Being a parent isn’t only a tough job, it’s also one that’s never-ending. Which means if you don’t pace yourself and take a conscious break, you’re likely headed toward burnout. In his helpful, straightforward book When Kids Call The Shots, author Sean Grover explains that preventing parental burnout is key when it comes to harmony within yourself and in your relationship with your kid(s). Below are Grover’s four simple suggestions for remedying parental burnout (extrapolated by us) that are surprisingly simple and easy-to-do…if you can commit to it. Our suggestion: Tack this list onto the top of your New Year’s resolutions and see how your life (and parenting stress) changes for the better.
1.) Say Hello To “Me” Time. No matter if it’s sipping a big cup of coffee while reading your favorite magazine, booking a long spa day, or hitting a new restaurant or museum solo, finding time to connect with yourself and hear yourself think is crucial for well-being. Bring a journal and jot down any thoughts that come to you. Resist the urge to pick up your phone. As Sherry Turkle writes in this insightful New York Times piece, being at peace with solitude will feed our ability to connect with others (our children included): “Some of the most crucial conversations you will ever have will be with yourself. Slow down sufficiently to make this possible… In solitude we learn to concentrate and imagine, to listen to ourselves. We need these skills to be fully present in conversation.”
2.) Get Moving. The benefits of working out can’t be overstated. Getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat triggers feel-good hormones to course through your body, which directly correlates to a better, more optimistic mood. Add in the fact that you’ll want to eat better afterwards and you’ll be feeling more fit, strong, and confident. The best part: You can start small. “A cardio workout thirty minutes, three times a week can dramatically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety,” says Grover. Rolling out the yoga mat, hitting the gym, sticking to a plan like the cult-followed Kayla Itsines guides—whatever it is, find what you love and commit to it.
3.) Get Creative. When is the last time you used your hands to create something? Flexing our creative muscles is something that often gets pushed to the backburner. However, tackling a creative task can unlock new neural pathways and lead to improved self-esteem and happiness. Pick up your (non-iPhone) camera again, hone your not-used-since-college poetry skills, sign up for a watercolor or ceramics class, refinish some old furniture…the venues for creativity are endless. Think about how much you encourage your children to do art projects. Now set aside at least 1 hour each week to make something yourself.
4.) Get Out Of Town. “When you stop traveling, visiting friends, or going out for a bit of fun, your parenting is headed toward burnout,” says Grover. “You need a break from your kids as much as they need a break from you.” While spending a night or two away from the responsibilities of parenting is ideal, you can start small. Schedule some kid-free time with your girlfriends (cocktails and game night, anyone?), a date night (or day date) with your partner, or an afternoon of solo time (see #1 above). Then, work your way up to a trip away from your kids and the day-to-day household tasks. If you can try to get away somewhere a few times a year, the rebooting effects will be tremendous. Plus, your children will learn that they can survive without you and rely on another loving adult for care—another crucial skill that you’ll want to teach them.