Feeling Overwhelmed as a Parent: Knowing How to Cope

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By Sarah Elrod, LMHC – February 28, 2024

If you are a working parent, whether it’s full or part time, this article is for you. Have you ever just felt so overwhelmed that you couldn’t breathe? Is it difficult to find a minute for yourself each day after taking care of others? Are there days you get off work and just don’t want to talk to anyone or even take care of your kids? Or maybe you’ve had a day where you just want to sit on the couch and binge your favorite Netflix show without being bothered.

If you answered yes to any of these, you are not alone, and I am here to validate you. You are doing an amazing job. For most parents, there are days where we push ourselves to the limit and feel like we have nothing left to give.

In addition to working and taking care of a family, many parents choose to take time for hobbies, workouts or coaching their child’s sports team. Then, when you finally convince yourself to do something you enjoy, you might feel guilty for not spending the spare time you have with your family.

I want you to know is that it is okay to take a break. It is okay to not get everything done in one day. That’s what tomorrow is for. Personally, I am not immune to feeling guilty when I believe I haven’t done enough. It’s a completely normal feeling.

Working as a mental health professional for the past 6 years has taught me that we are all fighting our own battles, no matter how big or small we may think they are. We all have our own ways of adjusting or getting through the hard times. I have come up with some steps to follow during those times to help focus on you.

  1. Acknowledge how you feel. Take at least 30 seconds each day to check in with yourself. Assess how your body is feeling. Pay attention to the thoughts you’re having. Once you have taken the time to focus on yourself for just a moment, move on to the next step. 
  2. Validate yourself. Validate feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, satisfaction or happiness. Per Dictionary.com, the definition of validation is, “recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.”  Give yourself some credit for all that you’re able to accomplish and give yourself grace. 
  3. Identify what soothes you or how you can cope effectively with the stress you are experiencing. A coping skill is a behavior or activity that one might use to decrease stress or manage difficult emotions. So when you’re trying to cook dinner after a long and stressful day, the kids are fighting for your attention and you feel stressed out, a coping skill is your best friend. Some examples of coping skills include listening to music, exercising, smelling a candle, interacting with your pet, hanging out with friends, or deep breathing and meditation. A great resource is Positivepsychology.com, where there’s a long list of coping skills. See what works best for you. The goal is to get to a level of functioning where you don’t feel like you’re going to self-implode. 
  4. Remember that you are capable and strong. If you feel as though taking steps on your own is not working, I highly recommend seeking out a mental health professional so you can talk in a comfortable and supportive environment. Additionally, most employers offer an Employee Assistance Program, where they collaborate with a local mental health facility and offer a designated number of therapy sessions free of charge.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Your feelings are valid and you have the right to take care of yourself along with everyone else. Give yourself permission to focus on you and be the best version of yourself you can be!