Career Advice

I’m a Burnout Expert and These 3 Tips Help Me Avoid Workplace Burnout As a New Parent

Photo: Getty Images/Kelvin Murray
When you’re stuck in a tough spot at work—you’re *this close* to burnout, you’re wondering whether your job is the right fit, your office culture could use a serious upgrade—who do you turn to? Your mentor, who has years of experience you can rely on? Your mom, who always keeps your best interests in mind? Or your BFF, who is dependable for a killer pep talk? Put all three perspectives in a blender, and you’ve got Good@Work, Well+Good’s career advice column. See All

Question:

I am expecting my first child, and I'm still working full-time, full-steam ahead. My job is demanding and life is stressful, so I am already trying to avoid burnout. But, knowing that my life is about to change drastically upon becoming a parent, I'm having anticipatory anxiety about the workplace burnout I can only imagine is waiting for me on the other side. Do you have any tips for how I can temper these worries and feel better prepared?

Answer:

I’ve dedicated the past three years to equipping and empowering hundreds of professionals on the ins and outs of burnout through my company Hooky Wellness. I talk a lot about burnout, and I know the topic and research surrounding it quite well. But even so, I must say that 2022 has opened my eyes to a new dimension of life and navigating the prospect of burnout while living it: motherhood.

In January, I gave birth to my first child. He came out full of personality, determined, and on his own schedule—as evidenced by his arrival 10 weeks earlier than expected. After seven weeks in the care of the NICU, he was released to come home and has been thriving ever since.

Needless to say, this year has shifted my priorities as I've taken on the new title of parent. While mitigating workplace burnout is always top of mind for me, given the focus of my company, I fully recognize the many possible non-work causes of burnout that can fuel a case of it—and that certainly includes becoming a parent. Below find three strategies that have helped me, personally, manage percolating feelings of burnout during my first five months of navigating motherhood.

3 tips for avoiding workplace burnout as a new parent

1. Picking priorities—and that means understanding not everything can be one

Bandwidth is the energy and mental capacity you have to get things done. While true for everyone, as a new parent,  you will undoubtedly have less of that bandwidth. So, identifying your top three to five priorities at work will help you focus on the most important tasks and recognize areas where you can say no or not now.

Identifying your top three to five priorities at work will help you focus on the most important tasks and recognize areas where you can say no.

Confirm this list with your manager or team to ensure that you are on the same page, then use weekly check-ins to catch changes and adjust your work plan accordingly. Your bandwidth will be limited, so focus on the things that matter most. Every moment spent working on an unimportant task is time away from your little one.

2. Remembering your own needs

From their sleeping patterns and eating schedule to the color of their stool, you will be paying attention to everything about your child—but you matter, too. You will go through massive changes, and it might be difficult to articulate what you are experiencing, but self care is a crucial (and often overlooked) component of being a new parent. I use Burnout Bingo to help me track how I am feeling and recognize when symptoms are trending.

I’ve also found that community members—whether for you that's a partner, other family members, or friends—can be amazing resources for helping you be able to care for yourself. Take the help when it is offered, and ask for it when you need it. Even if you just take a nap, an uninterrupted bath, or hang out with a friend, these are all important for supporting your physical, emotional, and mental health.

3. Giving yourself more time, space, and grace

The biggest thing I’ve learned as a new parent who's working to manage burnout is that my schedule is no longer mine. Plans are merely suggestions, and timelines are constantly shifting. I’ve learned to give myself more time for work projects, household tasks, and even things as simple as getting out of the house. Give yourself a buffer where you can and avoid unneeded extra stress. As a new parent, you are creating new routines, and it will take some time to understand what this chapter of your life will look like.

When it gets hard to create boundaries, just say no. Or, keep in mind that children learn from what they see. I’ve found that parenthood has made me even more dedicated to practicing these behaviors and illustrating the kind of personal agency I want my son to have. Don’t be scared to try new things, because that’s the only way to find what works for you and your family. Good luck to you on this new journey!

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