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Mendo Lake Family Life

How to Cope with Pandemic Parenting Burnout

By Patrick Quinn

We’ve been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now, and for many, life under lockdown is taking its toll. This is especially true for parents. Here are several tips for reducing pandemic parenting burnout.

1. Attend to the three pillars of physical wellness: nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Not making time for self-care increases the risk of burnout. Experts agree that getting consistent, high-quality sleep improves virtually all aspects of health, which is why it is even more worthy of our attention during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, not only is regular daily activity good for physical health, but it can also improve emotional well-being. Stretched for time? Mini-workouts (google “seven-minute workout apps”) and short walks are convenient ways to make exercise a daily habit. Last but not least, eating healthy foods will do wonders for your mood and energy level, far more than feasting on chocolate, chips, and other “comfort” foods.

2. Connect with other parents and friends. This is something that often goes by the wayside because, as parents, we feel like there is no time for social engagement. However, it’s absolutely crucial to your mental health to connect with friends. Research shows that connecting with friends triggers the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Friends listen, provide helpful feedback, or commiserate about the challenges of parenting during a pandemic. Friends normalize our experience and help us feel less alone. While social distancing rules may make it difficult to get together in person, FaceTime, Zoom, or even an old-fashioned phone call can still help.

3. Build into your routine micro-moments for your own self-inquiry. When we’re constantly caring for others, it’s difficult to even identify or be aware of what we’re feeling. Meditation may be overwhelming right now, but even 10 minutes of silence can help us connect with ourselves. A stream of consciousness free-write is a great way to excavate thoughts that are clouding our ability to take action or find clarity. If that’s too daunting, try a journal prompt, such as “I’m going to forgive myself for…” or “I am inspired daily by…”

4. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it now more than ever. Remember, you’re not alone—most parents are struggling, and unfortunately, that’s to be expected given the circumstances. It’s not your fault. Try not to be hard on yourself for every slip-up, missed deadline, pile of laundry, or whatever else feels like a “failure” right now.

5. Practice realistic self-care. Taking a spa day is not realistic self-care for busy parents, let alone during a pandemic. But thankfully, realistic self-care can be as simple as taking five minutes alone on the patio to practice some yoga and breathing exercises, taking an extra-long shower or bath, enjoying a special glass of wine once the kids have gone to bed, or reading a few pages of your chosen book before bed, to name a few. If you are like most parents, when you sit down to take a break, a task or chore will pop into your head. If you don’t let those thoughts distract you, and you let yourself just be for five minutes, you’ll soon notice how these little breaks throughout the day or week will lift your mood and effectively help you be more present with others.

6. Connect with purpose and practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude for small things and focusing on values-based goals, even when you cannot control your surroundings, builds resilience. What are the techniques you use to feel better about circumstances that are out of your control? Maybe it’s starting a prayer journal with your kiddos, or writing down five things you’re thankful for at the beginning or end of every day, or writing thank-you/get-well-soon cards to first responders and those hospitalized with COVID-19.

7. Seek professional help if needed. If you feel like you could benefit from talking to a mental health professional, you probably could. Telehealth options are available right now, so you won’t even have to leave your house to consult a medical professional. Several therapists associated with the Redwood Empire Association of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists offer a limited number of free sessions to those affected by pandemic crises. See

A father of three school-age children and a former educator, Patrick Quinn is a parenting expert at Brainly, the world’s largest online learning and homework help community.