How to cope with burnout as a parent or carer: The Unspoken side

I remember being left alone with my first new born within the first hour of his life full of emotion and wondering what has just happened. I also remember in the first week he was home having a thought of what have I done as I quickly realised no-one could have prepared me for sleepless nights and the demands a new life can bring.

This is the beginning of a journey for any new parent and as we know there are no ‘how to’ handbooks that are given when a child is born.

Being a carer and parent brings along with it so many emotions and can be so fulfilling however the other side (sleepless nights, tantrums, behavioural issues) is often not acknowledged and spoken of and can have negative effects not only on the parent but also the child. As parents we are taught that being a parent is a privilege and fulfilling (which it is and can be) however, it can also be assumed through the unspoken word that parents are not supposed to experience burnout or overwhelm.

What is a burnout?

The meaning of ‘burnout’ is described as the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion’. In relation to a person it means a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

Stressed, emotionally drained, overwhelmed….are all words that you can hear from parents if you listen closely and we should be able to express needs and feelings. There are no ‘clock-off’ times, endless to-do lists, physical and mentally challenging demands consistently from our little (and big) ones not to mention the potential judgement from others if we appear to not be coping or our child is having a tantrum in public. The effect on the parents health can be debilitating if left ongoing especially if there is a lack of support and resources.

It takes a tribe to raise a child: the importance of a support network

In today’s society we are raising our children very differently to many other cultures and how some of our grandparents were raised. Family members, close friends and the community all played a significant and important role in helping to raise a child of which is lost in society today.

Work demands, financial pressure and living at distance from family can make the parenting load heavy, demanding and isolating. Support from close friends or family and the community can impact not only our experience with raising our loved ones but also gives our children the opportunity to create relationships with others which research demonstrates is important for personal development.

You can’t give if your cup is not overflowing

Self awareness and care

Self care is a term that is sprouted everywhere these days and despite its popularity it turns out that it is quite an important factor in ensuring that you don’t become overwhelmed and burnt out but rather have the energy and motivation to work towards your goals and find purpose and connection in everyday life which only can lead to happiness.

If we are running on empty, exhausted, disconnected from ourselves and society we really cannot give how we want to give to our loved ones but more importantly ourselves.

Signs that you may be running on empty

  • losing your temper and becoming angry over the small things
  • lack of motivation
  • feeling the pressure of too much to do
  • ground hog day is getting you down
  • nothing sparks joy for you anymore

There are many small ways you can start right now to serve yourself first (you are allowed to) and start to fill your cup:

  • Take a bath – this may seem simple but it gives you the quiet space to reflect and relax
  • Every morning plan for one thing you can do that day that you love to do or makes you happy. This may be as simple as a cup of tea in the sun!
  • Sleep: 6-7 hours each night is essential for your body to work well. Establish good sleep hygiene
  • Schedule in some unscheduled time – for you to do whatever sparks joy
  • Get your health in check – so many parents leave themselves to last but if you are not firing on all cylinders there is no way you can feel and give your best.

When I work with parents and their children I am inspired and in awe of the dedication and strength that they provide for others. Serving yourself first is not selfish, in fact it is essential for you to be able to give your best but more importantly rediscover your passions, interests and connections for you to live your life on purpose.

Know that prioritising yourself can change your life and the life of others

If you have been experiencing anxiety, depression or changes in your health a consultation with your health practitioner can help to identify underlying causes and improve your health and well-being.

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