5 Ways to Get Over Parental Overload

Parental Overload

When the responsibilities of parenting, work, and life are too much, parents can fall into overload, or worse, burnout—a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion experienced by parents and caregivers. Symptoms may include depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, trouble concentrating, marital conflict, and even illness.

Since the spring of 2020, we’ve been living in a time of parental overload. The world pandemic brought an avalanche of responsibility on parents’ already burdened shoulders.


At times, you need a break from your kids, and they need a break from you. Click To Tweet

A survey called “Stress in the Time of Covid-19,” conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association from earlier this year found that 46% of parents with children under 18 said their stress level was high. Fast forward to today, and parents are still overloaded. Even though many parents have returned to work and kids have returned to school, the question of vaccinations and mask-wearing are new stressors.

A study from Yale University that examined stress on children during the pandemic found that parental “buffering” of stress was critical to the well-being of a family, and “parents who reported higher levels of parenting stress and anxiety-related symptomatology were less likely to effectively buffer stress.”

Parents can take measures to reduce stress and prevent overload. Here are several ways to help right now.


1. Rest Better, Eat Right, Move More

Parents who take care of their brains and bodies by ensuring restful sleep, a brain healthy diet, and regular exercise are at less risk of having brain health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Sleep disturbances are associated with an increased risk of a host of problems that busy parents shouldn’t have to contend with such as depression, diabetes, and heart health issues. It’s recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Good sleep is associated with sharper brain function, stable mood, healthy weight, better athletic performance, healthy blood sugar levels, and stronger immune function.

A diet of brain healthy foods such as colorful vegetables, antioxidant-rich fruits such as berries, whole grains, healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, and lean proteins will support healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and mood. There are even anti-anxiety foods that you can incorporate into your diet such as asparagus, avocado, and pumpkin seeds.

Daily exercise, either aerobic or strength training, is one of the best ways to keep stress levels in check while boosting your brain health and mood, according to research.

Proper sleep, diet, and exercise help to regulate parents, and make children feel secure. When parents are off, children know and tend to act up, making things worse.

2. Reduce Your Load

If you have the financial means or the support of family, take simple tasks off your plate. Are you carrying a heavier load than your co-parent? Ask for help. Instead of spending 5 hours on your day off cleaning your home, hire a cleaning professional or ask the entire family to pitch in. If you have in-laws nearby or another family member who can help with childcare, ask for help. The Wall Street Journal recently featured the development of new apps that will match families with an assistant to organize schedules, appointments, meals, and errands. If you can afford this kind of support, sign up.

Perhaps the greater load you are carrying is an emotional load. Mental health professionals almost uniformly recommend that parents have support in the form of friends, family, or professionals to talk to. Sharing your emotional concerns regularly with someone you trust can do wonders for your spirit as well as help you to find new perspectives or solutions you would not have come to on your own.

If expressing your emotions verbally is challenging, consider journaling to release your burdens. One study noted both emotional and physical benefits from expressive writing. Writing can help you to find ways to further lighten your load.

3. Notice What You’ve Done

Have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik Effect? It’s based on the work of Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. He found that people remember and fixate on uncompleted tasks much more often than finished ones. Uncompleted and interrupted tasks take up mental space and cause tension. We get anxious when we can’t complete things.

For busy parents, living with never-ending to-do lists is a way of life. There are to-do lists at work and at home to manage, and they can cause significant stress.

Begin the practice of noting tasks completed each and every day. Have a list that you add to. Take note and savor the progress. You will never get your to-do list done, but you can find satisfaction and relief by giving your attention to what you have achieved.

4. Take Time to Be

One simple way to avoid being on overload is to take time out to just be. Do nothing. Maybe in the morning before the kids wake up, sip a cup of tea and daydream looking out the window. Schedule a bit of time on the weekend away from family not to do anything in particular. Maybe drive to the beach or a park and just sit and look out at the ocean or up at the clouds. Research shows that there’s great value in doing nothing. It’s a precursor to creativity. Taking these pockets of time may allow you to come up with creative ideas to better handle the load of work and parenting.

Consider time carved out to be a time of enriching solitude. When one deliberately chooses to have solitude time, research indicates that it can be beneficial to well-being and highly restorative. If you choose to be in nature, the benefits multiply. Spending just 20 minutes in nature will significantly lower your stress hormones, according to a 2019 study.

5. Get Out of Town

At times, you need a break from your kids, and they need a break from you. Get out of town. Visit friends, have fun, enjoy being out with your partner. If the idea of getting away for a couple of days is stressful, then start small with an afternoon or evening out with friends or a special date with your spouse.

One study showed that traveling to new places was associated with stress relief and well-being even a month after taking the trip. What’s more, it’s a good practice for your children to learn that they can be without you and receive care from other trustworthy and loving adults.

Make Well-Being A Priority

Ultimately, preventing parental overload means going to whatever lengths necessary to ensure your wellness. If you are already on overload, reach out to a mental health professional for help.

Stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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