Do you have children living at home? There’s a good chance you’re experiencing some form of parenting burnout – especially if you work, have a newborn or toddler(s) at home, a child has special needs, or you’re also caring for aging parents. The modern parent is go-go-going almost 24/7, which can affect physical and emotional well-being.
You are not alone! Research indicates that 66% of parents with children under 18 experience parenting burnout.
Parental Burnout: The Key Signs & What To Do About It
The first step in addressing parental burnout is knowing you have it in the first place.
Signs of parenting burnout
Here are some of the most common signs of parenting burnout:
● Feeling like you’re always tired no matter how much sleep you get.
● Unusual irritability, moodiness, or angry/frustrated responses to everyday life.
● Not wanting to do the things you love when you get any time off.
● There isn’t any free space on the calendar.
● Feeling resentful at your kids (or your partner) and then feeling guilty for feeling resentful.
● Decrease in feelings of life satisfaction or fulfillment.
● Not knowing where you stop and where the family begins.
● Overeating or not eating enough.
● Feelings of depression or hopelessness, even though your life may look okay to those on the outside.
● Constantly feeling like nothing you do is good enough (you suspect you’re a lousy parent no matter how hard you try).
● Increased use of unhealthy substances (alcohol, smoking, vapinghttps://womenshealthkc.com/5-tips-to-quit-smoking-or-vaping-keep-it-that-way/, recreational drugs, sugar, etc.) to “feel better.”
NOTE: If you have a newborn or infant at home, these signs could indicate a case of the baby blues or postpartum depression – neither of which is the same as parenting burnout. Please reach out to your OB so we can hear more about your experience and ensure you have access to all of the support you need.
In the words of Donkey from Shrek, anyone experiencing parenting burnout constantly feels like “a donkey on the edge,” and it’s time to fix that!
5 Tips to Heal from Burnout
If you suspect you have parenting burnout, you probably do. It’s time to take action, regain balance, and find ways to nourish and heal your depleted self (and nervous system!).
Here are five tips to start healing from burnout, restoring boundaries, and creating space for you – which is healthy modeling for your children and family.
1. Nourish your body with healthy lifestyle choices.
If you’re running on empty all of the time, there’s no way you can take advantage of the next four suggestions on this list. So, we start with nourishing your body with healthy lifestyle choices. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we direct you to our post, 5 Ways to a Healthier Heart, since all the same tenets apply.
The key to nourishing your body through healthy lifestyle choices includes:
● Eating well
● Exercising regularly
● Quitting unhealthy habits
● Keeping up on wellness visits
● And practicing stress management.
2. Clear the calendar of anything that isn’t a “heck yes!”
Odds are that parents with burnout have kids who are burning out too. It might be that the whole family is experiencing overwhelming busyness and hard-to-meet calendar expectations. Take a look at the calendar and eliminate anything that isn’t a “heck yes!” or that compromises your (or other family members) ability to eat regular meals, get to sleep on time, or have some space to just “be” without having to honor a calendar date.
The Child Mind Institute recommends asking these questions and then tailoring extracurricular activities accordingly:
● Do children/parents have quality time to spend with family and friends?
● Is there time to get a reasonable amount of homework done?
● Is everyone getting enough sleep (see next)?
We offer one more: does the activity bring the participant more joy than stress?
If the answer to any of these is “No,” it’s time to eliminate some of the obligations and add free space back on the family calendar.
3. Cultivate healthy sleep habits.
It’s impossible to avoid burnout if you’re not well-rested. Cultivating healthy sleep habits should be a priority for the whole family. Remember that the number of hours of sleep a person needs varies by age. By the time a child reaches about ten years old or so, they need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
4. Use STOP or HALT to assess the situation before taking action.
A person in burnout mode is in a state of survival mode. This makes it difficult to think clearly, make sound decisions, or to bow out instead of plowing forward. Instead of making decisions or acting reactively, we recommend using STOP or HALT to take a moment, clear your mental space, and determine the next step.
This practice helps you clear some mental space to observe your thoughts and feel what’s going on in your body. If no clear answer or way forward emerges, don’t decide. You can think about it for a while. Or, it might mean you need to say “no” to whatever’s being asked or requested.
S – Stop.
T – Take a deep breath.
O – Observe what you’re feeling or thinking in the moment.
P – Proceed with intention.
As with STOP, this reminder helps you determine whether you’re in the right state of mind/body to make a decision or add something else to your plate.
H – Hungry?
A – Angry?
L – Lonely?
T – Tired?
When we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, we tend to be more reactive and don’t make the best decisions. Take care of your basic needs first. If the answers to these are yes, it’s best to say nothing, say “I’ll think about that” or “I’ll have to get back to you,” so you don’t say or do something you regret.
5. Take microbreaks and then build them into longer ones.
It’s not easy to change your way of being overnight. So, take microbreaks. This might mean taking five deep breaths in a row while looking out the window. You could take an extra moment after a bathroom break to do some of your favorite stretches or jog around the office building to shake things up. Offer to take out the trash and give yourself an extra few minutes to gaze at the stars.
Taking microbreaks is a small start to a great habit. Over time, build in more and more “real” breaks into your day.
Let us know if you’re struggling with parental burnout.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the demands of parenting? We get it. Contact us here at Women’s Health Associates. Let’s find a way to release that pressure and get you back to feeling more inspired and satisfied with life again.