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6 Mins

What is parental burnout and how do I manage it?

August 7, 2023
Dan Kearsley

Parenting is stressful at the best of times, but the summer holidays can be especially challenging. A survey by the University of Oxford found that during the pandemic when schools were shut, parents reported being spread too thin by the demands of meeting their child’s needs, along with home-schooling and work commitments. During the summer holidays, parents face many of these same strains, and therefore, a similar struggle.

The opportunity to spend more time with your child can be a really positive thing, but it also means more cooking, cleaning and entertaining, often while juggling childcare with work. There’s also the added pressure of giving your child a memorable summer break that’s packed with fun activities. Trying to balance all of this can be overwhelming and it might be hard to find time for yourself, which can lead to parental burnout.

What is parental burnout?

According to Mental Health UK, burnout is the state of feeling emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. Burnout usually follows a period of intense stress, where you don’t have the resources to get on top of the situation.

This is something that many parents will resonate with, as taking care of a child can be incredibly demanding and requires a lot of energy. According to research, nearly half of parents feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. This can make it really difficult for them to find time to switch off and relax, which is key to managing and reducing stress and preventing burnout.

It’s important to address burnout quickly as it can lead to further issues, like low mood and depression. Find out more about burnout here.

Signs of burnout

  • Feeling emotionally, mentally and/or physically exhausted
  • Lacking the motivation or energy to get on with everyday tasks
  • Feeling irritable or short-tempered
  • Feeling disconnected from your child
  • Feeling as though you’re not a good parent
  • Feeling trapped in your role as a parent
  • Needing time away from your child

How to cope with parental burnout

While the answer may seem obvious (have a rest), parents know it’s not always that simple. A recent study found that 60% of parents do nothing to relax and re-energise, presumably because they struggle to find the time to do so. However, focusing on your own wellbeing doesn’t only benefit you, it also benefits your child, as when you’re well-rested, you’re able to be more sensitive and responsive to their needs.

Here are some tips for how to cope with stress and burnout as a parent:

  1. Remember, stress buildup = burn out

    When feelings of stress pile up, this can lead to burnout, so it’s a good idea to deal with stress early on. Think of it like a bucket that you carry with you, which slowly fills up as you experience different stressors. We have to lighten the load of the bucket so that it doesn’t overflow. For more tips on how to manage stress over the summer holidays, read this.
  2. Practise self-compassion

    It's easy to be self-critical when you're tired and have a lot on your plate. You may feel like you're not doing a 'good enough' job, your temper is too short or you should be making every meal from scratch. But the reality is that parenting is very hard; you're not always able to be the 'best' version of yourself and that's okay. Tips on how to be kinder to yourself here.
  3. Prioritise self-care

    You may be used to putting your child first and yourself last. However, prioritising self-care isn't selfish, it's actually the opposite. Taking time for ourselves benefits our mental health, and when we're in a better place mentally, we can be a better parent to our child. So by putting yourself first, you're also putting them first.
  4. Set boundaries

    As a parent, your resources are likely spread thin, so sometimes you have to say no to things, whether it's (another) playdate or staying late at work. Think realistically about your time, prioritise the tasks that are essential and don't be afraid to communicate your boundaries. We've written another article about this here.
  5. Ask for help

    The people in your life won’t necessarily realise what you’re going through unless you tell them. If you’re struggling with stress or parental burnout, ask a friend or family member if they can help with childcare, even if it’s just for a few hours. Having some time to focus on yourself will do you the world of good.

    At ieso, we offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for a range of mental health issues, including chronic stress, anxiety and depression. If you feel that burnout is impacting your mental health, find out how we can help you by registering with us.
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This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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