Stress levels of burned-out parents can be higher than those of people in extreme pain, according to research by Moira Mikolajczak. She tells New Scientist why the pandemic has brought new urgency to her work
“A STATE of vital exhaustion.” This is a surprisingly poetic description of burnout by the World Health Organization. Burnout – severe exhaustion caused by uncontrolled chronic stress – is increasingly becoming the focus of health research. It was originally identified as a work-related phenomenon, but now a form that affects parents is coming under the spotlight.
Any parent can relate to the fatigue associated with looking after a child. But for some parents, that tiredness can tip into harmful exhaustion, leaving them physically unwell and damaging their relationships with their children and partners.
Moïra Mikolajczak at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium has been at the forefront of research into parental burnout. Over the past five years, she and her colleagues have found that it isn’t something that just affects parents of ill children – it can affect any parent, although it is more likely to affect highly educated people who are perfectionists and put too much pressure on themselves.
I think we can only begin to guess how the added stress of lockdown and home schooling is affecting our physical and mental health. Whilst we might seem to be holding it all together (or not) the long term effects of stress include:
Whilst there are no quick fixes during the pandemic to burn out, compassion fatigue and blocked care, there are steps carers can take to begin to reduce their stress levels and look after their health.
Please take a look at these First Steps to Building Resilience
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