If you found @RunTellMom on Instagram, you already know that I am a big advocate for optimizing parental health in order to prevent parental burnout. I also talk a lot about developing a parenting ecosystem that provides a buoy of additional support from various angles- professional, social, virtual, etc. In order to address this phenomenon, we much first define it as the definition can get lost or miscommunicated across social media.
Parental burnout is a phenomenon that can be described as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion experienced by parents or caregivers as a result of chronic stress and demands of parenting. The chronicity of stress coupled with a lack of resources (internal / external or even a combination of both) are important factors to consider as we peel back the layers of burnout.
Parental burnout can be pervasive- it can impact the parent's ability to function effectively in their parental role, leading to feelings of detachment, frustration, and unrelenting exhaustion. The symptoms of parental burnout can be both physical and psychological and can manifest in various ways such as constant fatigue, irritability, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed. Parents may even feel like there is a stark contrast between their previous parenting "self" vs. current parenting "self", vocalizing a loss of personal identity due to parental stress or feeling shameful because they are "not the same parent they used to be".
In an effort to help alleviate symptoms of parental burnout, it is important to address the underlying causes, which are often related to chronic stress and a lack of support. Addressing some of the underlying causes can be a difficult process and one that may necessitate professional support from a licensed healthcare professional with an expertise in burnout. Enlisting in professional support can help parents develop effective coping mechanisms and strategies to manage their stressors in addition to navigating parental "unknowns". Additionally, it may be necessary to make lifestyle changes such as prioritizing self-investment and self-care activities, practicing mindfulness, and establishing healthy boundaries with children and other caregivers. We are not plug-in ready; we cannot optimally function without our own needs being met.
Preventing future burnout requires taking proactive, strategic measures to reduce stress and to build our own resilience. This can involve practicing self-investment & self-care strategies on a regular basis, developing household plans, and leaning into specialized support when needed.
It is also important to establish a supportive ecosystem (network) of family, friends, or other caregivers who can provide emotional and practical support when needed. We also need to get clear on setting realistic expectations for ourselves and adhering to boundaries for our own personal peace- this practice can help reduce feelings of overwhelm and pressure. When we feel lost and frazzled, sometimes the “back the basics” option tends to be the most reliable. Mental & physical health are uniquely intertwined, therefore taking the steps to invest in both are of utmost importance, not only for yourself but for your entire supportive (and supported) ecosystem.
Parental burnout is a complex and pervasive "syndrome" that can have serious implications for both the parent and child. Recognizing the symptoms of burnout and seeking professional help is important for effective treatment, while prevention requires a commitment to self-care, stress reduction, and establishing healthy boundaries for yourself and for other around you. By taking a proactive approach to burnout, parents can better manage the demands of parenting and enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding family life. I am happy to provide education and resources on this topic because I, too, am a parent navigating parenthood right next to you!
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