What to do when parental burnout exhausts you...

Too tired to care and feel like nothing is getting done.... you are not alone.

"Important sociological changes in recent decades have increased pressure on parents to bring up healthy, secure and successful children who will become well-rounded and engaged citizens. Combined with a drastic decrease in stay-at-home mothers, these changes have made parenting both increasingly demanding and increasingly difficult.” (journal Frontiers in Psychology)

What this means is that parenting has changed, the standards have increased, the judgment is swifter and we are doing it more on our own instead of using the village … so it is inevitable that many of us will burnout as parents.

Parental burnout is a lot like professional burnout.

Parental burnout = exhaustion, emotional distancing (eg “I really don’t care…) and inefficacy (eg. I can’t do this.)

Professional burnout = overwhelming exhaustion, a depersonalisation of the beneficiaries of one's work, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

So parents don’t just burn out at work, they can burn out at home too.

When parental burnout happens … this is what you can do.

When you do these things, you will counteract the feelings of exhaustion, indifference and inefficacy from parental burnout.

1. Give yourself a mental hug. ( this is most important)

Show compassion for yourself. Turn off the social media and stop comparing yourself to the other parents. This is your family and your life and you are doing the best you can with what you have.

Often we obsess over how we burnt out and start beating ourselves up over it which doesn’t help, it only reinforces the feeling of inefficacy.

Think of how you would talk to your best friend if you found them in this position. What would you want to tell them? I bet you would have more compassion than judgment.

Give yourself a hug and remember … on days where you feel that things are upside down and topsy turvy, remember that MOM upside down is WOW!

2. Hug someone else (or your pet)

Hug someone or something: your partner, your kids, your friends, your pets. Hugs are important they show both individuals that you are invested in the relationship, that you are safe and you are connected.

The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. Hugs also can boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, which heal the feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger that can happen when you burnout.

Hugs also balance out the nervous system which is in overdrive when you burnout. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system - parasympathetic. This will aid in reducing the feelings of emotional distancing and inefficacy.

3. Take 5 and have a cuppa

Life has become so busy and we are pretty good at keeping up but some days we need to “power down to power up”. Make a cuppa. This is an active way to break the feeling that you are spinning your wheels (part of inefficacy) and gain some perspective. A break may be all you need to feel less exhausted. The ritual of making a cup of tea requires time to do and so therefore you need to stop doing other things.

Taking a short break can lead you to feel:

1 less resentful toward others and instead more connected.

2 validated about your own worth, which builds our self-esteem and efficacy.

3 replenished so you are able to function at your best counteracting exhaustion.

4 more present and compassionate to yourself and less emotionally distant.

4. Have a “short” nap

There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture - it works to break down the psyche. As mums we usually experience this at some point and it is important to recognise this because it can be dangerous to you and your loved ones - emotionally and physically.

Sleep. Set your phone alarm clock for 26 minutes and lie down and close your eyes. Power napping works! In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent.

5. Put on some tunes!

Have an impromptu dance party and the kids can join in too! Dancing lifts energy and triggers the release of endorphins that make you feel more alive and less exhausted. It improves blood flow and increases oxygen levels as blood is pumped around your grooving body. So put on your favourite tunes and move around! The endorphins will lift the fog of indifference and re-energise you.

Also dance reduces the emotional distance between us. “Laughter, song and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are all searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone” (Brown, 2010, p 118).

6. Phone a friend

As women, we need our girlfriends more more as we get older. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. That support network is especially critical during motherhood when nobody else quite “gets it” like another mother (not your own). This reduces the emotional distance and relieves the feeling of inefficacy as it builds a sense of belonging and connection with others.

UCLA Study on Friendship in Women shows that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis.

Next time...

The next time you are feeling so tired that you can’t walk, nothing appears to be getting done and you don’t really care enough to smile at your child’s joy - start at #1 and do these steps to alleviate the symptoms of burnout and get yourself back on the pathway to balance.

Many mums experience parental and/or professional burnout. I get it - as a mum of 3 and as a coach. When you are ready to talk and resolve the cause that led to this burnout, contact me and let’s work on this together - you are not alone. info@thecarefactor.com.au

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