7 Ways To Deal With Parental Anxiety And Burnout
Parenting mainly motherhood is one of the hardest jobs out there. You worry, worry, and constantly worry from the day a child enters your life. While we are so focused on the mental health of children, we have forgotten about parental mental health. We assume that being a parent is easy as they are adults and far more experienced. We believe they are the know-it-all, and in fact, they show the same. However, with parenting comes great responsibility, parental anxiety, and burnout. Parents deserve the same affection, understanding, and attention as others. Hence, this article is going to be gentle and helpful to all the parents out there.
What are Parental Anxiety, and Burnout?
From the day the sperm meets the egg, the parenting job begins! It starts with taking care of oneself/the to-be-mother to take care of the fetus. And ‘it just never ends – NEVER.’ When you read this sentence and find your heart racing or yelling yeses, that’s your primary stage of anxiety talking. Now expand your understanding radius and know that there is also caregiver burnout and emotional burnout that parents feel.
Parental anxiety is the overexpression of regular traits like fear, care, avoiding risk, worry, family and child planning, etc. Parental burnout is an after-effect of parental anxiety including emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Though the two are very similar, they still differ slightly. Most of the time it is not easy to identify parental anxiety or burnout. What we have normalized over the years is actually not normal – spending sleepless nights, taking too much stress, feeling angry, fighting, ignoring your personal needs, withdrawing from social activities, changing priorities completely, sudden change, etc.
People would often tell you, “This is the parenting package.” But should it really be like that? I agree taking care of a child is a blessing but it’s also a task. Don’t be afraid to admit it. Yes, it’s a beautiful thing, but it is still a huge responsibility where you have to completely transform as a person to become a parent. No wonder so many parents, especially mothers are resentful, exhausted, frustrated, and ready for change. It takes a lot of courage to open your eyes and look at the reality of true parenting.
SEE ALSO: Parenting: Is There A Course For It?
Symptoms of Parental Anxiety
Symptoms of parental anxiety are usually considered normal since most parents experience it. They are seen as a part of the parenting job description. However, to be honest, they may even result in toxic parenting. This is why it is important to look for signs of parental anxiety, and burnout and walk on the path of solutions.
- Feeling exhausted – It could be physical, mental, or emotional.
- Feeling tired or drained
- Irritability or anger
- Emotional distancing from your child or other family members
- Forgetfulness and confusion
- Anxiety or depression or unexplained sadness
- Isolation yet feeling hopeless and helpless
- Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed
- Fatigue or pain in certain parts of the body (could also include migraine, muscle pain)
- Lack of motivation and having self-doubts
- Decreased interest in pleasing activities
- Stress or brain fog
- Lack of control
- Change in appetite
- Using alcohol, drugs, or food as a coping mechanism
It is not necessary for you to experience all these symptoms. It could simply be a few. But still, it is important to reverse parental anxiety, in whatever stage it is.
How To Prevent Burnout Before It Starts?
This is no one-night job where I’ll tell you what to do and the next day you are all set. It requires concentration, patience, and above all, participation with an honest heart. When fathers feel their utmost duty was to provide the woman with their sperm and do not help out throughout, women tend to feel an added burden of caregiving. And even though the participation of both, mother and father, is equal, feeling parental anxiety or burnout is normal.
Either way, as parents, you are divided by four directions you ought to travel simultaneously – parenting (the path holding it all together), managing interpersonal relationships (husband-wife, other family members), work, and societal pressure with its laws.
Self-Care for Parental Anxiety
Self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of your time. It could simply be taking a break from everything including your kids for 30 minutes. During that time you can take a nice bubble bath with essential oils or bath salts known to lower your stress levels. You could read a book or connect with an old friend. If you like your self-care time to be just about yourself, do a little skincare, and take yourself out on a date (you may have to increase the time). Remember to keep the chores aside and simply focus on yourself. Take a healthy diet or maybe just one nutritional meal a day or think about a happy memory and soak it in. Sometimes self-care might feel selfish, but it’s not.
In Indian history, yoga is known to be the best practice to cure any physical, mental, or emotional issues. There are several breathing techniques that can help you calm yourself in times of distress. Notice, your breathing pattern changes when you are angry. It’s all about breathing, hence, observe your breathing next time you are not feeling okay.
It’s not important to do breathing exercises only when you are experiencing an uneasy emotion. Instead, take out 10-20 minutes for yourself, sit in a quiet room, and focus on your breath- breathe in through your nose and breath out through the mouth. Doing this every day can give you calmness and clarity.
Speaking from my personal experience, I joined the Art of Living Happiness Program to learn Sudharshan Kriya and I am a completely transformed person and energetic person in just 6 days.
Meditation and Exercise
Affirmations, meditation, and physical movements like exercising, running, power walking, or martial arts can release mental stress physically. Believe it or not, many great artists have proven to devote themselves to a physical form of expression like theatre to take out feelings like anger, anxiety, sadness, or even trauma.
Meditation can not only help you confront your reasons for feeling a certain way, but it can slowly help you heal. It can also give you the power to deal with things in a calmer way without compromising your sanity. Remember, the more you keep it all inside you, the more it will rot and one day explode.
