As a Psychologist, I encourage all parents to be mindful of their health to prevent stress and burnout. Although being a new parent is a wonderful experience for many, it can leave some parents vulnerable to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed. However, finding time to take care of yourself is crucial to preventing parental burnout as well as maintaining inner emotional balance and harmony among the family unit. It is essential to hold in mind that you are important and that if you don’t take care of yourself, then it will be hard to take care of your loved ones.
Warning Signs of Parental Burnout
You may be experiencing stress and burnout if you are feeling:
- On-going irritability
- Withdrawal or emotional detachment from your partner or children
- Fast breathing
- On-going fatigue
- Lack of enjoyment
10 TIPS TO COMBAT PARENTAL EXHAUSTION
1. ‘’Protected self-care time’’
Set time aside for your needs. Make time for yourself whether it is going for a short walk, having a bath, visiting a friend or having your own space, even if it just for a few minutes a day. Ensure to protect this time and make it a priority.
2. Regular exercise
The benefits of exercise are important for both physical and mental health. Exercise releases good hormone and prevents depression.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to friends and family for support. Communicating your feelings shows great strength and in return you get the support and connection that is vital to prevent burnout and increase wellbeing.
4. Avoid comparing yourself to other parents
If you want to be happy, stop comparing yourself. Theodore Roosevelt once quoted ‘’Comparison is the thief of joy’’. It is very hard to compare ourselves to others as everyone is different and it only adds to pressure, stress, feelings of inadequacy and most importantly takes away the great work that you do as a parent.
5. Do what works for you
No one is perfect. If you notice you are putting added pressure on yourself to be ‘’the perfect parent’’ try let this go. Do what works for you and try not engage in worry about what others think.
Connect with your breath as a way of regulating emotions and connecting to the present moment. The breath provides a place of calm, clarity and focus which in turn helps us to respond effectively to stress as opposed to reacting to stressful situations.
7. Build on areas of nourishment
Make a list of what is nourishing for you and commit to building on it. Hold in mind food, exercise, relaxation etc. Areas of depletion can often be working when the children go to bed, going to bed late, mindlessness Internet use in your spare time and isolation. These areas of depletion all contribute to stress and an active mind. Take steps to letting go of what is not healthy for you and build on areas of nourishment.
8. Be kind to yourself
Be compassionate towards yourself. Rather than criticise yourself, show compassion and recognise that you are fallible. Too much criticism can often lead to low-self esteem, irritability and eventually burnout. What would you say to a friend if they were feeling the same? More than likely you would be compassionate and realistic. Apply this same advice to yourself.
Mindfulness contributes to a sense of inner peace, well being, stability and calm. Establishing a daily mindfulness practice is key to self-care and parenthood as it allows us to be present, awake, aware and connected to ourselves and our loved ones. Mindfulness can be widely accessed via online, books or by attending an 8-week group for mindful parenting or mindfulness for stress reduction.
10. Date nights or time with friends
Time out for connection with others is important. Parenting can be isolating therefore make time to see your friends. It is also important to look after your relationship and have ‘date nights’. This will help increase communication, teamwork and most importantly keep the spark in the relationship! Arrange a babysitter and stay present when you are away from your children and connecting with friends. This will contribute towards healthy relationships as well as reducing stress and burnout.
If you are experiencing on-going symptoms of parental burnout and would like therapeutic support, you can contact Dr Louise Clarke to book an appointment at The Consulting Clinic Ltd. Dr Louise is a Registered Psychologist, Consultant and Chartered Psychologist. She is the owner and director of The Consulting Clinic, 56 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2.