If you are feeling exhausted but don’t know why? You may have family burnout. Read below to see exactly what is and what you can do about it. 

What is family burnout? Simply put, burnout can refer to emotional and/or physical exhaustion. This could be the result of overwhelming demands placed on the mind and/or body. Particularly during this time of uncertainty and emotional turbulence, feeling burned out can become a real challenge. Staying home for prolonged periods of time with all the stress and distress could easily lead to family burnout (among other things). Family burnout can be even more pronounced for caretakers including parents with young children and/or adolescents at home. Being in a constant caretaking role for days, weeks and now months can certainly be exhausting. Add to that the emotional overload most of us are already experiencing.

How family burnout affects single parents? For the single parent, family burnout can easily become an even greater problem with all the caretaking responsibilities falling on one person. The emotional and physical demands placed on single parents can be overwhelming on an average day. During this time, this becomes even more taxing with children staying home all day every day, without school or much social interactions outside of virtual platforms. Setting aside all financial and housekeeping stresses, the emotional overload alone can potentially threaten the mental and physical well being of single parents. It is hard to capture the extent to which single parents experience burnout in mere words, but nonetheless, this can produce serious concerns on many levels.

In what ways are romantic relationships and marriages suffering? Romantic relationships and marriages may be suffering in different ways from this “family burnout” as well. They may be feeling overwhelmed by the current events and financial stressors as well as their relationship dynamics. Some couples may feel stuck or trapped in their own homes with very little space for themselves. Stress and tension can easily build up and trigger relationship conflicts, which in turn adds to the stress and tension already existing. Some couples may be able to resolve these issues through productive conversation or other means of coping. However, there are other more extreme cases that could very well escalate to more serious issues such as domestic abuse and/or violence.

What should families do for mental health during this time? There are many things that families can still do for their mental health and well being. One such thing is being able to set time aside to practice self-care on a daily basis. Taking excellent care of ourselves is essential not only for ourselves but also for our relationships with loved ones. Another important thing to do is to set clear boundaries and communicate them properly. Ideally, each person should be able to identify and express their personal wants and needs. Also ideally, the other person should be able to listen to and respect the wants and needs of loved ones. This, however, requires willingness and a fair amount of effort. Sometimes, social support may be needed from family and friends outside the home as well as professional help such as therapy.

How would a single parent approach self-care when they have no time? Or money is a concern? It is important to note that every person is different and there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to self-care. Two of the biggest barriers to self-care could be the perceived lack of time or financial means. The good news is that many self-care practices are free of charge and don’t necessarily take up a whole lot of time. For instance, I’ve been volunteering to teach anywhere from 15 minutes of meditation to an hour-long yoga practice during this pandemic (and I’m not the only one). Things such as meditation and yoga have tremendous health benefits both physically and mentally. Luckily, there are many resources available online nowadays including YouTube, which could be a great start especially when money is a concern.

Personally, I also make sure to set time aside for my own meditation and yoga practice. I am a single mother and main provider for my family, also a therapist full time at a treatment facility. If I am not taking good care of myself on a daily basis, then my ability to care for others becomes seriously compromised. I know it can be a real challenge particularly some days more than others, but it is absolutely necessary. Recently, I was feeling so burned out that I literally just had to “escape” my home for a few hours. Luckily my son is all grown up not requiring my constant supervision. I simply took my car and drove myself to the beach. I laid on the sand sunbathing, (of course with the appropriate amount of sunblock) and was feeling renewed by the time I got back. All it cost me was $4.35 for parking, and it really set the tone for the rest of my week.

Other feasible examples for self-care include physical activities such as walking or exercising as well as engaging in hobbies. Sometimes the whole family could be included, and other times it could be just about “mommy” or “daddy”. This serves not only as self-care for ourselves, but can also set a good example for our children to follow in their very own self-caring habits. Establishing a consistent routine with regular physical activity, healthy eating patterns, and adequate sleep is paramount for both the individual and familial life. It is also important to include extracurricular activities to mix things up and keep it interesting. We all have special interests and personal goals we like to achieve. Make time for those too. It could be as little as 5 minutes a day, and as simple as opening up a journal or searching something up online.