Go for Regular Outings
Whether you are a working or a stay-at-home parent, going out can freshen up your thoughts, mind, and body. It could be a short trip to a nearby town to shop or visit a park or monument. Or you could take small trips regularly but one or two to beautiful destinations as well. This kind of change could give you a new perspective on many things and definitely ease your parental anxiety and burnout. Moms, go on that girls’ trip you have been waiting for. Dads, go on the boys’ trip and just enjoy your days. It’s not bad to take a break from parenting. Better take a break than leave it all jumbled.
Remember, Children Learn From Experience
Don’t try to be the perfect parent. Don’t just rely on parenting books and videos. Trusting your instinct is just as good. Yes, you will make mistakes. But that’s how kids learn. No need to escalate your parental anxiety for nothing. Of course, fighting in front of your little ones or consuming drugs/alcohol is traumatic. And those mistakes are unforgivable honestly. But minor mistakes can help children learn better and become more independent.
Teach them to make their own bed, clean their room, and more by showing you are equally involved in the same process. They are the result of whatever you project at them.
There Is No “Perfect Parent”
There is no definition of a perfect parent. It’s another unattainable standard. If you give too much, they get spoiled; if you don’t provide, they may take the wrong path. I am speaking society here, not that it’s true! Whatever you do, you cannot predict the outcome as every individual is different. Similarly, you cannot form the same cycle of parenting as you are a different parent than others. And instead of feeling guilty all the time for your mistakes, think about how you can do better and what did you learn from it.
What To Do if You Have Parental Anxiety?
Once you have identified the symptoms of parental anxiety, it is important to reverse them before they worsen. Parental anxiety can not only ruin your child’s life, but can also jeopardize your relationships with your spouse, friends, and family. But above all your mental health can give you severely painful physiological symptoms and emotional drainage. In simple words, you will lose yourself.
Acceptance of your Anxieties
No, it’s not just a phase. Don’t find counterproductive ways to deal with issues that are more serious than you think. If you pretend it’s normal or temporary, that’s where you are wrong. It’s okay to accept, acknowledge and take a little help. Don’t fall into the trap of super-parents. It’s okay to feel stressed out while taking care of your children.
However, sit back and think about how you could make your kids more self-sufficient. Instead of doing everything for them under stress, help them do their stuff on their own like making the bed, putting dirty dishes in the sink, throwing clothes in the laundry basket, etc. Divide the workload with your partner as well. Balance and make them balance things around the house and in life.
Talk to Your Partner
Most of us keep our darkness within us till one day it explodes and creates an unmendable situation. Whether you want your partner to be more helpful/involved or if you are personally not doing well, talk to your partner. Communication is indeed the key. Letting your other half know what you are going through may take a huge burden off your chest and improvise the situation.
If you are a single parent, talk to someone you can trust completely. Getting negative emotions out makes space for more positive experiences. You can also start journaling to log your regular thoughts and experiences. Journaling has tremendous benefits.
Reduce Your Screentime
These days news channels are full of bad info and social media has become the utmost competitive space. Lay off the screen, especially before bedtime. Don’t compare yourself with other parents on social media and how they are raising their kids or what they are able to provide. You are not them. Moreover, most of the content you scroll on social media apps is unreal. How can it be real? Think about it, how can everyone in someone’s family be always camera-ready?
Yes, the world isn’t always a better place. But focus on the good. Focusing on the positive side of the world won’t make you less aware or you won’t care less about your children. It will only increase your faith, ease your parental anxiety, and in fact better your bond with your children.
While we are the closest to our families, it is important to set boundaries. Each member’s privacy should be respected and your children, as well as your partner, need to learn about boundaries from the beginning. You cannot always be available, and you shouldn’t be. If you are working or having a me-time, others need to respect that and leave you to it. If you don’t set boundaries out of love, you will have everything all over the place, all the time. And chaos is never your friend nor will it help with your parental anxiety or burnout.
Many people experience severe trauma, anxiety, depression, and even abuse before they become parents. It’s bad enough what they have been through, it becomes worse when they try not to be the version of the accused. They have one leg in the past and the other in the present, and the mind in the future. Even if you haven’t had any past traumas, normalize seeking therapy. Parental anxiety and burnout can leave you breathless and cause physiological pain for which the cause might not be diagnosed even by the doctor. Seek professional help because it’s important and healthy.
Use These Tricks To Ease Your Parental Anxiety
In case you have no one around and don’t know what to do, there are small tricks you can do to ease your parental anxiety. Divert yourself for the time being. Challenge your brain, count from 100 to 0 fast, and if you leave a number start again. Make a game out of it. Maybe list odd or even numbers. It will soothe your emotional side and get your breathing pattern to normal. If you want to increase the challenge, increase creativity. Tell a story backward or jump on one foot.
Get a Good Sleep and Enough Rest
It is hard to get any sleep for new parents. But take any chance you get with the bed; sleep and take rest. You don’t have to feel guilty about falling asleep. If you are not physically active, you won’t be mentally active to make the right decisions, and vice versa. Sleep deprivation has many side effects. And on top of parental anxiety, you certainly don’t want to deal with that one.
If you have reached the end of this lengthy yet very informative article, I just want to tell you that it’s okay to get help; it’s okay to look after yourself first. Happy parenting!