Self Care For Parents And Parental Burnout

self care for parents - parental burnout - man sitting on a balcony with his feet on the balcony rail

A newborn can change parents’ life. While it is rewarding, raising a child can put a high amount of stress on their shoulders, especially if your home country is far away and you live in Romania where things can be a little bit more complicated because of procedures or bureaucracy. Parents may have no time to care for their own needs. While fulfilling baby’s needs is very important, moms and dads should not neglect their own and think about the importance of self care for parents.

The first years of raising a child are compared to a full time job minus the free time. This lays the ground for feeling tired a longer period of time. Caring for their child can leave parents exhausted, frustrated or disappointed in themselves. If these feelings stay over a longer period of time, then it could lead to developing parental burnout.

What is parental burnout?

To understand what parental burnout is, we need to learn the core information about burnout. Burnout is a word commonly used in a professional setting than in other areas of life. It is a feeling of physical and psychological/emotional exhaustion, that manifests through different symptoms detailed below.

Emotional exhaustion is one of the symptoms of burnout and manifests as having difficulty doing the daily tasks, feeling of dread even if it’s just a normal day.

Another core element of burnout is cynicism or depersonalization. These two may be noticed in the interaction with other people. You become increasingly irritable and angry at other people compared to how you used to be. The person suffering from burnout is not as open and available as he/she used to be.

Reduced personal efficacy is another important element of burnout. People affected by burnout slowly lose their confidence in their ability to do their job or tasks. This feeling can place people on the edge of giving up.

Parental burnout is feeling all three symptoms from above in the context of being a parent. The significant symptoms of parental burnout are feeling inefficient, feeling like quitting and not being emotionally available.

Parental burnout was tested and measured by psychologists in a study from 2017. There are significant similarities between a full time job and parenting. Therefore (I agree with this study’s researchers) based on the similarities between a job and being a parent, if there is professional burnout, there should be parental burnout. This recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows that parental burnout is a common problem for parents. The study conducted with 2000 parents shows that between 2% and 12% showed signs of burnout.

What are the differences between depression and parental burnout?

Burnout and depression look similar but are not the same thing. They are similar because the increased irritability or anger, feeling exhausted and reduced efficiency are common symptoms.

The differences between depression and burnout are that depression has other symptoms like intense feeling of sadness, food appetite problems, reduced sex drive, weight loss or gain and sometimes suicidal thoughts.

Burnout is situated between stress and depression. Burnout is based on the feeling of exhaustion and the core elements mentioned above. Burnout left untreated can lead to depression because of chronic and abundant release of cortisol, the stress hormone.

What can you do as self care for parents?

It is easy to forget about yourself when you are the caregiver for your baby, but self care is essential for a healthy and available parent. Although it sounds difficult to make time for themselves in this 24/7 job, self care should not be skipped by parents. The benefits are that self care allows parents to be happier and more relaxed, more present. Therefore, parents can increase the quality of their parenting by practicing self care.

parental burnout - images or collage on a wall illustrating ideas to do, do what makes you happy

Self care is very important because It allows you to offer more to yourself and your family

Here are a couple of ways to do self care as a parent to reduce the symptoms of exhaustion or burnout.

Focus or your own needs for a moment – what do you need?

Try to put your needs first sometimes. Ask yourself what do you need? Is it a nap, a foamy bath or a healthy meal? Is it some fun time or some time with your partner? Try to make time to give yourself what you need.

Eat well

Both parents benefit from having regular meals and a balanced diet. If the mother is nursing and eats well, her baby will eat well too. Mother’s healthy nutrition helps her baby get all the nutrients and vitamins it needs for a good immune system and health. A healthy balanced diet supports your body throughout the process of mothering and keeps your health high.

Exercise when you can

Eating and sleeping enough, paired with an exercising routine can keep you in your best shape. Exercising helps the body and mind and has a positive impact in your well-being. It reduces the stress and releases endorphins which can lead to feeling good. You don’t have to do anything complicated, just keep your body moving regularly.

self care for parents - parental burnout - father practices yoga at home

Some ideas that can help are a couple of squats per day, light stretching in the morning or evening or yoga.

