If you’re like many parents, you may have initially responded to the COVID-19 crisis with not only anxiety and dread, but also a great deal of resolve — vowing to “step up to the plate” and “tackle this challenge head on.”
Unfortunately, parenting during the COVID-19 crisis is a perfect storm to fuel parent burnout. Psychologists who have studied burnout have found that it follows a fairly predictable pattern. The pattern itself has been described in a variety of ways, but the six stages of burnout outlined by Katie Maycock, an anxiety specialist at Thrive Global, captures it particularly well.
WHEN APPLIED TO PARENTING DURING TODAY’S CRISIS, THE STAGES LOOK SOMETHING LIKE THIS:
STAGE 1: EXCITEMENT
While you might not have been excited (not even a little bit) at the start of the crisis, you may have been feeling energetic and committed to making the best of a difficult situation. You may have poured a lot of time and energy (often out of necessity) into creating a home situation that would make this time manageable for you and your family.
STAGE 2: LET’S WORK HARDER
Your initial energy is starting to wane, but you’re committed. You look past the cracks that are starting to show and continue to push even harder. Self-care takes a back seat, and your eating habits and sleep suffer.
STAGE 3: FRUSTRATION
Your efforts to push harder aren’t working. You become increasingly tired, forgetful and frustrated. You struggle to concentrate and keep up with even the most basic tasks on your list. At this stage, you may notice yourself getting increasingly irritated by your children, spouse or other family members, and you are starting to feel hopeless.
STAGE 4: ILLNESS AND DENIAL
You start to feel physically run down, and possibly even ill. Your body is sending strong signals that you are headed for burnout, but you deny that anything is wrong and continue to forge ahead.
STAGE 5: APATHY AND LACK OF DRIVE
The motivation and commitment you felt at the start of pandemic feels like a distant memory. Instead, feelings of apathy and withdrawal take over, sometimes accompanied by feelings of anxiety, guilt, and a lack of confidence in your parenting abilities.
STAGE 6: BURNOUT
At this stage, you’re completely exhausted – emotionally, mentally, and physically. You may feel overwhelmed and struggle to enjoy any time with your family or the simple things that usually make you happy. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are common at this stage.
Parenting burnout will leave you feeling miserable and can take a serious toll on every member of your family. There is no magic bullet for avoiding burnout, but you can recognize the early signs and intervene before things become more severe.
If you were experiencing burnout at your job, taking a few days off or delegating some tasks would help considerably. Unfortunately, you can’t take any days off from parenting during a crisis. So instead, focus on the little things you can do to help reduce your stress level.
If you have a spouse or partner at home, be honest about how you are feeling, and see if your significant other can take a few tasks off your plate. Then, carve out time to do some things that help you feel recharged. Chat with a friend, spend some alone time outside, take a relaxing bath or listen to your favorite music or podcast while you go for a walk. It’s more important than ever to practice self-care right now.
Perhaps most importantly, do everything you can to get enough sleep each night and eat well throughout the day. Sleeping and eating well aren’t easy when you are stressed, so take baby steps to move your eating and sleeping habits in the right direction.
Lastly, if nothing seems to be working, consider talking with a therapist. Your primary care provider or health insurance company should be able to connect you with a professional who can help.
Parents across the country have spent seemingly countless days juggling childcare, supervising e-learning assignments or homeschooling activities, figuring out ways to keep the kids busy while also following social distancing guidelines and being present for their kids as they work through their feelings of anxiety, frustration and confusion. We’re managing all of this while not being able to do many of the things we typically rely on to relieve stress — including structured, out-of-the-house activities in which they are occupied and safe.
Some parents also are coping with the challenges of parenting a child with ADHD under these very difficult circumstances. You can get additional resources on parenting a child with ADHD by checking out our ADHD blog and one of our most recent webinars, “Creating Structure at Home for Children with ADHD.”
Contact your local Huntington Learning Center in Gulfport at 228-832-1226 and learn more at https://huntingtonhelps. com/center/gulfport.