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Burnout: Are Families Spending Less Time Together?

Between work-related stress, long hours and the consistent interruption of multiple screens, quality family time is on the decline for many British households - but there are a few ways to regain the balance!

The Struggle is Real for Modern Families

Over three-quarters of parents (78%) admit to putting in extra hours to try and get ahead of their work. Almost 50% say the biggest impact of this over spill is the ability to increase family quality time, followed closely by a negative impact on their relationship with their partner.

Studies show the typical family can’t sit at the dinner table or watch TV together without checking their mobiles, with a rise in screen time impacting most areas of our lives. In one of the most comprehensive studies on the topic, spanning a period of unprecedented technological change between 2000 and 2015, parents with kids aged 8-16 spent 9% more time together, however the time was mostly spent 'alone-together', meaning in the same house but separately.

Family on gadgets

Overall, 'alone-together' time rose by 43% during the study, which means families are often engaged with devices instead of each other. In 2015, mobile devices took up 38% of total family time and 47% of ‘alone-together’ time.

Another survey around the same time backs this up, showing that nearly two-thirds of British families spent fewer days out together in 2011 compared to 20 years ago.

Burnout and Lack of Quality Family Time

Daily stress, high workloads, long commuting times and an increasing need to multitask can lead to feelings of burnout and seriously detract from the amount of quality time we spend with each other.

Half a million British workers suffered from work-related stress in 2018, and 44% said it was due to workload, with burnout symptoms like exhaustion and anxiety across the board. These symptoms don’t disappear when we leave the office and often end up spilling into family time, and vice versa.

Businesswoman stressed

Fortunately, there is good news that could lead to a revision on wellbeing policies in the workplace, and in turn, help families find the time to connect more.

In May 2019 the World Health Organisation included burnout in its revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an ‘Occupational Phenomenon’, which means it might officially be listed as a medical condition by 2020!

Regain the Balance

As understanding of burnout and its impact on work and family life becomes more widespread, the good news is that it is reversible! Here are a few ways to regain the balance and get back to spending quality time with your family.

Family walking through the forest

Take a Digital Detox

Around 7 in 10 people recognise the benefits of lowering their screen time. Around 50% of users say their top reason for taking a digital detox is to spend more time with family, with 32% looking to have a better balance between work and personal life. Despite feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out), 8 out of 10 people who do a digital detox find it liberating.

Giving technology a break doesn’t have to mean going cold turkey. All you need to do is reduce the amount of time each person in your family spends online daily, and use that time to engage in other activities, like family time or bonding.

Benefits of a digital detox include becoming more productive without having to multitask across various devices, the ability to connect with those around us more, and even better sleep.

Quick ways to implement a digital detox at home: 

● Set technology-free days: Set one day a month or one day a week where technology like mobile phones, gaming consoles, TVs and tablets get turned off.

● No phones during family time: Whether you’re playing a game, walking the dog or even watching a movie, set a rule that all phones get put away. You could even turn off the Wi-Fi.

● Set allocated surfing times: Whether checking emails, chatting with friends or shopping, set a limit to how much time can be spent online while at home.

● Introduce new activities: Instead of watching TV or reading on tablets, introduce paper books, analogue music and games into your family’s quality time.

Grandparents and grandchildren at Forest Holidays Deerpark

Improve Family Quality Time

A UK Family Life Survey showed that almost 50% of British parents with a child under 18 say they would like to spend more time together, but with homework, tech and work getting in the way, two-thirds of families consider watching television to be quality time.

When it comes to the benefits of quality time, 61% of parents say it makes them happier, with 40% feeling more relaxed. At the same time, 68% of parents said their children were happier when spending time together.

The umbrella term ‘family time’ can cover loads of different activities, with the goal of both parents and children being engaged in the same activity. It’s all about quality time over quantity.

Enjoy more time together:

● Let each person take charge: Give each person in the family a turn to choose an activity that everyone can enjoy together.

● Family game nights: Set time aside to play games together as a family one evening each month, and let everyone have a turn choosing which games to play.

● Eat together: Catch up after a busy day and encourage conversation by ensuring you eat together every evening.

● Take a break: Go on an adventure as a family by planning a trip away together, whether for just one day or longer.

Father and daughter building a forest den

Spend Time Outdoors

It may sound like a cliché, but there is lots of evidence to suggest that spending time in nature can have a significant impact on our moods and brain chemistry. Spending time in green spaces can have a positive impact on mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Outdoor spaces benefit our brains by improving memory and lowering the stress hormone cortisol – which means an uplift in moods!

Aside from providing vitamin D and giving our moods a boost, time spent outdoors is also a good way to get some exercise. Activities could include anything from cycling and hiking to dog walking.

Family about to go canoeing

Get outside more often by:

● Exploring nature: Whether in your own neighbourhood or a beautiful area nearby, get outside more often by taking a walk together after dinner or on the weekends.

● Skipping gym: Skip gym once in a while to organise an activity with the family like hiking, cycling, climbing or even walking the dog.

● Making a list: There are so many beautiful places to explore, from forests and lakes to mountains and the sea. Make a list of some of the top places you’d like to visit as a family, and start working through it!

● Building something together: Whether you’re into treehouses, gardening, or sports, find an outdoor DIY project that the whole family can get involved in.

● Unwind with Shinrin Yoku: It’s simpler than it sounds and it could provide benefits for you and your family if practised regularly.

Did you know? Following the Japanese art of ‘Shinrin Yoku’ means simply being present and immersing yourself in nature, and it can have far-reaching health benefits. The concept involves reconnecting with nature in an immersive forest experience to improve overall wellbeing and ignite the senses. We’re so passionate about it that we have qualified Forest Therapy guides at Blackwood Forest to help you start your Forest Bathing journey.

Forest Bathing group in meadow

The Duchess of Cambridge recently created her Chelsea garden themed around the concept of forest bathing and the importance of getting outdoors. In an interview with the BBC, Kate said: "I really feel that nature and being interactive outdoors has huge benefits on our physical and mental well-being, particularly for young children.”

More UK families are taking weekend breaks to de-stress and increase their quality time together. Plan your getaway and tick all the boxes, visit one of Britain’s amazing forests.

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