shattered glass

How to prevent burnout for busy parents

“My husband and I would like to know: How do you and your husband prevent physical, emotional and mental burnout, when high emotions, lack of sleep and nutrition is neglected due to the high activity?”

The truth is that you can’t prevent burnout without taking care of yourself.  You just can’t.
That’s why we get burnt out in the first place, because we’re neglecting critical needs and treating ourselves like rubber balls that can bounce and bounce and bounce and never break.

green glass ball

Well, it’s not like that.  Sometimes when you drop a ball you find out it was made of glass, and not taking care of yourself will show you that the ball of self-care is a glass ball covered with a layer or two of rubber – it will bounce a bit and then as the rubber wears away, everything cracks into pieces.

shattered glass

Taking care of yourself is a process. Sometimes you do better and sometimes not as well.  There are three things that I’m going to suggest you start with, to keep yourself on an even keel:

1) Get enough rest.  Everything is harder when you’re tired, and it seems more overwhelming. I’m a much more flexible and kind person when I’m rested – to myself and those around me!

2) Regular, nourishing meals – What can I say, skipping meals leads to low blood sugar and irritation.  You have to eat! And once you’re eating, include foods that your body recognizes as food – not stuff that’s so processed than even a prehistoric wouldn’t have a long enough memory to remember where it came from!

3) Make time to do something that you love, something that renews your inner self.  It doesn’t have to be every day, it doesn’t have to take a long time – but make some space for this to happen in your life.

Now, I know you’re wondering, “but how can I take care of myself when there are so many more important things that need to be done?”

Nothing is more important than lovingly taking care of yourself.  Really.  Read that again and again, say it out loud until you start to believe it.

And then make the commitment to yourself to put first things first, recognizing where you belong on your to-do list: at the very top.


5 thoughts on “How to prevent burnout for busy parents

  1. I find that #1 contradicts #3. I’m much happier when I have hours of uninterrupted time to write, but when I get that uninterrupted time I end up sleep deprived. It seems to be a catch-22, unless I send all the kids to school.

    1. Yehudis, I also had that problem this past year. I couldn’t find time to do what I am passionate about when I was homeschooling and needed to be in bed on time. And if I spent time on my passion I went to bed late. :/

    2. Yehudis, we can’t live all of life’s seasons at the same time!

      The first and third suggestions only conflict if one has an all or nothing attitude – while I would love to have hours a day to focus on my interests outside of my family, that’s not my reality at this point. I can either completely defer my interests until I have no children at home and feel resentful or frustrated, or I can use the smaller bits of time to regularly do things that bring me joy.

      I had a period of withdrawal when I started going to sleep earlier and I was missing out on all my late night quiet time. It took a while for my system to reset, and for me to feel like I wasn’t depriving myself of one thing that was important to me (a big block of quiet time to myself) in exchange for getting an appropriate amount of sleep.

  2. Avivah I agree, we can’t put our lives on hold for 30+ years because we are raising kids and sleep is really important. I have a number of things that I do for me and my partner supports my having that time. I try to do the same for him. We get creative about how we spend our time. For example instead of going out to coffee with my friends we meet at the shul to make kiddush and talk. Date night is often spent shopping but that is better than never going out. As for creative/artistic work, I used to joke that I only did art if I could finish a project in 2 hours. That is no longer a reasonable amount of time for me so I took up silk dying which can be done in 20 min with minimal fuss. Parenting is for the long haul and so it is important not to let it burn you out.

    1. I appreciate you sharing these ideas! Sometimes we have to be creative and we always have to be flexible about how to combine our personal interests with raising children. But it’s really worth the effort since it keeps us from getting exhausted and worn out taking care of everyone but ourselves.

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