Lightening the Mental Load: The Best Way to Free Your Mind

In many traditional households across America, moms are carrying an invisible workload. We are “the rememberer,” the one who coordinates all the moving pieces that go into running a household. This looks like planning meals, monitoring the levels of shampoo and laundry detergent, setting the kids’ schedules, keeping the refrigerator stocked, booking medical appointments, and knowing when the kids are growing out of their clothes.

What is mental load?

We call this “the mental load” and it is unseen, exhausting work. Our partners may not even be aware that we are carrying it. We may not even be aware that we are carrying it, but it takes its toll. We might feel like a computer with too many tabs open, distracted and finding it hard to focus. It might add to our physical fatigue. It might cause us to resent our partner who waits to be told what to do to help (who, in fairness, is carrying his own mental load from his workplace.)

A number of years ago, a popular comic by a French author named “Emma” circulated around the internet. Titled “You should have asked,” it underscored the fact that even when we have helpful and willing husbands, we are still responsible for managing and keeping track of all that needs to be done. It was an “aha” moment for many women, making visible all of our invisible tasks.

In many ways, shouldering this mental load is unavoidable. Someone has to keep the ship afloat! But there are ways in which we can lighten some of that load, which we’ll explore in the articles to follow.

Identifying the problem is the first step

The first step in reducing the impact that carrying the mental load has on us is simply identifying it.

“By identifying the mental load in our lives and its impact on our mood, relationships, and productivity, we can reduce its impact.”

Dr. Leah RuppanNer

When we understand the toll it takes on us, we can stop thinking that we “shouldn’t” be this tired. When we are able to recognize when our mental load feels particularly heavy (in times of stress, when we are making a big decision, or during seasonally busy times like holidays), we can then be strategic in lightening that load.

For me, the tell-tale sign that I’m struggling with my mental load is my inability to focus in conversation with others. There are times when I’m carrying so much in my head that I have to ask my eight year old to repeat what he just said to me before I can register what he’s saying. Or my husband will tell me something and I’ll fail to grasp the meaning behind his words. Or I might struggle with making basic decisions. What I have in my head crowds out what’s right in front of me. It’s not an enjoyable way to live.

How to reduce your mental load

The best way to lighten your mental load is to share it with your partner. In my book Around the Clock Mom: Make the Most of Your God-Given Time, I suggest that you write down all the household tasks that you’re responsible for as a way to make your invisible workload visible, then identify which tasks you can delegate.

To make this process easier, I’ve created a worksheet that will help you easily identify which tasks you and your spouse are generally responsible for. I created this tool to help you have an honest conversation with your partner and to brainstorm ways he could help lighten your mental load.  Maybe it’s bathtime. Maybe it’s packing all the school lunches in the morning. Maybe you have a budget meeting and decide if you can afford to hire help.

Here’s a quick preview:

How to reduce your mental load this free worksheet will help

You can download this free tool to help you reduce your mental load by subscribing to The Scoop, my twice a month newsletter that helps busy moms grow in their faith! When you type in your email below, I’ll send you the password to the Free for You library and you can download this freebie and get started.

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*Feature Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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