What to Know About Parental Burnout

As a parent, you tend to focus on the needs of your children. Many parents put so much of their time and energy into their children that they neglect their own needs. The result is parental burnout, a condition in which you’re so exhausted that you feel you have nothing left to give.

The problem with parental burnout is that most people think that it’s a normal part of parenting. What makes it worse is that burnt-out parents feel ashamed or guilty for being tired. Hiding your feelings and not doing anything about them can take a toll on your mental health. Here’s what you need to know about parental burnout.

Impact of Parental Burnout on Your Mental Health

Parental burnout leads to overwhelming exhaustion, emotional distancing from your children, and a sense of being a poor or ineffective parent. These effects can take a severe toll on your mental health.

Depending upon your level of parental burnout, the impact on your mental health may include:

The mental health effects of parental burnout can affect your overall health. As burnout progresses, you may develop hormonal imbalances, which can lead to a decreased sex drive. If you have chronic poor sleep, your risk of serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes increases. Higher stress levels can also raise your chances of serious health issues.

Parental burnout can also affect your relationship with your partner. Its mental effects can lead to breakdowns in communication and increases in tension. These can lead to miscommunications, arguments, and resentment.

Parental burnout can also affect your relationship with your children. You may not feel connected with them, or like you’re just going through the motions. Emotional distance can impact your child’s development, which can lead to problems later in life.

Changes You Can Make

Most parents are likely to experience mild to moderate parental burnout, especially in their child’s early years. If you’re noticing symptoms of burnout, here are a few changes that you can make.

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Communicate your feelings. If you’re feeling burnt out, one of the first things that you should do is communicate your feelings with your partner. Let them know that you could use some support. Even if you’ve been together for several years, they can’t read your mind. If you’re a single parent, it can be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or family member.

Watch what you eat or drink when you’re tired. When you’re exhausted to the point of barely being able to function, you might reach for a quick fix like coffee, a donut, or some other sugary snack. While these foods may provide a temporary boost, they also often cause a crash. Instead, fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods. Include a balance of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your meals. For snacks, reach for lean proteins and fiber-rich carbohydrates.

Exercise . Physical activity can boost your energy and raise the feel-good hormones in your body. It can also help to reduce stress and depression. Getting exercise doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym every day. Taking a ten-minute walk around the block can help to clear your head and give you the boost you need to reset.

Don’t feel guilty . Don’t feel guilty for taking a few minutes to yourself or taking time for yourself and your partner. It doesn’t make you a bad parent for focusing on your own needs from time to time. In fact, self-care may help you be a better parent.

Treatment of Parental Burnout

Raising children is both rewarding and challenging. Feeling exhausted and worn out is likely to happen, especially in the early years. Recognizing the symptoms of parental burnout can help you put a stop to them before they get worse. 

Ask for help, take a few minutes for yourself, and give yourself a chance to reset. If you’re concerned about your energy levels, mental health, and overall well-being, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide you with additional tips and tricks for managing your symptoms.

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Prevention of Parental Burnout

While you may get burnout from time to time, there are things that you can do to reduce the risk and prevent it:

  • Ask for help or hire a sitter
  • Practice self-care
  • Get some exercise
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Give your child age-appropriate chores
  • Go easy on yourself
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Eating to Boost Energy.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Want to Be a Better Parent? Start By Taking Care of Yourself.”

Clinical Psychological Science: “Parental Burnout: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?”

Journal of Family Violence: “The Impact of Extreme Emotional Distance in the Mother-Child Relationship of the Offspring’s Future Risk of Maltreatment Perpetration.”

Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association: “Role of Hormones in Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Current Treatment.”

‌Mayo Clinic: “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms.”

Sleep Foundation: “Physical Health and Sleep.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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