September is the time of year when we say goodbye to summer vacations and hello to cooler weather and new routines. This is especially the case if you have kids who started school and extra-curriculars. As a health care provider, I also notice an uptick in appointment requests as many want to work on the health habits that might have slipped over summer.
One thing I personally noticed this month is an increase in my mental load. Mental load is the invisible labour that falls on your shoulders. This could include: managing the family schedules, managing the household as well as potentially managing your career. This is a type of invisible labour that requires mental gymnastics and constant multi-tasking. It can be a really heavy burden and research shows that a large proportion of mental load falls on women.
High mental load can be stressful, overwhelming and make you feel resentful, irritated and angry towards your partner. Mental load can also feel particularly overwhelming when you are anxious or depressed. All the little things we think about, organize, schedule and coordinate can really add to our overwhelm. I swear I sometimes have 5 thoughts in a matter of 30 seconds. “We need more toilet paper. What should I make for dinner? My youngest is due for his vaccinations. The kids need new hockey equipment. I need to pay my credit card bill.” I’m sure you can relate!!
How can you lighten the invisible weight in your life? Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Over-communicate! Ask for help from your partner, a parent, a sibling, a neighbour, your boss, your work team, and friends. Come up with solutions or alternatives so that other people can help you ease the weight you’re carrying.
2. Create itemized lists including groceries, house maintenance, kids stuff, etc. Share and review with your partner on a weekly basis. This helps with communication and dividing the load together. I also like utilizing the “reminders” feature in my phone. If I need to remember something in the future, I just schedule a reminder to pop up at the appropriate time.
3. Delegate whenever possible. Figure out what you can outsource to make the load lighter. This can include online grocery pick-up, hiring a cleaner once a month for deep cleaning, hiring a landscaper, etc. This may be a financial commitment, but the help is worth it!
4. Have a regular rotation of meals. The pressure to come up with creative ideas for meals is just not necessary every week. Try assigning each night of the week a type of meal (Crockpot Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc.) or come up with a list of core meals that you put on rotation. The idea is to simplify and make your grocery shopping repetitive and pre-planned.
5. Set realistic expectations. Know there are only 24 hours in a day. Realize you are only one person who can only do so much. Learn when to say yes and when to say no. Prioritize the important and special things. Weeding your garden can wait, snuggles with your loved one cannot. And make sure to take time for you, too.
Keep checking in with yourself. You’re not going to figure this out in one day. Learning how to share the mental load will take time, lots of conversations and a lot of adjustments. If you are looking to troubleshoot some solutions that will work for you, let’s connect!
Yours in health,
Dr. Melissa Bingeman
Dr. Melissa Bingeman, ND is passionate about mental health, hormones and gut health. She has a virtual and in-person practice in Kitchener, Ontario.