Depleted: Now What?
You've discovered your Mental Load feels like 100 pounds sitting on your shoulders. There's a million and one things that need to be done and you're wishing you could clone yourself. The reality of the holidays, soccer practice, therapy appointments, etc. are all looming and it's up to you to accomplish it all with a smile on your face, an organized house, and creativity! Ugghhh... we've all been there. Short of throwing in the towel, heading back to bed, and pulling the covers over your head you've got to prioritize the little fires and decide what will happen when.
When faced with the reality of all the tasks at hand our first order of business should be prioritize what's on our plate, but we can't do that without first becoming aware of what all needs to be done.
Awareness. The act of putting down on paper what tasks (invisible and visible) that you do in a day/week at work and at home. Once the tasks, planning and organizing, monitoring, and following up are all written down then we can begin to prioritize.
2. Red - Yellow - Green. Now we decide what needs to get handled right away (red-only you can do these), what is important but no one is bleeding (yellow-you and someone you trust can be handle), and what can wait or be delegated (green-the birthday planning next month). Prioritizing is part of the Mental Load and it must be done!
3. A Crucial Conversation. Now that you've prioritized your tasks with the red, yellow, green model, you're ready to have a crucial conversation with the important people in your life (home and office). Here's the tricky part. You have to decide--what are you willing to let go of? This tends to be one of the hardest parts. As women we take pride in all that we do and the illusion of holding it together. Frankly I resent that illusion! No one can give 100% to their career and home life both 100% of the time. It's impossible. So we must find ways to delegate.
Here in lies the problem. We don't like the way our partner loads the dishwasher or does the laundry or mows the lawn. Are you willing to look past it so that you have more time for the "red" tasks? What would it feel like to have more time and energy?
Are you willing to pay for help? Delegating to family is one thing, but hiring out is something completely different. It's worth that crucial conversation with your partner to go over how much help you can afford in your career (if appropriate) AND in the home. Maybe that involves getting someone to clean, sending the laundry out, having someone take care of the yard.
Having a crucial conversation about these details can be uncomfortable. Admitting that we need help can be uncomfortable. Getting the help you need is priceless. What would life be like if you had just one or two extra hours a week? Less stress, more time and energy with the family could be worth it for your partner. When your family thinks you're super woman but you're crumbling on the inside, you're not modeling healthy behaviors for your family, kids, or coworkers. It's OK to ask for help!
I remember telling my husband years ago that I needed a gym membership. Being active duty military, he was gone a lot and I was home with two young children. To say it was harder than I ever anticipated is an understatement. Having two hours of childcare EVERY day and a shower by myself was like heaven and worth every penny. Noticing my change in mood and energy level, he agreed.
4. Together decide what you want to be different and where you can divide up the tasks. Again this applies to work and home life. Where can you begin to delegate? If you have kids, this is a great time to make a chore chart. Though you may be thinking, "I can do this faster with less hassle" it's not preparing or modeling healthy behaviors for them. Unless you want to continue to do their laundry into teenage years, start teaching them young.
5. Let Go. Remember that everyone is going to have a unique way to handle things. No one is perfect. Things will get dropped and missed. It's part of learning how to do the task, plan, monitor, and follow up. The important thing is not to take the task back. Let them fail, learn, and try again. Of course I'm talking work and home here. I'll never forget the first time my kiddo "forgot" to do their laundry and didn't have what they needed for school the next day. Failing won't happen often--I promise!
Keep in mind that we'll never completely get rid of our Mental Load. So when you're feeling your emotional temperature rising, take a time out. As crazy as it sounds, when you give yourself a brain break you're actually more productive and efficient coming back to the task at hand.
If you're ready for some daily life-hacks that have helped me, head on over to the 10 Question Quiz on Mental Load. I'll be sharing my favorite tips and tricks to overcoming some of the most basic areas of overwhelm.
Let's keep this conversation going. Let me know in the comments below: What trips you up in these five steps to overcoming the overwhelm of your Mental Load?