Many parents are undoubtedly feeling increased stress and exhaustion due to the intense pressure of trying to home-school and take care of their children, whilst maintaining a full-time job, keeping their relationships intact and their home in a modest state. Psychologists have likened the impact on parents to a state of burnout with commonly reported mental and physical symptoms including exhaustion, irritability, and emotional detachment.
According to new research, about 40% of parents of primary school pupils are feeling even more stressed about home schooling than they did during the first lockdown, 14% are crying more often, 18% are having more sleepless nights and a quarter are being less patient with their children. Despite the increased overwhelm, a survey by VitaMinds – conducted during the first lockdown – found that a quarter of parents are bypassing care for their own mental health and have no coping strategies in place to manage feelings of overwhelm.
The power of talking.
The simple act of talking has the power to make a big difference to someone’s resilience levels. Sally Tribe, PTS Corporate Clinical Lead at Vita Health Group, shares six small but mighty ways that a company can help its employees talk their way to a more resilient mind:
- Suggest they speak the language of acceptance.
The words ‘should,’ ‘must’ or ‘ought’ have all become fixtures in our everyday dialogue and we often use them to keep ourselves in-check. However, these two words can be problematic because they are judgemental in nature and can make parents feel inadequate. Parents who are perfectionists or compare themselves with others tend to be much more vulnerable to this language.
When a parent feels they ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do something, they would do well to question themselves on why they feel that way and look ahead towards the benefits that something may bring.
Try to reassure your employees that their role as a parent is not to provide the perfect existence. Try to help them take a non-judgemental stance towards themselves and their family and lower their expectations to make the day feel more achievable.
- Encourage them to ask themselves questions.
It is important in challenging times that we are all pragmatic about what we can and can’t control. Being realistic about what we can control will help avoid overburdening ourselves or feeling bad if things do not go to plan. When we are stressed, we lose the capacity to problem solve.
One way to avoid overwhelm is to encourage your employees to ask themselves, “Is it in my control to do something about this? ” If the answer is no , then they would do well to let the worry pass by. If yes help them to schedule in some time to act on what they can feasibly do. Asking them to turn their mind towards acceptance of the situation will help build resilience.
- Suggest they celebrate small wins as a family.
Why not suggest that they try to develop some realistic small goals and then aim to work towards them. Feeling a sense of accomplishment is important, hence why it is great to set smaller, achievable goals that are impossible to fail. Encourage your employees to ask, “What is the one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”.
You may then suggest that they share their goals with their children and, or, partner, at the start of the day and ensure they celebrate their achievements together at the end of the day. Small steps like this can really add up to a collective sense of success.
- Recommend that they share their story.Turning a problem around and around in your head often leads to a dead end, or worse, increased feelings of stress and anxiety. You can help wrap your brain around a problem by sharing your story, which will give it a beginning, middle and an end. Sharing the weight of your thoughts with someone else, will help you reflect on it in a clearer and more logical way.
Encourage your employees to express their feelings. If they do feel isolated, recommend that they write these feelings down on paper, call a family member or look to speak to a professional. It is important that your team members have people they can confide in and call upon if things are feeling overwhelming. They may be able to help by exploring of range of possible solutions.
- Inspire them to reconnect with an old friend.
When someone is feeling burnt out, it is easy to retreat into yourself and avoid contact with others. In reality, this may only compound the negative feelings.
Your employees may feel the conversation with their close circle of friends and family has run dry, so perhaps inspire them to take this opportunity to reach out to an old friend. Feeling isolated can be detrimental to mental health, but taking this new path to re-connect with an old friend and scheduling in regular catch-ups could feel invigorating, and it could help them too.
- Advocate they self-talk their way to confidence.
For your employees, having confidence in their own ability to cope with the stresses of life can play an important part in resilience. Likewise, being more confident in their own abilities, including their ability to respond to and deal with a difficult situation, is a great way to build resilience for the future too.
Ask your employees to listen for negative comments in their mind. When they hear them, ask them to practice immediately replacing them with balanced alternative ones. Some people find that by saying “stop” straight after having a negative thought can stop the thought from having a negative impact. How they talk to themselves can greatly affect how they think, feel and behave, and help us to put things into perspective.
It is important to remind your team that they are not alone on their journey and they have your support as a business. While they may not be able to control all the circumstances, and sometimes it may all feel overwhelming for them, they will be able to grow by focusing on what these challenges can teach them. Encouraging them to leverage the support of loved ones, trusted professionals and of course, their own positive mindset.
If you are concerned about one of your team member’s mental health, encourage them to reach out to their family, friends, GP, or other available support quickly. This is a positive step to managing mental health. Alternatively, you could encourage them to use a free NHS mental health psychological talking therapy service, provided by VitaMinds.