As parents, we often put ourselves at the bottom of the list regarding self-care and needs. Many parents stress that everyone is well taken care of but forget themselves in the process. The dangers of continually doing this can lead to parental burnout.
You are hiding your feelings while neglecting your needs.
When you are constantly putting most of your energy into your children and their needs while neglecting your own, you can become more susceptible to parental burnout and compassion fatigue. A huge indicator is when you feel like you have absolutely nothing left to give to your family because your exhaustion level is high. Hiding your feelings and neglecting your needs significantly affects your mental health.
It can be easy to indulge in parental guilt when we are experiencing something like burnout. We tell ourselves that we should have it all together, we shouldn’t struggle. Because many of us think that our problems are exclusive to ourselves. Everyone else must be perfect, right? That’s a false belief that needs to be corrected. Which is why it’s important to note that burnout affects parents around the globe.
Savanta ComRes conducted a recent poll in 2021. The results showed that 45% of parents feel burned out. In the 1980s, Belgian psychology researchers identified parental burnout for the first time. Researchers Moira Mikolajczak and Isabelle Roskam were the first to describe parental burnout. They first described it as “an exhaustion syndrome, characterized by feeling physically and mentally overwhelmed.” The cause? Being a parent. As this syndrome was discovered in the 1980s, we can prove that generations before us have also struggled with parental burnout. It’s not exclusive to you, so don’t feel guilty.
Symptoms of parental burnout:
It’s important to remember that burnout can look very different for everyone. While some people may experience physical symptoms, others may experience emotional symptoms. And others may experience both!
Looking at the most common symptoms:
- Feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt and helplessness.
- Exhaustion or feeling drained all the time.
- Headaches, muscle aches, neck pain.
- No motivation for basic tasks.
- Distinct changes to sleeping habits and appetite.
- You feel like you are detached from others and alone in the world.
- Behaviours that are isolating.
- Brain fog and confusion.
- Significant increase in stress levels.
You may be more prone to parental burnout if you have chronic stress connected to parenthood. This chronic parental stress can come from several sources. Including the pandemic, virtual learning, school closures, children with special needs, health complications, homeschooling, single parenting, a lack of support, or parenting while working from home. These are just some of the risk factors.
Risks of leaving parental burnout untreated:
Many complications can occur if warning signs of parental burnout are left untreated. These complications include overwhelming exhaustion that is hard to cope with. Parents with young children usually tend to be physically tired. At the same time, parents with older children will usually experience emotional exhaustion. They are generally resulting from conflicts with their teens.
Additionally, burned-out parents will begin to distance themselves from their children. They are doing so to preserve their energy. Following this, many parents who suffer from parental burnout notice a loss of fulfillment in parenting. The consequences of parental burnout are different from common job burnout. As you already know, unlike a job, parents don’t get a vacation. Additionally, you cannot just leave your parenting roles the way someone can leave an occupation.
If burnout is left untreated, it can cause parents to become violent or even neglectful toward their children. I’m sure you’re aware this doesn’t just negatively affect the children; it also causes parents to feel shame. Shame they will dwell on, causing them to sink deeper and deeper into these negative feelings.
“Parental burnout is the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that one feels from the chronic stress of parenting.”Dr. puja aggarwal
Pandemic parenting is incredibly exhausting.
Recent research by a UK children’s charity showed that more than 80% of parents struggle. These parents share that they have at least one symptom of burnout. We are already well aware that the pandemic has had adverse effects on children’s education and mental health. And even more so are those effects on children when parents are burned out and inadvertently putting their stress onto their children.
Luckily, parental burnout isn’t a life sentence. And with time and the right tools, you can overcome parental burnout and get back to being the parent you want to be.
Overcoming parental burnout
If you have noticed that you are experiencing some symptoms of burnout, then you must do the work now to get a handle on it before it gets out of control.
Some simple changes include:
Improve how you communicate your feelings.
Communication is key. If you are beginning to feel burnt out, your first step needs to be communication. Communicate how you are feeling to your partner and let them know that you need extra support right now. We like to think that our partners can read our minds and know exactly what we need. But they can’t! So communicate. If you’re a single parent, try talking to a friend or family member you trust.
Be mindful of what you’re fuelling your body with.
If you’re feeling horrendously exhausted, the easy fix would be to grab more coffee or a sugary snack to bring your energy back up. This will provide you with that temporary boost of energy that you were looking for. However, it will also cause you to crash later. Try to break the habit of getting more coffee and sugar. And instead, choose to fuel your body with foods rich in nutrients. Aim to include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins in your meals.
You don’t have to do very much research to learn that physical activity can boost your energy and raise your feel-good hormones. Exercise also can reduce stress, anxiety and even depression. Exercising is an essential tool for fighting off parental burnout. Please don’t feel intimidated; you don’t need to go to the gym every day or run marathons for this to work. It can be as simple as taking a 15-20 minute walk around the neighbourhood. This will help clear your head and boost your energy while moving your body and breathing in the fresh air.
Stop feeling guilty for caring for yourself.
Never feel guilty for taking time for yourself or spending time with your partner. Focusing on your needs and relationship doesn’t make you a bad parent. It’s the opposite; taking time for yourself and practicing healthy self-care habits will make you an even better parent.
Talk to a mental health professional.
If you have concerns about your mental health, energy levels, or well-being, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Mental health professionals are trained to provide you with the tips you need to get better.
Use the Burnout Blueprint method.
In collaboration with Dr. Ben and Dr. Ashley, Daddy’s Digest has designed tools to help parents overcome parental burnout. These fantastic tools have come from Dr. Ben and Dr. Ashley’s 14 years of experience and tested on thousands of patients. The Burnout Blueprint has years of research, papers, and testing condensed into 11 unique modules specifically designed to support burnout sustainably.
You can learn more about The Burnout Blueprint here: https://schoolio.io/partner-courses/
You aren’t alone.
Parental burnout affects millions of parents around the globe. If you are struggling with it, please don’t feel ashamed. It doesn’t mean that you are a terrible parent. Or that you aren’t strong enough to manage it all. You are human, and you have needs. If you are struggling with parental burnout, please be kind to yourself. And take the necessary steps to get better.
Once you start feeling better, always be sure to add specific habits to your routine to keep parental burnout from popping up again because it is preventable with the proper steps.
Some simple ways to prevent parental burnout from taking over include:
- Ask for help.
- Communicate your needs.
- Hire a babysitter from time to time.
- Exercise daily.
- Practice self-care.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Only set realistic expectations.