A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University suggests that 66 percent of working parents met the criteria for parental burnout — a nonclinical term that basically means they were so physically and mentally depleted that they may feel like bad parents or emotionally pull away from their children.
I myself scored as “moderate burnout” after taking the assessment above. We have lived almost two and a half years in a global pandemic, giving birth in masks, juggling decision fatigue over COVID safety protocols, and facing many stressful societal changes.
Thank goodness for identical twin sisters Drs. Amelia and Emily Nagoski, who’s research and book “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” teaches us
6 evidence-based strategies for completing our body’s stress cycle:
1. Deep Breathing.
Deep breaths calm the vagus nerve and the part of our brain that is in fight or flight. The deep breath tells our body we are safe. The key is to have your exhale be longer than your inhale: I suggest breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, then exhale for 8 counts.
2. Positive Social Interaction.
“Casual but friendly social interaction is the first external sign that the world is a safe place,” say the Nagoskis. Say hi to a stranger, compliment your barista’s hair, tell your neighbor you love their flower bed.
“Laughing together — and even just reminiscing about the times we’ve laughed together — increases relationship satisfaction,” the Nagoskis say. Neuoroscientist Sophie Scott agrees: when we laugh, we use an “ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds and regulate emotions.”
4. Physical affection
Give someone you love a long, strong hug (about 20 seconds according to the research). Physical affection releases oxytocin which helps with the feeling of trust and safety. Another example of affection the Nagosky’s write about is the ‘six-second kiss’ advice from relationship researcher John Gottman. “Every day,” he suggests, “kiss your partner for six seconds.”
A big cry helps you relieve stress and get your feelings out. Even if you can’t solve the problem, the cry helps you complete the stress cycle.
6. Creative Expression.
Creativity encourages you to express big emotions and get them out of your body. Write, sing, draw, paint, or find a way you can creatively express yourself.
“ The good news is that stress is not the problem. It’s how we deal with stress – not what causes it – that releases the stress, completes the cycle, and ultimately, keeps us from burning out. You can’t control every external stressor that comes your way. The goal isn’t to live in a state of perpetual balance and peace and calm; the goal is to move through stress to calm, so that you’re ready for the next stressor, and to move from effort to rest and back again.”
– Drs. Amelia and Emily Nagoski