Are your kids burning your candle at both ends? It happens. Managing your stress, anxiety, and burnout can make parenting fun again.
Stress is a fun killer. It’s the alarm that wakes you up in the middle of a dream and the parent who says, “It’s time to go home.”
Ironically, the experts at PsychCentral say that there’s a good kind of stress. It’s the “burst of energy that lets you respond quickly to life’s challenges.” However, that good stress can quickly become bad stress “when it becomes extreme or chronic. Both affect individuals differently, but how you handle them can make all the difference.”
Bad stress can come from all kinds of places—work, finances, mental health, relationships—so it makes sense that parenting stress can also get a little out of hand.
Are my kids getting good grades? Are they eating enough? Are they making friends?
With so many responsibilities and demands on parents, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel burnt out or anxious. And when you’re ready to crash and burn at any second, being a good parent can fly right out the window. However, you can close that window with these seven tips for managing parenting stress, anxiety, and burnout. Closing that window means that you can reduce your stress levels, improve your mental health, and create a more positive and fulfilling parenting experience (for your kids AND yourself).
You might still have to be the parent who tells your kids when it’s time to go home, but you’ll be able to do it with zen.
What Does Parenting Stress Look Like?
Parenting stress can feel like a lot of things—a rock in your chest, high blood pressure, sleepless nights spent worrying about your kids. But if that’s not clear enough for you, here are some common signs and symptoms:
- Anxiety: Parents can experience anxiety related to their children’s safety, well-being, behavior, or future. This can lead to excessive worrying, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping.
- Irritability: Stress can cause parents to be more easily irritated or frustrated, leading to shorter tempers and more frequent conflicts.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Stress can make it harder to focus on tasks or make decisions, leading to forgetfulness or procrastination.
- Fatigue: Stress can cause physical and emotional exhaustion, leaving parents feeling tired, sluggish, and unmotivated.
- Physical Symptoms: Stress can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, and high blood pressure.
- Negative Thoughts: Stress can lead to negative thoughts or beliefs about oneself, such as feeling like a failure or doubting one’s abilities as a parent.
- Decreased Interest: Stress can cause parents to lose interest in activities they used to enjoy or become less involved in their children’s lives.
You don’t need to be experiencing all of these symptoms to benefit from these tips. In fact, it’s better to keep these tips in mind to prevent future stress from happening in the first place.
To measure the stress in your parent-child relationship, you can use the Parenting Stress Index or the Parental Stress Scale.
Tip 1: Practice Self-Care
Although it’s a bit overdone, this tip can’t be emphasized enough. Taking care of yourself is critical to managing parenting stress. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. It also means taking breaks and doing things you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, or spending time with friends. If you need to talk to someone, then talk. If you need to hole up in your car for ten minutes, grab your keys.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish—it’s necessary for your well-being and your ability to be a good parent.
For some self-care ideas, take a look at our article “Self-Care for Mom Because You Deserve a Break!”
Tip 2: Seek Support
Whether it’s friends, family, or a therapist, find your support system. Talking to someone who understands what you’re going through can be a huge relief. Or even talking to someone who can take your mind off your stress for just a moment is invaluable.
If you don’t have anyone close by, you can join a parent support group or find an online community of parents who share your experiences. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.
What Does Parenting Anxiety Look Like?
Parenting anxiety is a lot like regular anxiety but with kids in the mix:
- Excessive Worrying: Parents can experience persistent worrying or catastrophic thoughts related to their children’s safety, health, well-being, or future. This can lead to obsessive thinking and difficulty letting go of anxious thoughts.
- Avoidance: Anxiety can cause parents to avoid situations that trigger their anxiety, such as social events, school activities, or new experiences.
- Perfectionism: Anxiety can lead to perfectionistic tendencies, where parents feel like they need to be perfect or do everything right to protect their children.
- Physical Symptoms: Anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, and muscle tension.
- Overprotectiveness: Anxiety can lead parents to become overprotective or controlling, which can interfere with their children’s independence and development.
