One way to keep ourselves mentally healthy is to work on becoming more resilient to life’s stressors. However, that can only take us so far. Eventually, no matter how resilient you make yourself, you start to crack and your mental load takes its toll.
Sometimes we need to reduce the mental load that is on us so that we avoid becoming overwhelmed and burned out.
What is mental load? It’s all of the things we have swimming around in our head from our thoughts to responsibilities, to our schedules, to our emotions, and everything in between. Basically, it’s all the shit that’s on our plate that takes up mental headspace.
If we don’t acknowledge it and try to clear some of it away, we run the risk of stretching ourselves too far and putting too much on ourselves.
Say Yes/Say No
Knowing when to say yes to things and when to say no is a skill that can take time to develop. If you’re a people pleaser, it can be especially hard as you don’t want to let anyone down or disappoint, so things are done out of guilt. We can reduce our mental load by knowing when to say yes or no.
One way to know the best answer is to ask yourself some questions:
Do I have the time and energy to devote to this?
Does this fit within my values?
Does this cross a boundary that I don’t want to cross?
What ends up happening most times is that we say yes to others and no to yourselves. To reduce our mental load, we have to flip that. “Saying No” protects your time and energy. It allows you to focus on the things that are important to you and that you value.
In that same thought, say yes to things that are for you, things that are positive for your mental health and well being.
Ask For Help
One sure-fire way to reduce your mental load is to take things off your plate and give them to other people. Once it’s off your mind, poof, it’s magically lightened your load. We do, however, need to be comfortable delegating responsibilities and tasks to others, which is a whole other article in itself. But for now, don’t think, just hand them off.
This is where asking for help comes in. It can be hard to ask for help, especially when you feel like you have to do it all, or asking for help is a sign of weakness. By asking for help, we’re reducing our actual workload which can do wonders to clear some mental headspace.
One tip when you ask for help is to be open and honest about what you truly need help on.
When you know exactly what’s on your plate for the day, you can mentally prepare yourself for the load that’s about to come. The same thing goes for when we know what’s on the bar we’re about to lift.
We can make plans and prioritize what we need to do so that we feel we accomplished what we needed to. Make a to-do list, prioritize the big rocks, the tasks that are the most important, or give you the biggest bang for your buck. Then set a realistic goal or plan that you’re likely not getting to all of them.
However, if you knock out a bunch of those type 1 tasks, it’s a win. Plus, when you see your day somewhat mapped out, you can add in fun things, self-care things that are just for you, like a nap.
When our mental load is high, it helps to have a place where you can just unload it onto paper, or to a friend, to get it out of your head. When our head is full of a bunch of thoughts and emotions that we can’t quite figure out, it can be helpful to make those thoughts tangible so that we can throw them away.
We can also unload by talking to people whether that’s a friend, a family member, or a professional like a therapist. We’re all likely going through some sort of shit right now, and we all have things on our minds that are weighing us down.
Write it out, let others know what you’re working through, and get the support you need. Unload those thoughts, feelings, frustrations.
Set Proper Expectations
Setting poor expectations or lofty ones is a recipe for disaster that ends up in a lot of frustration when we slip or the day just doesn’t go our way. Typically, this results from trying to do too much all at once.
We set our expectations too high and what happens is we overwhelm ourselves, we stress ourselves out and we add more to our own mental load. We become our own worst enemy by trying to do everything and not giving ourselves the space to fail, to struggle, or to even take a break.
We don’t have to necessarily lower our expectations because that just sends off the other side of the see-saw, but we can set more realistic expectations, ones that allow for that struggle, that allow room for self-care and the grace to fail and not do everything.
Being mentally tough and resilient is only one side of the coin and will only take us so far. We need to unload some of that mental weight too.