A new study points to a growing crisis: parental burnout can have negative consequences for children, too. A Master Life Coach gives expert advice and coping strategies. By Tammy Jacks
Are you feeling increasingly tired, overwhelmed, irritable, anxious and out of control some days? Turns out these symptoms are finally being recognised and correctly diagnosed by the medical community.
What is burnout?
In May this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified “burnout” as an occupational phenomenon, affecting many people in the workplace, with symptoms including:
- Feelings of energy depletion and exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
While burnout has been largely recognised as a work-related problem, it’s gaining momentum outside of work too, with many parents feeling stressed and overwhelmed with daily responsibilities.
Parental burnout is on the rise
According to a recent study, published in the Association for Psychological Science, “When the daily stress of parenting becomes chronic, it can turn into parental burnout, an intense exhaustion that leads parents to feel detached from their children and unsure of their parenting abilities.
This type of burnout can have serious consequences for both parent and child, increasing parental neglect, harm, and thoughts about escape.”
“Parental burnout is a huge and growing issue,” says certified life coach and author of Recover From Burnout, Judy Klipin. “As parents, we have so many competing demands on us that it’s hard to be fully present in the role of parent when we are with our kids. We are going in many different directions, and unfortunately, we sometimes spend less energy and time on the people and places we love the most.”
Parental burnout is not taboo
Judy also sees clients who find it hard to admit that parenting is emotionally and physically exhausting. “It’s almost as though we’re saying that we don’t love our children. But the truth is that both are often true; we love our children AND parenting is hard,” she explains.
“The sooner we can admit this to ourselves and others, the sooner we can allow ourselves to ask for and accept help and to say no to the things that are possible for us to say no to. This is because asking for help and saying no will allow us to get closer to what we need the most: more rest, sleep and quality time with our loved ones.”
How to prevent and manage parental burnout
Asking for help, saying no and getting more rest are Judy’s prescriptions for recovering from, and avoiding burnout. In her book, Judy highlights the importance of living in the present to avoid feeling fearful or overwhelmed about the past or future.
She’s also developed a 5-step process to set and achieve goals and changes to lead a happier, healthier, burnout-free life.
However, these goals aren’t meant to cause more stress and add to your ever-growing to-do list, they need to be tangible, right for you and aligned with your essential self.
Look at where you need to make changes in your life
Perhaps you need more time alone, or to set boundaries with others, learn to say no or ask for help. Write down everything you’d like to change in your life, including your work, family life and personal growth. Next, set some simple, realistic goals that you can achieve one at a time.
Discard the social-self goals
Look at the list of goals you’ve just set and be honest with yourself. Look at which goals are essential-self goals (the goals that are there for you and your own happiness and fulfilment) versus your social-self goals. Ask yourself: which of these goals are there to keep others happy. Draw a line through the social-self goals and prioritise the essential-self goals.
Say yes to you
Focus more on what you’re truly, deeply committed to in your life and what you feel excited about achieving. This way you’ll preserve energy and feel good about yourself, rather than feeling depleted making others happy.
Lose the ambivalence
Judy believes that ambivalence is one of the biggest obstacles to progress. “It stops us from meeting our goals because it keeps us from going after them with 100% of our energy, enthusiasm and will. Revisit your list of goals again… Maybe you want to run a marathon but don’t have the energy for it right now, or you want to start cooking organic vegan meals but don’t have the emotional or physical means to make that happen just yet. Only focus on the goals you’re convinced you’re able to achieve and discard the rest to prevent stress and burnout.
Set true goals
These need to be right for you at this stage of your life, tangible and aligned to your essential self.
To avoid burnout, it’s also important to:
- Be kind to yourself. Show yourself compassion each day.
- Stop the self-sabotage. Take care of yourself rather than pushing yourself too hard or expecting too much of yourself, especially as a mother.
- Say no and ask for help. You can’t do it all, even if you want to. Look at what’s not working for you and say no to it. Ask for help wherever you can. Letting people help you is letting them love you.
- Be mindful. Create the time and space to connect with yourself daily. This will help you to identify your needs and wants. Be still and quiet and turn inwards. Learn to listen to yourself.
More about the expert:
Judy helps people cultivate essential life skills so that they feel and become more able in every area of their lives. She specializes in working with people who are exhausted and overwhelmed because they struggle with asking for help, feel responsible for everything and everyone around them, and tend to put themselves last.
Learn more about Judy Klipin here.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .