed to stop fighting against it. I stopped looking out the window at all the weeds devouring my work of the spring. Instead, I made pancakes for the kids between ice pack and heading pad breaks.
I stopped concentrating so hard on myself and texted a friend who was struggling with way more health issues than I have ever had to face. Then I emailed another friend with the same. I called another with even more health issues than all the others put together. Turns out, the universe doesn’t actually revolve around my health. Who knew?
Easy Ways to Get Out of Your Head
- Plan a service project. Calling and texting were all I could do for awhile for friends in need. Eventually, I could do a little more. Do what you can for someone in your sphere. There is nothing so calculated to adjust a poor attitude as service. There is always someone who needs your help, even if you’re a mess.
- Make a list of your blessings or things for which you are thankful. This isn’t too childish to do. Finding thankfulness in difficult times is an act of defiance against homestead burnout and despair.
- Have a picnic with people you love. It doesn’t have to be outdoors, it doesn’t have to include food, and it doesn’t even have to be a picnic! Just do something with your family and friends that doesn’t have anything to do with your burnout or your problems. Get out of the house and have fun.
#5 – Observe a Day of Rest
For the religious among us, this is usually a simple thing since many faiths have a day of rest built into their worship, which some call a Sabbath. Six days of labor are plenty for toil and even for recreation.
Take one day of the week to move slower, read more, sleep a little, reduce your chores to the bare minimum, and be with those you love.
#6 – Invite People Onto the Homestead
Even if you have weeds, and everything isn’t perfect, have outside friends come to the homestead. Host a potluck or plan a special homeschool tour for kids. Walk them around and show them your projects in all their varying states of incompletion. Talk about your goals and answer their questions.
Something in this process will most likely jumpstart your passion. Sharing the homestead, and even serving as a homestead mentor, has worked for me time and again when I’m starting to struggle holding onto the vision of the homesteading lifestyle. When I see it through another’s eyes, the amazingness of the work we’re doing becomes clearer.
Holidays are a perfect time for this kind of thing and you can make your event very seasonal. There are plenty of holidays besides those winter ones we always think about when we hear that word. There is something to celebrate ALL YEAR LONG!
I actually believe so much in the power of holidays and traditions on the homestead that I wrote a whole book about them. Called Homestead Holidays, it’s due to be released in a few weeks and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Random Ideas for Managing and Dealing with Homestead Burnout
- If you’re a country homesteader, visit a city for the day. After traffic, noise, and all those people, you may find a renewed commitment to making your rural homesteading lifestyle work.
- I’ll mention journaling again. Write things down so that you can process them. Make a list of fears, frustrations, blessings, challenges, goals, or whatever it is that keeps rolling around in your head.
- Focus on finding just one thing that is draining your energy and remove it from the homestead, if possible. One friend hit a homestead burnout point and got rid of her prized turkeys. As much as she loved them, she was tired of the breeding and showing them at fairs and dealing with poult mortality rates! She kept her chickens and her goats and has never looked back. We don’t have to do everything.
- Be very sure you’re only doing what you can manage. The reality is, kids age and move away, causing your workforce to diminish. Your body ages and you can’t physically accomplish what could before. Your financial situation changes or a move occurs, and the face of your homestead changes. Learn to constantly reassess and be willing to change systems that become outdated. Don’t try to do what you’ve always done if it’s no longer realistic.
If These Ideas Don’t Work
Sometimes, we’re just not in a place where we even want to feel better. That happens and I suggest you just let it mellow for awhile. Try these ideas when you’re ready for them.
If, however, your doldrums worsen and you find yourself struggling with depression that persists, or if you start to be concerned by feelings of self-harm or deep hopelessness, please reach out immediately for help. Sometimes we just have the blues and are overwhelmed, and sometimes our feelings are symptoms of deeper problems.
It Came to Pass
If you’re a Bible reader, you’ve probably run into the phrase, “It came to pass…”. This phrase always references some event of great import. Please try to keep in mind the “pass” part. It is always written that “It came to pass,” not that “It came to stay.”
This will pass. The season will change. The health challenge will heal, or you’ll find a way to live with it. With some important exceptions, nothing lasts forever.
Don’t let the homestead burnout rob you of any more joy or energy or hope. You can overcome this and pass through it!