You want to be a good parent. In fact, you are a good parent.
But lately, you haven’t felt that way at all. There can be so much stress and anxiety with taking care of the kids. You try to put on a brave face for them, but some days even that’s not possible.
It just seems as if you’re losing control. That’s not just depressing; it’s frightening. And you know what? – It’s ok that you aren’t meeting some kind of perceived standard for parenting.
But if you’re struggling with parental burnout, there could be other factors at work. Here are 10 signs of parental burnout and what you can do about it.
1. Your Energy Level Feels Depleted
One sign of parent burnout is that your energy level feels depleted all the time. This is more than having one day where it seems like your feet are dragging. Rather, it’s a constant feeling that you experience all the time. When you give so much energy to your children and your family and job, there isn’t much leftover for yourself. If you aren’t doing things to recharge, it’s tough to get ahead of all the things you need to do.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ask yourself what helps you to feel recharged. Is it some exercise, a walk for some fresh air or maybe a power nap? Have a short list ready to choose from when you feel the most depleted and take the few minutes needed to accomplish something from your list.
2. Not Doing the Basics of Self Care
Often basic self-care slips to the wayside when you feel burned out from parenting. There’s a reason for this. You feel that there isn’t enough time to do these things. Every parent has the experience of being pulled in multiple directions at once. You have a baby who needs his diaper changed while another child is screaming for attention. It can feel so overwhelming! But it also means you let go of basic self-care (showering, grooming, exercising, etc.) because there are more pressing problems at that moment.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: You need a self-care plan. One idea to implement that plan is to try getting up early, before the kids, or staying up a few extra minutes after the kids’ bedtime to be sure you get a short self-care routine in. Getting in a short workout will really help your mental as well as physical health, but even if you only have time for a shower, it will do wonders for your personal sense of accomplishment for the day.
3. There Isn’t Any Time for Yourself
We all need a little time for ourselves. It’s nice just to have some peace and quiet to let your mind wander and relax. But with parental burnout, you never get that time to yourself. Just as with not doing basic self-care, you always have more immediate issues to deal with. So, you either don’t have the time to disconnect, or you’ve lost any interest in doing so.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: But any little bit of time for yourself helps. Whether it’s self care mentioned above or even just 5 minutes for a cup of tea without someone needing something from you, it can really help put your focus back on your other responsibilities after just a few minutes of me-time.
4. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is so important! Yet even when there isn’t any parental pressure, you still might not be getting enough sleep. Or, your sleep quality isn’t where it should be. Of course, any parent will attest that having a newborn at home will make it difficult to get enough sleep. But even with older kids, you might find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep after a long day of parenting.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: There are lots of ideas out there on what to do if you’re experiencing insomnia. A few ideas are: having a bedtime routine that you follow consistently, making a plan for the next day to remove some stress, or doing some yoga and/or meditation before bed. Try some different ideas to see what works best for you, and whatever you do, don’t give up on a good night’s sleep.
5. You Get Angry Easily
Lately, you’ve been walking around with a shorter fuse. It’s easier for you to get angry and snap. Even minor issues with your kids seem to get your blood boiling. Why? When you’re constantly stressed, your brain has trouble responding to situations calmly. That’s because you’re holding onto stress from all the other problems occurring all day. So when the next issue happens, you snap.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Really try to dig deep to gauge your own mental health and think about whether this anger is coming from what you snapped about or some other stressor. Perhaps you can then relieve that stress yourself or maybe seeking professional help is necessary. Either way, don’t ignore your anger and let it build. It won’t get better if you don’t address it.
6. You Snap at Your Partner
Another way that anger affects your quality of life is your relationship with others, especially your partner (if applicable). You might find yourselves fighting more than usual, and those fights can be really intense. The source is all that stress you’ve been holding inside. You might also find yourself resenting your partner. Perhaps they aren’t working with the kids as much as you. That resentment comes out in the form of anger too.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Communication with your partner is key in this situation. You can’t expect your partner to be a mind reader, so hopefully you can talk through it, ask for help and come to a solution that helps with the root of the issue – your stress.
7. Feeling Overwhelmed
Besides anger, frustration, and resentment, parental burnout can also make you feel overwhelmed. Even relatively simple problems, like deciding what to make for lunch, can feel like too much. When this happens, you feel your heart beating faster, and it just feels so overwhelming. This sense of having the world on your shoulders can even lead to you not wanting to do anything.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Having a plan can often help with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Of course, with kids you have to be flexible a lot of the time. But starting off with a plan can feel like you’ve got control of the situation. If deciding what to make for lunch every day feels overwhelming, make a lunch menu, which can be fun and removes stress in the moment.
8. You Don’t Cope Well with the Stress
To cope with these feelings, maybe you turn to alcohol to “take the edge off.” What could hurt having a glass of wine in the afternoon? If you’re using that drink to cope with stress and anxiety, then that can become an issue. In time you could start drinking more, as the stress keeps coming. It doesn’t have to be alcohol, but ignoring your feelings of stress can lead to other coping mechanisms, like comfort eating, too.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Try to take a hard look at yourself to decide if you’re developing coping mechanisms for stress. If you realize you are and it seems like too much to stop them on your own, please consider reaching out for professional help. An anxiety therapist can help you with positive coping skills to deal with stress and anxiety.
9. The Kids Become Problems
As parental burnout continues, you start seeing your kids as people rather than your children. Of course, you still love your children, but you also see them as the source of stress and anxiety in your life. This can be confusing, and you might even feel ashamed of yourself for thinking this way. But try to forgive yourself! You’re dealing with a lot of pressure, and neither you nor they are to blame.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you’ve gotten to this point, where the stress has taken precedence over your relationship with your children, it’s time to seek professional help. You’re not alone in your parental burnout and stress, and there is help available. Sometimes family therapy may be an option as well if the entire family unit is struggling or is in conflict.
10. When You Start Going to a Dark Place with Suicidal Thoughts
If you start having thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, please talk to someone now. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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These days, all parents are struggling to one degree or another. So it makes sense that you’re experiencing parental burnout. Just know that help is available through therapeutic support. Blue Boat Counseling offers anxiety therapy for those struggling with stress and anxiety symptoms. Reach out today to learn more about how stress and anxiety counseling can help you get through this difficult time. We’d be happy to help get you scheduled with one of our Columbus therapists. We’re here to help.