How to Avoid Burnout During Back to School Pandemonium
September can feel overwhelming - the switch in routine, the expectations, the piles of homework. It all adds stress for both parents and kids. And it may lead you to hit a brick wall, emotionally and physically.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
It’s important to recognize when you might be heading down that slippery slope and to pull back before it becomes serious. The serious signs of burnout include:
- Chronic Fatigue: You are always tired. Most days you lack energy and motivation. You feel drained when you wake up.
- Insomnia: You aren’t sleeping. You’re tired, but you can’t sleep.
- Forgetfulness: You can’t concentrate. And slowly, begin to forget things - things that are important.
- Illness: You feel sick all the time. Maybe it’s a gastrointestinal issue or you constantly have a cold. Your immune system can’t keep up.
- No appetite: Being too stressed to eat should serve as a major red flag.
- Anger: You argue for no reason. You find you are getting frustrated easily.
These symptoms can lead to anxiety and depression. They can also cause you to slowly detach from the things and people you love. Recognizing the signs early on and finding mental health care strategies to avoid them can prevent an array of issues and unhappiness.
So what stress management activities can you and your kids participate in?
The obvious choice is to avoid what is causing the stress. Yet, school isn’t exactly avoidable. We all go through it. So, what else can you do?
Here are a few pointers to help you and your children handle the back to school pandemonium!
1. Ask For Help
This goes for parents and kids. If you see your child struggling in a particular subject, it may be beneficial to invest in a tutor. Talk to the teacher about your child’s workload. It’s tough to see your child struggle. Some learn faster than others and everyone’s learning style is unique. Teach your kids (of any age) to ask for help when they need it. And the same goes for you!
As a parent, it’s important to acknowledge when you are struggling to keep it together. If you find yourself bouncing from dropping one child off at hockey tryouts to running to pick up the other one from daycare and then in between trying to help the youngest with their math homework - take a breather. Take a load off. Ask another parent if it would be okay if your child carpooled with them.
You can’t be in multiple places at once. And it’s entirely okay to ask for help. Don’t overdo it, especially when you don’t have to.
2. Keep a Regular Schedule
This will help you keep things in order and get your kids into a regular grind. September can be confusing with the sudden switch in routine. It’s important to establish a new one. It can keep complaints and your stress levels at bay.
Have a set time for homework each night. Normally extra-curricular activities fall on the same days. So, keep a calendar of it! Have a family calendar that everyone can turn to. It lays it all out, meaning you can figure things out ahead of times or see where time might become an issue. Plan ahead. Learn time management. And keep it simple. You’ve got this!
3. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!
Exercise is a great stress management activity and strategy. Not only that, but it also helps keep your physical body in tip-top shape. You’ve got nothing to lose. Hit the gym on the regular or find an activity you love that gets you moving.
Sign up your children for hockey or soccer or find a family activity that gets you all moving for at least 150 minutes every week. De-stress as a family unit. It’ll keep everyone’s stress and emotions in check and prevent those common headbutting moments in your household.
4. Learn to Say No
There is such a negative association with saying no to things. However, it’s an important skill to learn. Sometimes you have to say no to your kids. If your family has a million things on the go that night and your oldest is asking for a ride to a friend’s house that would simply be too much, say no. Sometimes, it has to be said.
Yes, you might face some resistance. But it’s also a good lesson for your kids to learn. As the famous Rolling Stones song goes, “You can’t always get what you want.”
Further, learn to say no to your peers - family, friends, co-workers, other parents, teachers, you name it. If you can’t make an arrangement work, make it clear you can’t. It’s great to be a people pleaser, but at the same time, you can’t help anyone if you are burnt out and emotionally exhausted.
5. Take Breaks
You and your child have been agonizing over the same math problem for the last half hour. You are both frustrated. Your child just isn’t getting it, and it’s not necessarily their fault. Tensions tend to fly high in this situation.
Instead, step back for a moment. Maybe take a quick walk or snack break. Take a deep breath. Then, revisit the problem. This will also teach your child good working and study strategies. Research shows that frequent breaks actually help you retain what you are learning better. Plus, it decreases your stress levels and theirs.
Other methods to reduce your and your family’s stress levels?
- Put a cap on social media and TV time. Keep it to 1-2 hours max per day.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet - Raise your kids in an environment where they learn what’s good for them and what’s not. It’s important to be aware.
- Set goals with your kids. Motivate them. Maybe come up with a reward system to offer an incentive. Did they get an ‘A’ on that last test? Treat them to ice cream - Whatever works!
- Encourage open communication in your family unit. Pent-up energy doesn’t do anyone any good. It also helps to encourage your kids to talk about their feelings to address problems before they become bigger and more serious issues.
Thwart burnout! Find mental health care strategies together as a family. Emotions can run high with the start of the school season - recognize this and recognize the signs of burnout.