Coping With COVID-19 Parental Burnout
It’s been six months and we are still working through COVID-19 and its dangers. At times, it looks like our world is going to open back up and during other times, it feels like the progress is slow and there is no set date for our return to life pre-COVID. The back and forth is exhausting, draining and leads to burnout.
Isolation and fear are leading to feelings of sadness and anxiety about safety and wellness. As humans, we have a strong need to connect with people who are important to us, as well enjoy the small and brief interactions that happen spontaneously in the supermarket, post-office or at our kids’ activities.
We have lost the boundaries that exist in our day. Our work, home and school worlds have all merged together. No wonder we feel like our lives are one large amorphous blob with no beginning or end. We used to have the benefit of going to work and just working. We had the benefit of returning home and just being home. Even if we had to log back onto our email or work on a time-sensitive project, this was the exception and now it’s our usual routine.
How many of us have gotten used to being on a phone conference while helping our child work on a math problem or log into a Google Meet while the dog is barking? We are over-stimulated and balancing the needs of multiple environments that are all existing for us in one place — our homes.
I Saw the Signs
As parents, we are managing multiple roles all day long, every day of the week. My resume now holds the job title of “Teacher” on top of being a mother and being a professional and business owner. The juggle is real right now and we are trying to maintain our roles at home, with our children, with our significant other, with our work and with extended family and friends. We have actually taken on more than our pre-COVID-19 usual. How is that even possible when our plates were totally full back then? You are likely showing signs of burnout if you are feeling two or more of the following:
- You’re short-tempered
- You dread or don’t look forward to starting the day
- You feel more anxious than usual
- You feel more irritable than usual
- You don’t feel rested in the morning
- You have difficulty settling down and falling or maintaining sleep through the night
Getting Through the Burnout
Don’t do more, do less. It’s just not possible to expect to hold onto all of the roles you had before COVID-19 and then add more, in addition to consistent food shopping, food preparation, entertaining our kids and maintaining a pleasant home environment. It’s too much and it’s impossible. Modify your expectations for yourself and your children.
Make sleep a priority for yourself. Set an alarm on your Alexa or your phone, and begin to shut down the house and get everyone started on their bedtime routine at a particular time each night. Whatever you choose to do to settle down for the day, give yourself that time to wind down from a jam-packed day so you can start snoozing. Getting enough sleep gives you the strength you need to get through the next day and its frustrations and distractions.
Eat foods rich in fiber and protein. When we feel stressed, we reach for the sugar to give us the energy to keep going. But what if you intentionally nourished your body with quality sources of energy? Plan ahead and prepare your lunch and snacks for yourself so you don’t reach into the pantry and grab cookies instead of turkey sandwich or a protein shake that will truly keep you going.
Drink water and exercise. Fill a pitcher and continuously refill your glass all day long or invest in a large enough water bottle that will hold enough water for the morning with one quick re-fill mid-day. Take a walk, turn on a yoga video or HIIT workout video on YouTube at a designated time of the day and designated days of the week. This will give your body a mental and physical break from the care you are providing to your children and the attention you are giving to your work and home.
Connect with other people in a way that feels safe and comfortable to you. Take a walk together, meet somewhere outside or in your backyard. Allow your child/children to have playdates also as we all need to maintain some level of connection with others that’s not just virtual.
This is an unusual time for us as parents, as people. Hang in there and take care of yourself to manage the many stressors and additional demands of our lives right now.
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