6 Things You Can Do to Extinguish Mental Burnout
Experts shared tips to help minimize the stress of pandemic parenting
It’s no surprise that parents have been under a tremendous amount of stress over the past few years. Parenting is always stressful, but the pandemic has brought a new level of anxiety and impending doom to parents. And with a lot of unknowns and moments of quarantine, it’s hard to carve out that time for self-care. What even is self-care anymore? We sought the advice of experts in their field to tackle the very real, very exhausting mental burnout parents are feeling.
Here are six ideas for what we can do to help shift our mindsets, reduce some of the constant dread, and lead a happier life, even if it's in the constraints of a pandemic.
Prioritize Fun and Enjoyment
Yes, that’s right! Make fun a PRIORITY. Therapist Callie McGovern (MHC-LP) of Empower Your Mind Therapy says: "This year, start looking and planning for the fun in your life. This will not only benefit you, but your kids and partner (if any) as well. Begin by looking at your week and scheduling enjoyable activities for yourself. As a parent, it’s crucial to find time to be just with yourself, but it’s equally important to have different ways of really enjoying your time with your kids."
This could be in the form of a weekly game or movie night with the family, regular drinks with your friends, even a workout you love and commit to weekly.
"When we prioritize the fun and joy in our life, we can really savor the moment we are in rather than wishing this time away," McGovern says.
Get Outside Everyday
If you live somewhere with cold weather, this can feel daunting, but I bet your kids would mostly dig it. "If you’re struggling to get your kids outside in the cold, remember there is no bad weather, just bad clothing (it’s all about layering). It can be helpful to plan a treat for when you get back. Go on a walk to the park and when you come home, get all cozy with some hot chocolate. It’s helpful for everyone to get out and into the fresh air, even for a short time," says McGovern.
Limit Time on Social Media
Yes, we have all let screen time creep up over the past few years, especially social media.
"Take an inventory of how much use those devices are getting. Be honest with yourself. Consider setting boundaries around when, where, and for how long you and your kids are scrolling and watching," she says. "It’s one thing to put on a movie or television show and enjoy it together and it’s another for everyone to be looking at their own device for hours." Work to create moments of silence from all the social media overdrive throughout the week.
Take a Real Break
Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, D.O., psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health, says it’s ok to take a break – an actual break.
"Leaning on your community for support, whether that’s family or friends, is critical. Close friends and family can step in for you when you need time for yourself. If you don’t have family members who can support [you], you can also ask your child’s friend’s parents if they want to trade off doing sleepover nights so you both get a break."
Focus on Little Habits
"Whatever habit you choose to work on, think of it as a little love letter from your now self to your future self and they will thank you," says McGovern. This can be anything that will make your life easier like spending five minutes cleaning up nightly instead of saving all the cleaning for the weekend. Or having your kids take on more chores. Maybe that thing for you is meal planning. It should not be a stressor; it should be something that will inevitably make things easier for you.
If you are extremely burnt out, then therapy may be the way to go. "Prioritizing your mental health is just as important as your physical health and will enable you to be the best parent possible," says Patel-Dunn. "Even if you think your feelings are temporary, a therapist can help you develop healthy coping skills and serve as a trusted sounding board."
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