Don’t you love it when a buzzword perfectly describes your experience!
The most recent buzzword that seems to have struck a collective nerve is “mental load.” Mental load refers to all the mental work–the organizing, preparation, and planning etc.–that you do to manage your life, your household and your kids.
Mental load is real and we need to take responsibility for it. It is not surprising that our first response to mental load is to look to the other adult in the family (spouse or co-parent) and blame them for not taking on more. While it is important to re-examine and adjust the “division of labor” in your home as needed, mental load is not something that can be fixed by the redistribution of household responsibilities alone.
Mental load is not something that happens to us.
It is a mindset that we use against ourselves.
Why do we do this? Mental load is motivated by a fear of failure. We anticipate that the blame for any family or domestic failure will fall at our feet. To avoid the pain of failure and blame, we (wrongly) think the answer is to try harder.
We act like we have no choice but to take on responsibility for everything. That is simply not true.
When our mental load becomes unmanageable, we experience overwhelm.
Overwhelm is not normal or a badge of honor. It is dangerous.
- Overwhelm makes it difficult to think clearly and with confidence.
- Overwhelm makes all tasks feel harder than they actually are.
- Overwhelm can lead to depression, anxiety and a weakened immune system.
- Overwhelm leads to anger and resentment.
With my clients, I use a tool called The 6D System to combat overwhelm. This helps us get clear on their mental load—not just what they have to do but decisions they have to make. Then, we can begin the process of selection and elimination by discerning what is in alignment with your values and what is essential?
Essential is a much higher standard than we usually use to assess our choices.
A terrific book on this subject is Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
He describes 2 ways of thinking—essential and nonessential.
The non-essentialists tell themselves that everything is important and the goal is to do it all. They often feel overwhelmed, under-appreciated, and resentful.
The Essentialist understands that they create their lives by the choices they make. They know that only a few things really matter and before they say “yes” they consider the trade offs.
Remember, our health and well-being comes down to the choices we make.
The ability to choose is not a thing that can be given or taken away.
We always have the option to make a choice and we are responsible for those choices.
If your mental load has become too heavy, remember that YOU HAVE THE POWER to create the way you live. You have the power to lighten your load by deciding what is essential and learning to release the rest.