- Difficulty Relaxing: Anxiety can make it hard to relax and enjoy the present moment, leading to restlessness and trouble sleeping.
- Self-Doubt: Anxiety can cause parents to doubt their own abilities as a parent or feel like they’re not doing enough to protect their children.
There’s room in parenting to worry, but you shouldn’t worry too much or too little. If you’re worrying that you’re not doing enough, you’re probably already parenting just right. Use these following tips to help you walk that tightrope without your worry spilling over the sides.
Tip 3: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment and being present in the moment. Staying focused on the present can help you manage anxiety and reduce stress. This not only helps you feel better as an individual and but be a better parent for your family.
Try to set aside a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness, whether it’s through meditation, deep breathing, or simply paying attention to your surroundings.
Tip 4: Challenge Negative Thoughts
Like stress, negative thoughts are also fun killers, and anxiety often comes from negative thoughts and worries about the future. Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if they are realistic or if there is evidence to support them. You can also try to reframe negative thoughts in a more positive light. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m not doing enough for my child,” try thinking, “I’m doing the best I can, and that’s enough.” Because it is enough.
What Does Parenting Burnout Look Like?
Burnout is when you’re exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically (all the exhausteds!) from extreme or chronic stress. Parenting burnout is just one branch of burnout, but it can have a wide range of symptoms that affect all areas of your life:
- Physical Exhaustion: Burnout can leave you feeling physically drained, with low energy levels, difficulty sleeping, and persistent feelings of fatigue.
- Emotional Exhaustion: Burnout can also take a toll on your emotional well-being, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, irritable, and easily frustrated.
- Loss of Interest: Burnout can cause you to lose interest in activities you used to enjoy, and you may feel less motivated or engaged with your children.
- Decreased Patience: Burnout can make it harder to be patient with your children, leading to more frequent conflicts, arguments, or meltdowns.
- Negative Self-Talk: Burnout can cause negative self-talk, such as feelings of guilt or shame for not being a good enough parent.
- Neglecting Self-Care: When feeling burnt out, parents may neglect their own needs and self-care, such as eating poorly, not exercising, or not seeing friends.
- Feeling Trapped: Burnout can make parents feel trapped or stuck in their situation, leading to feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
Tip 5: Take a Break
When you’re feeling burned out, take a step back and give yourself a break. This may mean taking a day off from work or asking for help from friends or family members to take care of your children for a few hours. Use this time to rest, recharge, and do something that you enjoy. (When in doubt? Self-care. It always comes back to self-care.)
Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from your kids. Your job likely requires you to take breaks every so often throughout the day, so why shouldn’t parenting? Doing something 24/7 is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out, so make sure to give yourself time to be a person and not just a parent.
Tip 6: Re-evaluate Your Priorities
Burnout can often happen when we feel overwhelmed and overcommitted. Between kids, work, friends, hobbies, and all the other things you want to do, your time can get short. Take a look at your schedule and see if there are any tasks or commitments that you can let go of or delegate to others. Make sure that you’re prioritizing the things that are most important to you and your family, and don’t be afraid to say no to things that are not essential. It’s okay to take a step back and focus on what’s truly important for your own well-being and the well-being of your family.
Tip 7: Set Boundaries
Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to prevent burnout. Make time for family activities, leisure, and self-care, and avoid bringing work-related stress home with you. But more than that, set boundaries at home. Tell your kids when you need a moment to yourself. Ask them not to interrupt you during bath time unless, as my mom always said, “you’re bleeding or on fire.”
You can decide where to draw the line between parenting and burnout, because burning yourself out for your family does not make you a “good parent.” Showing your kids how they should treat themselves, take care of their mental health, and healthily worry about their own families is being the best parent.
For more ways to find calm in your anxiety, read our article “How to Be Anxious and Calm.”
Books That Crush Parenting Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout
- CALM for Moms
- Untying Parent Anxiety
- Stressed Out! For Parents
- How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids and Be OK with It
- Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year.
- Spilt Milk Yoga
- Mother Matters
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.