Parenting requires constant energy. While it may seem like many children have an endless supply, most parents do not. Because of the lack of energy and high demands, many parents face burnout. In her Uplift Families 2014 Conference presentation Dr. Julie Hanks, a licensed therapist, discussed her emotional self-care strategies for parents.
Dr. Hanks defined burnout as a “state of exhaustion and lack of motivation due to prolonged stress or frustration.” And “the persistent feeling of trying really hard but not getting the desired results”. At some point in life everyone will face these feelings of burnout at least once. Whether it be caused by self-expectations, a job, parenting, or any other reason, they all can be prevented by emotional self-care. This requires “an awareness and acceptance to internal experience coupled with the ability to respond to emotional cues in ways that improve your life and relationships”. In other words, we need to respond to our emotional cues.
Just like oxygen masks on an airliner, you must care for yourself before you can assist others. If your needs are not being met and you burnout, you will not have the energy to help those around you. A great way to help yourself and have good emotional self-care is to give yourself permission. Here are Dr. Hanks’ three permission slips parents should give themselves.
1. Permission to feel and express a full range of emotion. Emotions are not good or bad, they are a natural thing that everyone feels that help guide our lives. If you need to, dwindle your emotions down to the 6 basic emotions: happy, mad, sad, scared, surprise, disgust/shame. “Fine” is not an emotion, so don't use it as one. Don’t shut your emotions down, as this can lead to physical illness, depression, and many other negative outcomes.
2. Permission to say “no”. Everyone has their limitations and being able to say “no” is a boundary that can help you prevent burnout and reduce stress. If you are uncomfortable with saying “no” come up with phrases you can use that don’t involve excuses, but that still respect your boundaries.
3. Permission to seek your own happiness. It is your own responsibility to make yourself happy, not
don’t need to feel responsible for the happiness of your family, all you can do is provide love and support. Find something that you can do every day that brings you happiness, and take the time to do it. Doing something that makes you happy can greatly protect you against the feelings of exhaustion and frustration.
What other permissions do you give yourself to prevent burnout? Comment below with your ideas!