The new study finds that 66 per cent of working parents during the pandemic met the criteria for parental burnout, which happens when chronic stress and exhaustion overwhelm a parent’s ability to function or cope with stress.
According to new research from The Ohio State University (OSU), many parents are experiencing ‘burnout’ due to stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new study finds that 66 per cent of working parents during the pandemic met the criteria for parental burnout, which happens when chronic stress and exhaustion overwhelm a parent’s ability to function or cope with stress.
The findings are based on survey data from 1,285 working parents, collected between January and April 2021 – before vaccines were approved for children and while many pandemic restrictions were still in place.
Past studies have found parental burnout as being distinct from the more commonly recognized job burnout associated with high-stress occupations like law and healthcare.
A researcher surveyed 900 parents and found that parental burnout may be experienced as having exhaustion in your parental role, feeling different from your previous parental self, and it may lead to feelings of being fed up and also feeling emotionally distant from your children.
According to Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer, and dean of the College of Nursing at OSU, parental burnout doesn’t just affect parents but also negatively affects their children.“For example, anxious parents are likely to have anxious children,” she said. “Parents who are burnt out are likely to have children that are having issues with anxiety/depression and acting out behaviours.”
She warned that we must “act urgently” to help parents experiencing burnout to avoid crises for the parents and mental health problems in their children.
Dr Alex Dimitriu, double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD, noted that parents need to focus on themselves first. “Self-care is the first priority,” he said. “It is mandatory for the parent or caregiver to assure that their own basic biological needs are met – besides work and parenting,”
Dimitriu advises caregivers to focus on their basic needs. He recommends that parents follow ‘SEMM,’ which stands for sleep, exercise, Mediterranean or another healthy diet, and meditation, or at least make sure they regularly get some quiet and “alone time.”