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The Coat That Ruined Sunday. Mental Overload.

burnout cognitive overload emotional overload head space mental health mental overload mum life occupational therapy self help strategies stress well-being Sep 20, 2021

How do we manage mental overload? Practical strategies to manage it in the here and now - LB Therapy

It’s 9.50am on a Sunday, and for the schedule to work, you need everyone in the car for 10am. Here it comes… the question that will break the camel’s back. You can swap this next conversation out for the one that happened in your house… but here goes mine…

“Right let’s go, let’s go team! Shoes on”

Speaking to my husband “Can you get the little one’s warm coat on her, the navy one, it is hanging up in hall, gold poppers on it.”

“This one you mean?”

Is he actually trying to kill me here!!

I had a choice. I could nod my head and get everyone in that car, or I could lose it. I chose the latter.  The steam was coming out, the lid had flown off that pot, and it wasn’t going back on!

“Well is it blue? Is it hanging up? Does it have gold poppers? Is it her size??”

“Yes…”

“In that case I’m going to take a wild guess that it is indeed the coat I was referring to. Are you serious? Did you need to ask me that?! Can you not just look at the weather and pick a coat in the first place? Do I need to think of EVERYTHING in this house!!!”

cringing I know, I know! Total over reaction. But the questions… so many questions! They keep flowing all day, all week, all month.

“Hey, did you get my last message, you okay?”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Did you wash that top?”

“Where are my trainers?”

“The car is due MOT, when should I book it in?”

“When is that report going to be finished?”

“Did you call your Gran? She misses you!”

You can’t take it. Can’t take one more question. Can’t make one more decision. One more thought. Your brain is full. Now we have the aftermath - the dreaded ‘tone for the day’.  Portion of Sunday Stew coming right up!

Stewing with resentment of the mental load you carry.

Stewing with resentment that you need to get over your own feelings to ‘save the day’

Stewing with resentment that you can’t switch off. Ever.

Stewing with resentment that you work full-time but get no trade-off.

Stewing with resentment that the ‘other half’ has no idea how to order school lunches, or what time gymnastics is, or when that chicken goes out of date – (bleurgh when did adult-ing become caught up in chicken sell by dates!)

Most of all – you just feel exhausted. Overwhelmed, and exhausted. It’s Mental Overload. It is brutal.

Mental Overload is crippling us. Experts have split it into three overlapping categories. The cognitive labour, the emotional labour, and mental overload is the overlapping of the two. Therefore, even if the ‘ideal’ of a 50:50 split on the physical labour of working, having a family and maintaining a home is reached – the chances are the mental overload will still sit with you. You are the one who thinks about organising the play-date, making sure someone is home for the delivery guy, worrying about if your son is okay at school today, thinking about ways you can ask how studying for exams is going, without being detected as asking how studying for exams is going. Preparing, organising, anticipating – everything that keeps your life ticking over. This is all hidden. Can you imagine the handover for that one? If anyone would apply for the job!

Oh wait, there is more! Remember that diet you want to do. The exercise regime you are going to try get up at 5am to do. The weekly catch-up with your good friend you agreed to because she is going through a tough time. The dedicated ‘family time’ and a monthly date night you are going to carve out of…thin air... Birthdays, funerals, ill-health, financial worries, oh and blimey the C word. Christmas? Covid? Both!  It’s no wonder our brains love that mindless scrolling time we do on social media. They must be crying out for a blinkin’ break!

 Here is what we know.

We know we are not our ‘best version’ when that tipping point is reached but feel out of control to prevent it.

We do wish we could hand some of the burden over, but equally acknowledge we are a bit of control freak and ‘it’s quicker to do it myself’ and you must think about it first anyways.

We know we can’t do it all, but we kinda want to do it all

We know the social media reality is not real-life reality, but it would be nice if we had organised and labelled spaces, ate healthy meals, and we could up-cycle that old unit with Frenchic paint and shove some Pampas grass on top… anyone? Just me?

We need to stop. You can change it. There are much bigger issues we could discuss, around gender stereotypes, societal influences, etc – but while others work those issues out, lets look at the here and now, for you. How can you lower the pressure in your own mind – so that tipping point is a little further off.  Here are some examples of the ‘How the heck do I do that?’ conversations I have been having with client’s recently. It’s the little things.

  • You zoom round town for the kid’s activities four nights a week. Opportunities for your kids are great. But, three activities would be plenty, right? Mum guilt will kick in, I know. However, you know what? Its good modelling for managing your time, stress and mental health! So, balance the guilt off with teaching that life lesson! (It’s the mental health equivalent of eating a carrot and a biscuit at the same time)

  • You squeeze in a food shop on a Saturday morning, which you resent spending weekend time on. Do it a week day evening. Novel idea coming up… take a lunch break from work (!!) and do it then. Hand it over. Do it online. Whatever works! But if using a Saturday morning bugs your happiness – don’t.

  • Your housework is never-ending. Pick two rooms (the two rooms visitors might see) and clean them, organise them. Leave the rest for this week. If you are having a busy, full-on week - something needs to give. Housework is one of them.

  • You look around and feel totally overwhelmed with where to start. House mess, life admin, emails, filing… Have a power hour. The rules of the power hour? 1. It only lasts for an hour! (Set a timer) 2. You only touch everything once – you pick something up, put it straight away. You open an email – respond, action, delete. A cupboard is bugging you – you focus on that for that 1 hour. Small steps with quick rewards. It doesn’t matter if is not the highest priority on your list. Its an hour you would have spent procrastinating anyway!

 

It is really hard to change patterns of behaviour and see a different perspective. We can get so caught up in feeling resentful, frustrated, exhausted – that it is then impossible to have rational discussions about what needs to change longer term in order to get your needs met too. We need to clear a little room in our minds first. We need to drop stuff. Drop the high expectations of ourselves. Drop the friendships that suck the life out of you. Drop the group chats that make you feel worse! Drop trying to keep up with others.

Something needs to give. You really do matter - not in a cheesy meme way. Genuinely. You matter.

 

Leave a comment! I would love to hear if any of this resonated with you? What do you do to manage that mental overload?

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