Six Tips for Avoiding Parental Burnout
You might have heard the term ‘parental burnout’ more than usual over the last year. Throughout the pandemic, parents have felt the pressure more than ever as they’ve juggled extra responsibilities with a reduced support network.
Every parent feels the fatigue associated with raising a family. But one who is experiencing ‘parental burnout’ might find themselves chronically exhausted or overwhelmed by parenting responsibilities. They might feel emotionally detached or as though they are losing the joy of being with their children.
It’s caused by an imbalance between stress levels and the resources available to us. Someone who is experiencing high levels of stress, might not necessarily experience 'burnout' if they also have high levels of resources (e.g. a supportive partner, hobbies, strong sense of community).
Where the balance between stress and resources leans towards the stress end, there is higher risk of experiencing burnout. So I'm sharing six tips that will help you to strengthen your resources (both internally and externally) and lower your stress levels to support you through challenging times:
Six tips for avoiding parental burn out:
Use the support available to you
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from your community - whether it’s friends, family or neighbours. More often than not, you’ll find that they want to help you. Your neighbour could pick up some milk from the supermarket for you, your friends could take the dog for a walk, or a family member could entertain the children on Zoom while you finish your meeting. People are very open, generous and keen to help, they just need to know the ways in which you need them.
Support also comes in paid-for forms too - if possible, use paid help to free up some of your time. It might be ordering a takeaway for dinner or scheduling a cleaner once a week.
Talk about it
Talking about our stress is the first step to realising the energy attached to it. If you’re feeling distressed, speak to someone you trust and share your feelings and emotions with them. Try to explain to them what’s going on for you, rather than just sharing an account of your day. Choose someone who you can rely on to hear you out in an accepting and non-judgmental way.
You can make a list of four or five people who you experience as supportive, and in times of need reach out to them.
Don’t forget, you can also seek professional help - whether that’s via your GP or a therapist.
Practise stress management
There are lots of way to manage stress - explore what works for you. You might like to practise mindfulness (e.g. yoga, meditation, breathing exercises) or take yourself outdoors and be amongst nature. Seek small moments of joy in the everyday (e.g. sipping your morning coffee in peace).
Do whatever you can to clear your mind of noise and bring it to the present moment.
The idea is to find ways that soothe you and bring you back to base line. You can find short moments during the day to do it.
Reduce social media use
I recommend reducing your intake of social media and the news, as this can be overwhelming. You might think you are relaxing over Instagram but actually your brain is becoming more overwhelmed and distracted from the here and now.
Letting your mind wonder without screens or responsibilities might be a gift for it. Just like we clean our body every day in the shower, we need to clean and clear our mind. Reducing social media use is a major part of this. Restrict its use for specific times each day - you can find apps to make this easier to control.
Seek out new parenting skills or techniques that might help you in the day-to-day. You might like to purchase a new parenting book for inspiration, or sign up for an online course. Expanding your repertoire of tools will help you to be prepared with calmness and confidence for those more challenging moments.
While social settings are restricted, find an online community of like minded parents who will support you in this. A good place to start is The Village, an online parenting community empowered by experts, where community support and expert advice is all under one roof.
Strive for ‘good enough’
Be kind to yourself in your expectations. Think about what is good enough for now. All we can ask form ourselves is that we do our best. And our best is good enough.
You might relax your expectations about the house tidiness, chores or routines. Don’t worry that the laundry hasn’t been done or that the children have skipped a shower for a day. Lower the standards you expect from yourself to be achievable and focus on the emotional level of yourself and your family instead.
Though you might feel overwhelmed, try to remember that this is a phase and trust that it will pass. It’s ok if you don’t feel yourself at times, particularly when we are going through a pandemic. In the meantime, listen to your body, slow down, be kind to yourself and reach out for professional help and support if you need to.