Include a healthy diet, exercises and fun activities. It can make a huge difference in how you take care of your baby

Get time alone or without child

Spending 24/7 of your time with your child has good sides and let’s say… less good sides. One bad side is that you don’t have time to do something else.

self care for parents - parental burnout - mother reads on kindle

Getting some time alone is very beneficial for parents. You can do this by inviting your parents over and asking them to spend a little time with your baby while you get time for yourself. Another option is to hire a babysitter just for the time you want to take for yourself. It could be one hour, or two or as much as you decide, and this can be a great improvement for you.

Take care of your hygiene

Often being so busy taking care of the baby, parents may forget about their basic needs, such as eating, sleeping or maintaining hygiene. Good hygiene can help people feel good in their own skin and have better self esteem.

However, your baby likes the natural smell of your skin, so don’t overdo it. Try to use perfume-free soaps, lotions and deodorants as much as you can. Too much artificial smell can trigger some problems in your baby such as problems breathing or eating. Avoiding using products that have a strong smell can help spare headaches.

Wear clean clothes that make you feel good

Parents can forget about the clothes they wear, the most important thing being feeling comfortable. Clothes can get easily dirty when caring for the baby, so why bother wearing clean clothes? It’s for your well-being. Wearing a shirt you like or your favorite outfit can make such a big difference in your mood.

Get help from your own parents

Your parents can be such a great resource when raising a child. It’s okay not to be able to manage it all. We all need some help from time to time.

Many parents get help from their mothers and fathers so that they are able to go out, have some time for themselves, or go on a holiday. It can make everyone happy, yourselves and your parents, because it makes them feel involved and useful.

Share other aspects of your life with your friends, something different than your baby

The first years of raising your child you can find yourself talking only about your baby. Everyone asks about the baby. It’s like the center of the universe is the baby. You are not yourself anymore, you have no hobbies and no other topics of discussion than your baby.

While this is normal because taking care of the baby is basically what you do all the time, it can be very refreshing to talk about something else. For example, talk about some movies or a book you liked, a hobby or an activity that you do or your favorite meal.

Do something fun

It’s very easy to prioritize anything else over your own fun. Sometimes it may even be hard to remember when was the last time you did something you enjoyed. Remember what you used to like doing. Some ideas are listening to music, watching a movie or going to the cinema, going out with friends, playing a game, having family or friends join for dinner. Doing something fun as part of your self care will lift your spirits.

Find a hobby

It is never too late to go back to the things you really enjoyed before the baby arrived, or to search for new hobbies. Being involved in a hobby is a great way to relax and spend quality time with yourself.

self care for parents - parental burnout - mother paints as a hobby

Pick an activity that is not too complicated, that still allows you to be available when you are needed. For example singing, reading, painting or taking pictures are just a few of the activities to consider.

Meditate

Meditation is a very important tool for stress and anxiety reduction. Meditation helps many people increase their mental well-being and recharge their batteries. The benefits of daily meditation are based on the reduction of stress hormone from the body which can lead to increased health overall.

To practice meditation for self care, parents can try this easy exercise: sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and breath in deeply in your stomach and breathe out. You don’t have to force yourself. Try to keep breathing as normal as you can. The only difference from regular breathing is that you direct the air into your stomach. Do this exercise 2-3 minutes daily and see how you feel.

Get out in nature

Going out in nature is probably the easiest thing to do when you have a baby. You can go for a stroll in the closest park or just around the house. Bucharest is a beautiful city with many parks you can pick as destinations for your walks in nature. Make sure that sometimes you go in nature all by yourself. Bring a good book and enjoy the green around you, the wind, the nice sounds and the smells of nature. Being in nature is very beneficial for busy people such as parents.

Write about your experience, happy moments and frustrations

Writing is an important tool to deal with your feelings. Raising a baby can make you feel a thousand emotions you may not know how to deal with sometimes. It is useful to keep a journal where you occasionally write.

parental burnout - mother browsing her personal journal

Write about all you feel and think like the journal is your closest and best secret keeper. It’s okay to feel this way during this period of your life and writing can help you manage your emotions and thoughts. You can also write about happy memories you can revisit in your diary. This way you create a valuable journal that contains most of your significant memories from parenthood.

Make a healthy routine

Look at these tips like they are not just another list of things to do while you are so busy raising your child. It’s a list of ideas that can help you take better care of yourself. Making a healthy routine can help you maintain your feelings of well-being. Include a healthy diet, some exercises and fun activities. It can make a huge difference in how you take care of your baby.

The parent, the caregiver, has to take care of his own needs first. It is very important because that allows you to offer more to yourself and family. You can offer them a happier you, a more present, available and involved you.


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