Parenting can be stressful – but if you’re feeling overwhelmed every day, you may be experiencing signs of parental burnout. Many of us experienced it during the pandemic, when we were trying to juggle parenting, home schooling and work whilst being cooped up in the house. But it can hit at any time and, if you are struggling at the moment, the best advice is to talk to someone (a partner, a friend, a doctor…anyone). However, there are also steps you can take in conjunction with getting external help.
You might feel you don’t have time to look after your own needs, or that the pressure to be a ‘good’ parent is too much. Burnout happens when stress gets too much. You can feel helpless and defeated, you can experience exhaustion, feel detached or depressed, or have little or no motivation.
How common is parental burnout?
Research found 82% of UK parents had at least one of the warning signs of parental burnout in 2021, such as anxiety, disrupted sleep, feeling isolated, depression and overwhelming mental exhaustion. Usually, there isn’t one single thing that means you’ve definitely got parental burnout, but it is more likely you will have a combination of possible signs and symptoms.
These include physical or mental exhaustion; being short-tempered; feeling anxious or panicky; feeling depressed and not enjoying the things you used to enjoy; wanting to get away from the kids; trying to cope by using food, drugs or alcohol; a change in appetite (eating too much/too little); disrupted sleep; feeling unwell a lot, plus headaches, joint and muscle pains.
In order to start tackling burnout, you need to look after your mental and physical health. This helps you be present, positive and patient with your children. Talking is, of course, the first step. After that, here are some other ways to help you get back on track. Don’t be afraid to ask for support with prioritising these elements of self-care.
Ways to reduce parental burnout
Take time to recharge
Parenting can easily take over, but it’s important to make time to see your own friends and do activities you enjoy. Give yourself time to recharge your parenting batteries. Even if it is just 15 to 30 minutes a day, recharging can help you provide a more positive and calm environment at home for your child.
A recent study found parents who are kind to themselves and take time to relax have better health and wellbeing, are more confident in their parenting and have more positive interactions with their children.
Getting to bed at a decent time and implementing a relaxing bedtime routine gives you the best chance of a good night’s sleep. Even if it is easier said than done, try to get into a good sleep routine to allow yourself space and time for sleep.
Get some exercise
Exercise is perfect for easing stress. You unlock those happy hormones, you feel better about yourself and it gives you positive goals to aim for. If it’s outside, then even better, because getting some fresh air can really boost mental health.
You don’t have to be Rocky, running up the steps. Even just a brisk walk once a day will help.
Learn to be okay with saying ‘no’
One of the main reasons for parental burnout is parents simply taking on too much. Give yourself some time off, work as a team with your partner or with other carers and parents. Keep in mind that doing fewer things that you can fully commit to and enjoy, can be more fun than attempting to complete everything and becoming overwhelmed in the process.
No can be a complete sentence. If you don’t want to do something because you know it will stretch you too thinly, learn to be comfortable with turning it down. You have to look after yourself.