These short breaks should be centered on something the parent enjoys doing, Adriane Bennett, PhD, a psychiatrist and psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. This means putting your child down for a nap or letting them play or relax in a safe area, then taking a brief moment to do whatever interests you. For example, for some parents this could mean squeezing in a quick yoga session during naptime, knitting, journaling, working on a puzzle, or any other de-stressing activity the parent has found helpful in the past.
Connect with other people (especially other parents).
Social activities are just as important as alone time: Experts also advise speaking to other parents about parental burnout. “If you’re really feeling burnt out, go seek connection with another parent. My guess is they’re going to say, ‘Me too,’” Dr. Kennedy-Moore says. “Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. So many parents are feeling the same way,” Dr. Melnyk adds.
Speaking with other parents can help eliminate feelings of shame and isolation for parents experiencing parental burnout, Dr. Bennett explains. Oftentimes, she says, parents going through this think, ‘There must be something wrong with me.’ Speaking with other people who know the feeling challenges the guilt associated with burnout, since when other people can relate to what we’re going through, it makes us feel less alone, Dr. Bennett says.
In addition to regularly touching base with people in similar situations, you may want to try a talk therapy session to see if it helps you de-stress, if you have the means. Therapists are in high demand right now, but there’s no harm in putting yourself on a provider’s waiting list, Dr. Bennett says. If you find another provider in the meantime, you can let them know you’re no longer interested and would like to be removed from the list.
“Because it’s just so hard to get in to see a therapist [right now], two things that can raise our positive energy are physical activity and social contact,” Dr. Kennedy-Moore says. Therefore, consider options that allow for both–for example hiking with other parents and their children. And if meetups aren’t an option at the moment–due to COVID-19 or any other reasons—remember that an evening stroll, bike ride, or even running around with your child in a nearby park—all count as physical activity.
Eliminate what you can.
When burnt out, parents should reevaluate their schedule and prioritize what matters most. “We need to question our standards: If it doesn’t matter to you, let it go.” For parents, this could mean checking your calendar and canceling what doesn’t feel essential. It’s crucial, Dr. Kennedy-Moore says, for parents to figure out what’s important to them and their family and what could be cut from the schedule or paused in order to create space for parental time alone.
Practice all of your go-to healthy habits.
During those intensely stressful times, it might be beneficial for parents to follow the advice they’re giving their children. Dr. Kennedy-Moore says that parents often make sure their kids are observing healthy lifestyle habits but they don’t hold themselves to the same standards, and this can take a toll on their well-being. Her advice to parents is to make sure they’re getting enough sleep, eating at regular mealtimes, and keeping track of their screen time.