Most therapists have noticed a striking increase in parental burnout over the last year. Of course, much of this is thanks to the pandemic. It has increased pressure on parents in a way that probably hasn’t been seen before.
Overseeing children’s virtual schooling, providing childcare for younger tots, being together all the time while also trying to work your own job is a mental health crisis waiting to happen! If you feel you’re burned out, you’re not alone.
What Exactly Is Parental Burnout?
If you feel exhausted and fuzzy-brained from round-the-clock parenting, you may be experiencing burnout.
Kids are awesome, but they require a great deal of physical and emotional care. There’s all the cooking and cleaning and bedtime issues, of course. But there are also kids who like to argue a lot or chatter non-stop.
When you don’t get enough of a break, these constant stressors and interruptions can easily lead to sheer physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion in yourself.
Signs You Need a Break
Physical exhaustion may be the most obvious sign of parental burnout. Even simple chores such as popping in the store for a gallon of milk or making lunch require monumental effort. Perhaps you stand in your kitchen, knowing what you need to do but so tired that you can’t make yourself do it.
Parents who are burnt out also show signs of cognitive exhaustion. This often looks like fuzzy thinking and difficulty concentrating. You may not be able to follow your children’s line of conversation. Processing their questions or any task that requires even a nominal level of thought takes way longer than it used to. Even following the plot line on a sitcom may be more than you can handle.
Burnout can readily lead to emotional symptoms. You may become much more short-tempered than you once were. The smallest things set you off. You cry more easily or feeling anxious. You need a break, and you know it.
How to Get Relief
Ask for Help
Asking for help can be easier said than done. And it can be hard. But it’s an important step toward finding relief.
If you have a partner, ask if they can help more or take over specific parenting responsibilities. If you’re a single parent, you may need to reach out to other friends and swap childcare responsibilities to give each of you a break.
Proper Care and Nutrition
Along with asking for help, taking good care of your physical needs is one of the most important things you can do when you’re burnt out. Good nutrition, moderate exercise, relaxation exercises, and sleep top this list.
As pandemic restrictions ease, consider what things you can outsource to make your load lighter. Can you afford a cleaning service once or twice a month? Can you swap freezer meals with another family? Can you hire a neighbor to mow the yard?
Some parents are more prone to burnout because they have very high expectations for themselves and their kids. They want to have an immaculate home, perform well at work, maintain a creative side business, and provide the most enriching, stimulating childhood they can.
But sometimes, something has to go. It may not be easy, but try loosening your expectations if you’re prone to perfectionism. Give yourself room to disengage.
Fun and Laughter
Many of us forget just how restorative fun and laughter can be. Toiling through the demands of parenting and adulting can blind us to humor and beauty. Try seeking out those TV shows and movies that make you laugh until you cry. Get down on the floor and play twister. Engage in silly play with them. In our home as silly as it sounds we will pretend we are on a baking show & use our best television voices to narrate baking cookies. Adding a little silly can brighten the day!
See a Therapist
Seeking therapy for parental burnout is also an important step to consider. You may be experiencing levels of depression and anxiety that will respond best to counseling. There may be other family issues going on that you don’t realize. A therapist can help you sort through all possible factors and make a plan of action.
If you continue to struggle with parental burnout, please make getting help a priority. If you’d like to know more, we’d love to speak with you.