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Is busyness burning you out?

“We’re a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children.” -Brene Brown


If feelings of overwhelm and irritability, coupled with trouble sleeping and forgetfulness have become your norm, you may be on your way to burnout.   And while we often think of burnout in relation to careers, we can also burn out in our role as parents.  Especially in this current culture of “doing”, where parents and children' s schedules are packed, and the pressure to perform is high, busyness comes at a cost.    

The epidemic of busyness 

Our culture has become one of constant doing or busyness, with this “need to do” stemming from many factors.   

One is the contemporary belief that it’s our job as parents to make our children successful, and to do so we must start focusing on structured activities and skill development as early as possible.   Parents sign their children up for sports, music, clubs and camps at younger and younger ages in an effort to ensure their children have what it takes to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive world. 

Another contributing factor leading to increase in busyness is the discomfort many adults have with truly sitting with their own feelings, thoughts and sensations.  The desire or need to do “all the things” in order to avoid being in stillness with thoughts can even be framed as a trauma response.   

The results of all of this busyness?  Parents and children experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders.


What happens when kids and parents are over-scheduled?  

“Kids whose time is overly organized don’t have time to be kids, and their family doesn’t have time to be a family,” says pediatrician Deb Lonzer, MD of the Cleveland Clinic.  Overscheduled kids, just like adults, can become irritable, tense, easily upset, and  don’t eat well or sleep well. An overbooked family spends little time together and tends to argue more.  This can set kids up for future difficulties with conflict resolution and decision making, and may lead to anxiety or depression.    

And for parents?  “Driving your health into the ground in order to accommodate your child’s schedule is simply not a smart thing to do,”  said Josh Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  To be healthy and present, parents should carve out time for activities they enjoy.  “Busy schedules have become a part of our culture,” said Klapow. “As much as we would like to keep our children active and engaged, overscheduling is simply not good for them or parents.”  Experts agree, sometimes what is best for our kids, as well as ourselves, is doing less.


The benefits of down time 

What are the benefits to slowing down and simplifying the family schedule?   Beth Black, M.F.T., a family therapist in Austin, Texas says,  "reserving time to slow down as a family reduces your collective stress, allows you to see each other in new ways, and makes you more connected to each other."  Other benefits: 

  • Creativity and Confidence  Downtime creates space for kids to be creative and exert some control.  "We all need a space to be creative, discover things about ourselves, and make our own choices." For kids, this freedom is especially important, as it develops what's known as self-agency, which Black defines as "the confidence to decide to do something and the fortitude to go do it"--an essential life skill.

  •  Lifelong stress management skills  Kids need to see parents taking care of themselves in order to know how to regulate and care for themselves.   When kids see and feel how energy and moods shift when the adults in their lives create time to relax, they will be more likely to create the habit on their own. 

  • Learning/Processing new information Kids are exposed to new information every day. But to make sense of that information, they need time to process and catalog what they are learning. Quiet time with little-to-no stimulation offers the best environment for this process to take place.

  • Emotional Regulation- research shows downtime can help a child’s nervous system regulate and adapt  to different environments.  Researchers report that kids that experience regular downtime are more creative, focused, energized, independent, and solve problems in innovative ways.

How to break the busyness cycle: 

  1.  Reflect on your child’s challenging behaviors.  Knowing all behavior is a form of  communication, try to decipher what your child is trying to tell you.  Could your child’s behavior be an attempt to express their stress around their schedule?  Could too many activities be one of the roots underneath their dysregulation and emotional outbursts? 

  2. Ask yourself what beliefs you hold about success.  What does success look like for your child?  What about you, as a parent?  What are your beliefs about play and downtime? How do these beliefs play out in your family’s schedule?  If you think busyness is leading to dysregulation in your family, perhaps it’s time to challenge some of these beliefs and take action to reduce the number of activities. 

  3. Take stock - is  busyness a distraction from your own uncomfortable thoughts, emotions or sensations?  Are you avoiding being with this discomfort  by keeping everyone in the family overly scheduled and busy?   

Are you ready to rethink the busyness cycle in your family?  Are you longing to have enough bandwidth to play and connect with your child?  Are you ready to spend energy  creating focused family time in ways that match your beliefs and values? Do you desire carving time out for yourself  to avoid burnout?  If so, parent coaching may be right for you!  Check us out here: Thriving Parents Collective

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