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11 Nov 2021 | 17:17 | [email protected]

Burnout is real, it is not just a metaphor for feeling exhausted: it is included on the World Health Organisation disease list.

We’ve all experienced work stress, difficulty getting up every morning, occasional conflicts with a loved one. However, when it becomes a daily reality, stress can turn your life into hell and adding a new addition to the family can often trigger overwhelm.

At a time when Walt Disney would have you believe that there will be nothing but sunshine days, and cosy nights, your little one arrives and argh…nothing but sleepless nights, and dark gloomy days of feeding, crying, changing, feeding, burping, crying, changing… you get the picture.

Since the pandemic more and more people request professional help to treat overwhelm and burnout, sometimes even end up in hospital when burnout takes a physical form, such as sharp pain.

When our stress hormones are being constantly triggered, by exhaustion, baby’s shrill crying or anxiety of being a parent to a young child this is not healthy for our mind or body.

Constantly elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline are bad for your brain and memory. When you are stressed out to the max, feeling overwhelmed you are at risk of losing the ability to enjoy life. As a result, our relationships suffer, even those that matter most to you, like the new emerging relationship between you and your little one.

Here are some warning signs of burnout, if any of the following describes you, beware – you may be at risk of burning out.

Exhaustion – you get up tired in the morning, have trouble making yourself go to work, feel fatigued all day. It’s like you completely lack energy, this is above and beyond what you’d reasonably expect if you are up half the night nursing your new born.

Low motivation – you get no joy at activities you’d usually love. Nothing seems to elicit your enthusiasm. You are disillusioned about your role as a parent or partner. You don’t seem to care anymore.

Negative emotions – you feel resentment and anger both at being a parent, your parents, your partner, or random strangers in the street. You have conflicts with the people you love, or your colleagues and become irritable at home.

Unhealthy lifestyle – you drink too much coffee to drag yourself through the day, perhaps drinking excess alcohol to reduce stress, eat a lot of junk and comfort food. Or perhaps you stop exercising, and don’t seem to get enough sleep.

Relationship issues – your marriage or romantic relationship and social life take the toll: you spend less time with your partner, older children, and friends and more time on your phone, watching TV or playing computer games.

Health problems: you get frequent headaches, pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders, shortness of breath, pain in lungs and heart, and indigestion.

Overcoming burnout is vital for you and your family to flourish.

If left untreated, burnout will not go away – it will simply get worse until your body and mind stop functioning normally. Burnout is your body’s way to protect you by “turning off” many functions, including emotions. Don’t wait for this to happen – take action now!

  1. Identify the cause.  You could try keeping a journal to find out which part of your day is causing you the most suffering. Be honest about how you feel, and tell your partner, or a trusted frien. You may be surprised by how understanding they are.
  2. Disconnect. Don’t do any work once you are home, don’t read emails at the table. Find time for hobbies such as handicrafts or sport and for quality time with your partner.
  3. Get more sleep. Studies show that sleeping for less than 7 hours a night can cause permanent damage to your memory and increase the risk of dementia and stroke. I know this is a tough one for parents with a newborn, but see if you can get at least one or two solid nights by taking it in shifts. If you can’t then make sure you sleep during the day when your baby is sleeping.
  4. Exercise. Work out for 30 minutes every day. This could be a simple walk, or following an online video make it your priority. The evidence is clear that exercise improves your energy levels and state of mind. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can be very beneficial.
  5. Eat healthy. Drop junk food, make home-cooked meals, lots of healthy meals can be made in 30 minutes or less. Be careful with coffee and alcohol. Make sure to eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
  6. Ask for help. If you feel deeply tired and disillusioned, get professional help. Counsellors and psychotherapists deal with burnout daily, it’s our specialism, let us help you.