When you became a caregiver, whether it was for your children or others did you realize just how much it was going to take out of you? I knew it was going be a lot of work, but I was not really prepared for what life had in store for me. When you factor in special needs/mental health of children and/or others you may be caring for and lack of support, exhaustion reached a whole new level. Then factor in a pandemic and regular life stresses (job etc.) – It is no wonder mental health needs have increased. As a parent, we literally must be “super” mom and dads. Possessing a non-stop energy that also requires us to be always hyper focused to ensure the safety of our little ones. It truly is a superpower.
When children are young, and you are mostly sleep deprived – they have a name for it – postpartum depression. But what about when your kids are older? What do you call it then? What resources are available for those who have older children and are burnt out?
It does have a name too – it is called mommy fatigue/parental or caregiver burnout. It is something that does not seem to be talked about or labeled much. It is not something anyone should be ashamed of or quiet about. Parental/caregiver burnout is normal and more common than we probably realize.
Parental/caregiver burnout is the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that you feel from the chronic stress of caregiving.
How do you know if you are suffering from it? Here is a list of some warning signs to be on the look out for:
- Changes in eating habits (weight loss or gain)
- Decreased immune system.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Having difficulty coping with everyday things
- Insufficient energy (exhaustion)
- Strong NEED for a break, opposed to just WANTING a break.
- Fatigue that is overwhelming
- Sleep problems (too much or too little)
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Withdrawing from others
- Concentration problems – forgetfulness
- Neglecting your own physical and emotional needs
- Feeling trapped, resentful – like being a caregiver/parent is controlling your life.
- Extra impatient, irritable or argumentative with the person(s) you are caring for and/or others.
- Trouble controlling worries.
- Emotional – Depression or mood swings, anxiety, guilt
- Physical pain i.e.. Headaches, stomach aches etc.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek help and/or take action to recover. Especially in the event it is more serious like depression and anxiety. Untreated it can lead to clinical depression or an anxiety disorder. Ways to help prevent and recover from burnout.
- Learn to be good enough and lower your expectations – there is no need to keep up with the jones and there is no such thing as perfect!
- Examine your situation, Take Action! – recognize the signs and start to think about what you CAN do, what you may need help doing. Lighten your load wherever possible.
- Follow your instincts.
- Talk to others (family, friends, join a support group) – you are not alone!
- Establish boundaries -learn to say NO & Stick to it
- Give yourself a break – ask others to help you so you can get a NEEDED break
- Renew yourself – Find out what feels good
- Get outside – exercise is a great way to release stress.
- Practice self compassion
- ASK FOR HELP
Remember you are not alone, you are good enough and you are human!
A book I came across that might be useful to go into greater detail on the subject, is Mommy Burnout by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler. In fact I am in the process of reading it myself.
Want to win a copy? Contest details at the end of the article.
The book is available in paperback on Book Outlet for under $10 and on Amazon (audio, e-book, hardcover and paperback).
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Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this subject, I am just a fellow parent with personal experience. This article is based on my personal experience and a collection of information that I have researched on the subject. The topic of this article is near and dear to my heart and something that I felt needed to be shared.
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