Feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders? I can totally relate. If the struggles of living in an overly busy, stressed out society weren’t enough, the fear of navigating it all mid-COVID is the proverbial icing on the cake.
Whether it’s the overwhelm of managing day-to-day tasks or deciding to get a handle on your mental or physical health, it can be hard to go it alone. Which leads me to the question: why do we feel compelled to do it all ourselves?
Do You Have a Do-It-All-Myself Mentality?
I ask my health coaching clients this question anytime I can feel them slinking back into their old patterns of avoiding asking for help. We sort of live by this notion that we should all be able to handle anything that comes our way. And if we can’t handle it ourselves, well, that’s a sure sign (at least in our own minds) that we’re weak, incompetent, or somehow unworthy of achieving success in that area. New health diagnosis? Sure, no problem. Relationship problems? Got it all under control. Global pandemic like we haven’t seen in our lifetime? No freakin’ sweat.
The trouble is, asking for help can bring up similar, uncomfortable feelings. Research done in the fields of neuroscience and psychology confirm that there really are social threats involved in doing so. In fact, researchers found that an emotionally painful threat activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain does — which of course gives us even more reason to avoid asking and continue struggling in silence.
Reasons You Avoid Asking for Help
You may avoid asking for help for several reasons:
- You’re unsure where to turn
- You don’t want to be seen as weak
- Fear of being rejected
- Showing vulnerability
- Not sure how to ask
- Feeling like a burden
- Worrying people won’t like you
- Relinquishing control
- Admitting you can’t do it all
- Feeling like your problems are less significant
- You grew up with a pattern of being let down in childhood
There’s no shortage of reasons why it feels hard to ask for help, but here’s where it gets wild. Studies show that people actually like helping other people — they get a huge benefit from it.‘>2 Physiological responses like heart rate, blood pressure, salivary alpha-amylase, and salivary cortisol, as well as self-reported stress were collected and measured throughout the experiment. They found that participants who had written the supportive notes had lower sympathetic-related responses than their counterparts who just wrote about their routine.
Asking for help makes people like you more too. This concept is called the Benjamin Franklin effect and is based on cognitive dissonance theory,‘>1
Don’t worry about any negative things you might hear about “animal collagen”; it’s what we’re made to eat. Heck, it’s what we’re made of.
Marine collagen is not extra-strong collagen derived from the battle-hardened sinews and bones of fallen heroes from the US Marine Corps. It is collagen derived from marine animals, usually fish but also invertebrates like squid, cuttlefish, and jellyfish.
Marketing types selling fish collagen claim that due to its lower molecular weight, marine collagen will be more bioavailable than collagen from land animals. This could be true. Fish collagen drawn from fish waste does have lower molecular weight than mammalian collagen, and that should lead to slightly higher bioavailability.‘>1
- Exhaustion, e.g., “I feel completely run down by my role as a parent.”
- Contrast with previous parental self, e.g., “I don’t think I’m the good father/mother that I used to be to my child(ren).”
- Feeling fed up, e.g., “I feel like I can’t take any more as a parent.”
- Emotional distancing from one’s children, e.g., “I’m no longer able to show my child(ren) how much I love them.”
By this definition, burnout is more than just stress, worry, or fatigue, which all parents experience sometimes. It’s a deep, deep weariness that drains your ability to parent effectively, leaving you empty and unable to connect to your kids. Left unchecked, it can lead to parental neglect and violence. Burnout also correlates with depression, sleep disturbances, and addictive behaviors, though it’s unclear if burnout causes those issues or vice versa.‘>3 We’re overscheduled and overcommitted, which means we’re overstressed.‘>5
The pressure to live up to the ideal is intense, and it’s both external and internal. A study of 1725 Finnish parents, mostly mothers, revealed that the biggest risk factor for burnout was “socially prescribed perfectionism,” especially when coupled with self-expectations of perfectionism.‘>7
How Common Is Parental Burnout?
