Back to school! Here’s How to Prevent Parental Burnout This School Year in 8 Easy Steps

Parent getting children ready for school

Signs you have parental burnout and how to combat it 

When kids are overwhelmed with school stress, it isn’t always easy for parents to put on a brave face, especially when you as a parent are busy yourself. Daily distractions are normal: work, school, healthcare appointments, keeping up with your social life, and managing household chores. So, what are some telltale signs that you may be experiencing burnout? We’ll dive into that, as well as some remedies to get parents back to feeling their best selves. 

We can’t emphasize this enough: if you’re experiencing burnout, that doesn’t mean you’ve “failed” as a parent. In fact, it means quite the opposite: you’re attempting to give 110%! But we all deserve to take care of ourselves, and in fact knowing and prioritizing our own limits helps us be the best parents we can be. So while your children are learning how to manage their stress with school, avoid burnout yourself by cherishing the moment and embracing each learning curve. 

What is burnout? A state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by overwork or excessive stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

10 signs your dealing with parental burnout

  • The feeling of exhaustion hasn’t left you for weeks. 

Whether you’ve had a full night’s sleep or not, the feeling of exhaustion won’t leave you. You have difficulty waking up, are unable to get out of bed, and when you finally decide to get up, the unending “drained” feeling won’t leave you. This is easily one of the most obvious signs of burnout. 

  • Your mental health is dwindling.

Stress buildup can lead to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or even psychosis. Additionally, your stress could be the direct result of a mental health diagnosis that you may not have known about. In either situation, seeking help is a good option. 

  • Lack of sleep or sleep disorders.

Chronic stress can lead to insomnia and sleep apnea. Being unable to flee from stressful thinking can lead to a disruption in your sleeping patterns. This can actually compound the problem because getting a good amount of sleep every night can help alleviate your stress symptoms.

  • You feel a disconnect between yourself and your children.

Emotional detachment is definitely a sign of parental burnout. A report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine confirms that there are common features across the experiences of parental burnout and job burnout, such as a state of extreme fatigue, an emotional distancing from self and others, and a sense of incompetence.

  • Limited tolerance or short temper. 

Increased stress leads to a decreased fuse. You might notice that you have more of a temper or that you are more easily agitated the less you prioritize dealing with your stress symptoms. This increased temper could come out in all interactions: those with your family, your friends, and even with strangers who cross your path. 

  • Your children’s needs are neglected. 

This one is a hard pill to swallow. If you are experiencing an excessive amount of stress, it is likely that you aren’t able to give yourself fully to your kids. For example, your usual bedtime routine with your children could be cut short due to your exhaustion levels, or you’ve cancelled their plans for the week because you don’t feel up to driving them, or you aren’t able to get happy for them when they’ve accomplished something in school. 

  • Your own needs are neglected. 

One of the most important actions a parent can take is self-care. Self-care days are crucial when you’re a parent! Often, we forget just how much these days to ourselves are needed until we’ve had one. When you have begun to put yourself last, self-care goes out the window. 

  • Health issues. 

Along with an abundance of stress comes health issues. Your lack of sleep, self-negligence, and decreased mood is harming your physical health in more ways than one. Chronic poor sleep can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and/or heart disease. 

  • Increased fighting with partner and/or co-parent.

Agitation and irritability can cause even more stress not only on you, but on your partner as well. If you’ve noticed you and your partner are constantly arguing, it is likely that one or both of you are dealing with parental burnout. 

  • You’re starting to numb the stress. 

Eventually, if you aren’t doing anything to help the symptoms of burnout or seek help, you can begin to self-medicate to numb what you’re feeling. Excessive and prolonged stress can lead to an increase in alcohol consumption or drug use. 

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, keep reading for ways you can combat the burnout. Our best piece of advice is to tackle it early on, rather than waiting for it to get worse. 

Please note: if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

How to combat parental burnout

  • Self-care: Schedule at least 2 hours a week for you to do an act of self-care. Whether that is going for a jog, reading that book you haven’t picked up in months, taking a bubble bath, or catching up with an old friend, just do it. If you do this each week, you’ll begin to notice a difference within yourself. 
  • children-free relaxationIncorporate more structure into your day-to-day: carry a planner around, keep track of appointments on your phone, or download a calendar app such as Google Calendar. This will help you avoid double-booking, as well as help you stay on top of your day-to-day activities. Pro-tip: schedule “quiet times” throughout your day so you can incorporate those zen moments amongst the chaos. 
  • Date night: this can be either with your significant other, your kiddos, or even yourself. This doesn’t have to be a planned night out on the town, it can be as simple as ordering takeout and watching that new movie you’ve been wanting to see.  
  • Try to not be so hard on yourself: although easier said than done, this can help you avoid stressors immensely. You burnt dinner? No biggie, order take out! You forgot to take our kid to their dance class? Practice with them at home! You forgot to brush your hair this morning? Throw it in a bun and laugh it off! 
  • Seek help: with all things, asking for help is good, especially if it is taking a toll on your overall well being. Finding a local therapist or psychologist will help you navigate your daily stresses and help you find peace in the chaos. 
  • Let go of the idea of perfection: although the media at times can tell people otherwise, perfection isn’t real. No one is perfect through and through and it’s time we start to embrace our flaws and unique qualities. 
  • Identify the cause of your stress and tackle it: in many cases, if we really listen to our body and pay attention, we’ll be able to tell exactly what is causing our stress. It may be something you can alleviate from your routine, and if not, then chances are you can ask a close person for either advice or for help. 
  • Exercise: According to MayoClinic, exercise has some direct stress-busting benefits. Exercise pumps up your endorphins, it reduces negative effects of stress, it’s meditation in motion, and it improves your mood.  

For more parenting tips and advice, follow along on our Hospitality Health ER blog. We’ve recently covered “Signs Your Kids May Be Experiencing Anxiety” and “Why Yelling at Kids Can Be Harmful.” For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram