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Looking back at 2020 I don’t believe anyone could have predicted just how challenging the year would be and how it would take all of our collective resilience and flexibility to try and navigate it as best we can. With so many challenges and uncertainties, the year saw unprecedented changes in the way we live. From the transition to working from home, the need to restrict our day-to-day activities to supporting our children both with home schooling and with increased anxieties, we’ve all had to dig deep into our emotional reserves to even try to keep still, let alone moving forward. However, with these worries also came perpetual hope that we would see light at the end of this unchartered tunnel and as the year draw to an end, the freshly anticipated new start of 2021. It was like we thought that all the problems of 2020 would magically melt away; but the truth is we still need to take each day at a time.
I will always promote for looking for the positives, for being grateful and challenging negative thinking. These skills will definitely boost our mood and build resilience, but we also need to know when we are exhausted and heading towards “burnout”. Studies have shown that when parents suffer parental burnout, they ironically become the parent they are wanting to avoid. They find that they distance themselves from their children in an attempt to restore themselves.
Sadly, this damages the relationships around them and causes more parenting struggles. The struggles then compound the parent’s burnout, and the pattern continues. The study also found that parental burnout can eventually lead to parental abuse and neglect (Moïra Mikolajczak, James J. Gross, Isabelle Roskam, 2019)
We know that to help our children to manage their emotions they need a calm adult to regulate with them and work through the difficulty together. We all know that when we have had minimal sleep or we are at “breaking point” from over commitments, our tolerance levels are reduced. We become just as reactive as our kids and end up modelling the behaviour that we desperately want them to STOP.
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. That was pretty much the definition of 2020. The stress can be from anything, work, relationships and even day-to-day parenting. The problem isn’t the intensity of the stress, it is the duration. When you feel like there is no end, you can only last so long before you burnout. The symptoms of burnout can vary. Most of the research has been related to work burnout, but there are some universal symptoms that you may notice for any burnout:
All of these symptoms seem very similar to Depression. However, there are a few important differences. Depression will usually also include poor self-esteem, intense hopelessness and possible suicidal thoughts. Depression is a serious condition and needs to be treated by a professional.
Basically, you need to do what helps you feel restored. A holiday is great but that is only a short-term solution. You need to put regular habits in place that help you feel better in yourself. Ultimately, if it fills your cup, then do it because this will fundamentally help you and everyone around you.
But there is another benefit of practicing self-care. By modelling self-care for ourselves, we are teaching our children that they also need to care for themselves. We are showing them that it is okay to say “no” to things when you are feeling overwhelmed, that you need to eat well and exercise, that we need to do things that make us “light up” make life enjoyable. Self-care can have the same effects in maintaining your child’s mental and physical health as it does for you. After all, surely, we want our kids to grow into adults who know how to set boundaries, have health relationships, are able to care for themselves physically and emotionally?
Burnout can create a downward spiral. If we are stressed and overwhelmed, we can't be empathetic and patient parents. This can then cause us to feel guilty. Taking care of ourselves helps us to be the best parent and role model that we can be. On top of this we will be teaching our kids the importance of self-care and gives them coping strategies for life.
Want to keep learning? Find more articles from Krysten Taprell - The Therapist Parent:
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