It’s hard to know how many parents experience burnout according to the academic criteria described above. Studies suggest it’s anywhere from 1 percent to 20 percent, depending on where the study is done.‘>9 ‘>11
You might not reach the official threshold for Parental Burnout with a capital P-B. Still, most of my fellow parents can probably relate to sometimes—or often—feeling exhausted, like you have nothing left to offer at the end of the day. A March 2020 survey asked more than 3,000 American moms, “In the past month, how often have you felt ‘burned out’ by motherhood?” Thirty-five percent of respondents said they frequently do, while 6 percent said always.
That’s a lot. Only 14 percent said they rarely or never feel this way. That doesn’t mean these moms don’t find parenting to be rewarding and enjoyable overall, but it reinforces just how demanding modern parenting is.
What about Fathers, Can’t They Experience Burnout?
Definitely. However, parenting and burnout research focuses mainly on mothers. On average, mothers spend more time than fathers on parenting activities, and by and large, mothers bear the brunt of societal and self-imposed pressure to live up to ideals of parenting perfection.‘>13
Of course, there are standards for fathers, too, and those standards continue to rise. Fathers who feel overwhelmed by them, or who expect too much of themselves, can absolutely succumb to burnout. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, equal numbers of mothers and fathers said that parenting is extremely or very important to their sense of identity, but working fathers are especially likely to feel that they don’t spend enough time with their kids.‘>15 Another study published earlier this year found that while mothers were more likely to experience burnout, the consequences were more severe for burned out fathers.‘>17
Coping with Parental Burnout
In case it’s not perfectly clear, you can feel burned out without experiencing “parental burnout” in the academic sense. Whether or not you hit that threshold, which is admittedly a bit murky, the following practices are worthwhile.
Focus on the positive
It’s easy to get sucked into a negativity spiral when you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Plus, self-deprecation is the norm nowadays. We’re much more likely to say, “I’m a hot mess, send wine,” than “I did some A+ parenting today and am feeling great about my kids.” That’s no good for parents already on the verge of burnout.
Experts recommend taking the time each day to focus on what went right. This might mean going around the dinner table and each naming something that made you happy, or writing a simple gratitude statement in your journal each night. Even on the worst days, it’s usually possible to find one small ray of sunshine.
The usual self-care stuff
Taking a bath or getting regular exercise isn’t a cure-all for burnout, but it can’t hurt. All of us parents should be taking the time to fill our own buckets whenever possible.
Lower your expectations
This is a big one: actively reject the intensive parenting ideal. Remind yourself it’s ok if the laundry isn’t done, your kid is five minutes late to soccer practice, you forgot to brush their hair on school picture day, and the Tooth Fairy failed to pick up the tooth last night.
This is not an overnight process, but it helps to realize that a lot of burnout stems from buying into societal standards—standards that you don’t have to live up to to be a kind and loving parent.
Here’s the real kicker: It’s not even clear that putting ourselves through all this stress pays off in terms of having happier or more successful children.‘>1
Skin cancer. In human melanomas grafted onto mice, orally-administered cinnamaldehyde impaired cancer cell proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor growth.‘>3
Insect control. Cinnamon oil, most of which is cinnamaldehyde, is an effective insect repellant with the ability to specifically target and kill mosquito larvae.‘>5
Blood glucose. Cassia may help relieve the muscular insulin resistance that occurs following a bad night’s sleep.‘>7
Parasites. Remember c. elegans, those plucky roundworms whose lifespan increased with both intermittent fasting‘>9 and which have been deemed suitable models for the study of glucose restriction in higher mammals.‘>11
Kidneys. One study showed that cinnamon oil extracted from Ceylon bark reduced early stage diabetic nephropathy, or kidney disease.‘>13
Insulin. Another Ceylon isolate, a proanthocyanidin called proanthocyanidin B1, was shown to mimic – and even surpass – the effect of insulin in certain fat tissues.‘>15
Hypoglycemia, if your blood sugar is already on the low side‘>19
Coumarin in Cinnamon
Note that Cassia contains significant amounts of coumarin, which humans metabolize to 7-hydroxycoumarin, a toxin that damages the liver‘>21 The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has gone on record in cautioning against high daily intakes of coumarin.