Mom Brain. Mental Clutter. The Mental Load of Motherhood.
We’ve heard it described a million different ways, but no matter what you call it, we can all relate to the stress-inducing, never-ending to-do list that is always running through our brains. Grocery lists. Sports schedules. Household chores. Doctor appointments. Home improvements. School events. Birthday parties…It goes on and on and on.
This mental load is like that closet on TV where everyone shoves everything to make the house look clean. On TV it’s a funny joke when the character tries to push the closet shut before all the stuff falls out. But as moms, this load isn’t a funny joke.
The mental load wears us down, stresses us out, makes us snappy, and often keeps us from being the put-together, in-the-moment moms we want to be.
Improving The Load
There is no real way to fully “escape” the mental load entirely. Unfortunately, adult-ing and parenting mean we will have to take on more than our former teenage selves would have liked. BUT there are ways to improve the load and stop the frequent feelings of overwhelm and stress.
6 Ways to Improve YOUR Mental Load
1. Practice Self Care and Get Some Air
You’ve probably heard that you can’t pour from an empty cup. This saying has never been more true than when speaking about mothers. We are always giving and doing to care for our people, but all too often we don’t care for ourselves.
It is no surprise then to see that moms often feel the most overwhelmed and stressed when they are doing so much for others, and so little for themselves.
Though at the moment, it might seem difficult or counterproductive to escape the stress and to-dos, I urge you to do exactly that. When you feel yourself becoming snappy, short-tempered, or like you can’t make sense of all that needs to be done, grab your kiddos and go to the park, the library, or simply out into nature. Or if there is someone you trust to watch over your littles, go grab a solo bite to eat or get coffee with a friend.
Taking time to fill your own cup will make you more patient, clear-headed, and ready to tackle what needs to be done.
2. Brain dump
Grab a pen and a notepad (or journal if you’re feeling fancy) and just start writing. No pretty organized lists or color-coded sheets here. Just write. Write out every thought, every to-do, every worry. Put it on paper and get it out of your head. This is a literal dumping of all the mental clutter that is filling your brain space.
My favorite way to do this is to write out whatever I am feeling in my journal. I have been a journaler as long as I can remember and I find it very therapeutic. There is no right or wrong way, just start writing. Clear out all the clutter and start finding a path on which to proceed. These brain dumps are easy and can be done at any time.
When you feel yourself fraying, don’t give into the rabbit hole of overwhelming stress. Instead, sit down and sort out everything that is causing you stress.
3. Begin Keeping A Running To-Do List
Another great tip to decrease mental clutter is to keep a running to-do list. I highly recommend a good ol’ fashioned pen to paper type, but one on your phone will work too.
For me, this list is in my planner. Every time I have something that pops into my head (dentist appointment to schedule, pick up snacks for pre-k, wash soccer uniform… etc) I put it on my list. This way I am not trying to remember what it was I needed to do four hours later.
When our brains are full of mental clutter we are more likely to unnecessarily start multi-tasking and trying to-do-it-all in an attempt to get above water again. But when we smooth out some of that clutter, we oftentimes will see the mess isn’t as insurmountable as we once thought. We can put a plan in place and then spend our time more efficiently and effectively.
4. Use a Planner
Some folks like to use their phone but I am a paper planner advocate. Phones have great apps for organizing but they also have Facebook and Instagram and other dark holes that we will get lost in. It is easy to open your phone to check the weather only to look up from the screen 10 minutes later confused and wondering why you were on your phone to begin with.
Use the planner to keep your life in order. Write out all your appointments, school events, games and practices, dinner plan, workout plan, etc. This can also be a great place to keep your running to-do list
For moms, this can be a hard one. I am very Type A and I struggle with letting go of the reins when it comes to our household and our children. BUT our mental health is more important than always having control.
So don’t be afraid to accept help from those you trust. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to have your spouse involved in household chores, bath time, and bill paying.
6. In the End… Let Some of It Go
We can’t, despite our best efforts, do it all. We just can’t. In the end, something will have to go. And that is OKAY! Take some time to look hard at the expectations that are clogging your mental space and find something to let go of.
Is there guilt in there from your kids having eaten out more than you care to admit this week? Let it go! They were fed and you’re a great mom so clear that space.
Are you stressed trying to plan more activities for your growing brood? Just say no. It is okay if your kiddos aren’t in all the clubs, on all the teams, and going to all the library events. Pick a few that mean the most to you and your kids and let the rest go.
At the end of the day, it is important that our children and spouses get the best version of us. That doesn’t mean the do-it-all-until-we-break version, but simply the healthy and happy version. So if you feel like you’re drowning under the weight of the constant to-dos, take a few minutes to try a few of these tips (or them all). Then let me know how they worked for you.
Let me know what you think
What bogs you down? What are the greatest contributors to your personal mental load? Comment below and then give these tips a try and let me know how they work for you!