My new book, The Joy of Doing Nothing, is now available for pre-order and hits stores December 5th! It would make a great gift for anyone looking to reduce mental load and find time for themselves in their busy life.
Have you ever felt that your brain was so full of items, of to-dos, to-think-abouts, to-keep-an-eye-ons, that your mind was never truly at rest? Perhaps you had to fully escape to stop the chatter: diving into a fiction book or watching television or doing some other kind of activity to get a break from the thoughts. Because if you were too idle, if you simply sat with a big mug of tea and yourself, those long lists, worries and to-dos wouldn’t leave you alone. It’s not a busyness or avalanche of tasks that you could solve with Google Calendar or an organizing app or simply saying no more. It’s the mental load of managing a space that others live in and caring for people that are not truly independent yet.
Mental Load is another form of clutter.
One thing that I realized as I tried to simplify my life by having less stuff: the stuff is just a symptom. The bigger benefits to simplifying really had little to do with the stuff in my closet. The stuff was a distraction, a nuisance and at times, a wistful goal that left me feeling dissatisfied with what I already had. When I got past that I saw that the pursuit of minimalism was really unearthing for me something bigger. Clarity. Purpose. More time. I heard this same sentiment from Courtney when I heard her speak at her Tiny Wardrobe tour. When she got rid of all the stuff and the pursuit of the stuff, she found time and space to really find what drove her and what she deeply enjoyed. The decluttering and minimalist movement so often focuses on the physical stuff but what about the mental clutter and workload of a busy life?
Time magazine had a piece about the invisible workload that drags women down. It’s not just the second shift, coming home for a work day to then put in hours at home cooking, helping kids with homework, ferrying them to practices and wedging in housework to keep the home ticking along, that leaves women no time for themselves. It’s also the mental load of all this management. It’s the remembering and thinking about all of those items for the house, for the kids, even for the spouse.
Seidman suggested she had a “seeing superpower” that her husband and children did not. But she doesn’t, of course. It’s just that her willingness to do it allows everyone else the freedom not to. If she were gone, you bet her husband would start noticing when the fridge went empty and the diapers disappeared. Thinking isn’t a superpower; it’s work. And it all too often seems only natural that women do the hard work of running a household. – Time
One of my reasons for jumping into this move to a small town was to ease the physical and mental load of life as a family of five with three young kids, one who has special needs. There is simply a lot to do in our house to just cover the basics right now.
Rebalance Mental Load
One way to reduce mental load: rebalance it. Ask someone else to be in charge of keeping toiletries stocked or adding appointments to the family schedule. We’re working on this in our house. It sounds small but not being in charge of making the pot of French press everyday has noticeably reduced my morning stress. Divide responsibilities. Being more explicit with my partner on who is in charge of which bills or appointments or scheduling of services, particularly as we just did a big move and sold and bought homes, made for a smooth transition. If you have young kids, ask them to take over some of the daily routines. It could be as small as having one child supervise teeth brushing. Taking even one or two small but daily tasks out of your head can make a big difference.
Reduce Mental Load
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.
Have you ever worried about something that either never happened or you could have stopped worrying about with a few minutes of work or a phone call? Isn’t it ridiculous how we clutter our mind with worrying about things that “might” happen? Give yourself permission to stop worrying/overthinking/projecting disaster. Write it down if you have to or tell a friend. Set a goal to stop thinking about those items that nag at you and clutter your brain.
Forget about your Mental Load
Give yourself time each day to lock out all those thoughts and to-do lists. Practice sitting quietly, taking a few deep breaths, and letting any of those thoughts drift away. Letting go of mental load briefly will help you reset and restart. Think about your brain as a computer: if you have too many windows and applications open you get distracted and can’t focus on the important work. Spending fifteen minutes in silence and letting your worries go allows you to start back up with a clean and clear mind. I talk about resetting a lot in The Joy of Doing Nothing: how to schedule it into your day even when you’re busy.
When you’re mind is full of worry/to-dos how do you reset?