Newly published survey data reveals the extent of burnt-out parents or ‘BOPs’, as almost two-thirds (63%) are left feeling stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed, forcing them to seek help. Can balance ever be restored? We asked burnout expert Selina Barker.
Parenting isn’t easy. From the meal prep, school runs and activities, to the lack of sleep and constant worrying. It’s no wonder that parents get overwhelmed sometimes, and, if extreme tiredness and stress isn’t addressed, burnout can occur.
Commenting on the rise of ‘BOPs’, Life Design & Career Coach and author of “Burnt out: The Exhausted Person’s Guide to Thriving in a Fast-paced World”, Selina Barker:
“Parental burnout is the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that one feels from the chronic stress of parenting. It’s that feeling that you simply can’t cope anymore. It can manifest with emotional distancing from your child, increased irritability, and impatience. Some ‘BOPs’ may experience forgetfulness or increased feelings of anxiety or depression, and many question their ability to parent in the first place.”
“Gender inequality is a very real issue at play in many heterosexual parenting couples. Even when both parents work and share financial responsibilities, you will often find that the mother is still the primary caregiver. The weight of this ‘mental’ load on top of a demanding job, can be a big contributor to burnout amongst mothers. Never was this more apparent than during lockdown when much of the homeschooling fell to mothers, even when they were also trying to work from home.
“Women also have far greater expectations and pressures put upon them by society when it comes to parenting. There is a deep-rooted narrative in our society that being ‘the perfect mother’ requires self-sacrifice, leading to a strong unconscious resistance from mothers to prioritise their own well-being. Self-care can be confused for selfishness, when in fact it is the best thing you can do for yourself AND your family”
Due to excessive levels of stress, low energy, and prolonged feelings of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion, 40% of ‘BOM’s (burnt-out mothers) sought help from their GP, some of whom were prescribed anti-depressants and other medications. However, 82% of ‘BOM’s would prefer to manage symptoms naturally and would consider using a traditional herbal remedy in the future.
Sharing her tips on how to reduce burnout, Selina comments:
“Managing parental burnout begins with acknowledging what you need. It’s far too easy to slip into the self-sacrificing parent and to think that being exhausted is ‘just how it is’. It isn’t. If every day is a struggle, then something needs to change. I recommend my clients try a range of different strategies to help them put their needs first. Incorporating just a few of these into your daily routines can help to restore a sense of calmness, and tackle the symptoms experienced by parental burnout.”
Schedule breaks from parenting
Parenting is a 24/7 commitment, but it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to need time away from your children, partner, work, and home responsibilities. Even two minutes of putting down the to-do list, kicking back and relaxing for a moment can help you to calm your nervous system and recharge your batteries. Look at what mini breaks you can give yourself throughout the day to be still for a moment and breathe. It can be as simple as a walk through the park, a cup of tea on your own, or a 5-minute meditation in the bathroom with the door locked.
When it’s time for bed, go to sleep
Late-night scrolling on social media to reclaim back the ’me time’ that you didn’t get during the day can be tempting. However, this habit robs us of valuable shuteye and can result in unhealthy comparison loops. Set aside your phone an hour before you intend to sleep and replace that scrolling time with something that really helps you to relax and restore your energy. Try a hot bath, guided meditation, reading time, journaling, or some wind-down yoga.
Try a herbal remedy such as Kalms Rhodiola
Try an energising adaptogen to help regulate stress and feel more alert throughout the day. Kalms Rhodiola is made from Rhodiola Rosea, a powerful herb that can help your body and brain process stress more effectively. Studies have shown that two daily tablets of Rhodiola Rosea can reduce symptoms of exhaustion, stress and mild anxiety and help to restore your energy levels.
Do things that help you release the stresses of the day
Parenting, as wonderful and magical as it can be, can also be challenging at times. On those stressful days, it’s important that you have methods to direct and relieve tension. Dancing around your kitchen with kids, stomping through the park, laughing with friends or a burst of exercise can all help you to release the stresses of the day, put things in perspective and generate feel-good hormones.
Get the help that you need
One of the most important things you can do, for yourself and for your child, is to ask for AND GET the support you need. It is NOT a sign of weakness, but strength. Knowledge is power. So, recognise when you are feeling overwhelmed or in any way struggling, and ask for help – this could be from a friend, family, partner or professional.