Mental load – non-stop stress on the mind

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Constantly keeping track of what needs doing – this is described as the mental load. Not only is it exhausting, it’s stressful too.

Always having to think of everything

Mental load is a recently coined term just starting to take hold. It is used today to describe the added burden of being responsible for managing a household, family, partnership and profession, day in, day out.

The ‘invisible work’ that covers tasks like thinking, planning and organising.

However, it's not a matter of the actual work to be done; it’s the cognitive effort of thinking about it. Has anyone bought a present to take to the upcoming birthday party? When was the bed linen last changed? Is there time after work to call the insurance company?

Pressure on women

This permanent mental burden is much more likely to be borne by women. In many relationships, the role of keeping track of the endlessly long to-do lists is unevenly distributed: women take responsibility for coordinating the things that need doing and subsequently assign tasks to their partner. Although they are rid of the work itself, the mental effort remains.

This can lead women to:

  • feeling dissatisfied with their relationship
  • exhausted
  • never having the sense that they can switch off



What makes it worse is the fact that balancing a family and a profession in Switzerland continues to be a challenge. Obstacles include long or unforeseen working hours, a lengthy commute and activities that run on after the official working day is over.

Figures released by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office show that around 33 percent of mothers change their job to make it more compatible with family life.

But changing or reducing their professional commitments does little to lessen the mental load – the need to constantly think, plan and organise persists.

Start the conversation

While women may interpret a man's attitude or behaviour as unreliable, men see this constant planning as stressful. However, there's no right or wrong in this discussion. The important thing is for couples to develop strategies to tackle the mental load together. Here are some tips to help:

Distribute responsibilities

Especially when it comes to repetitive chores, it's worth splitting these equally: one person is responsible for doing the laundry once a week, the other makes sure that the living space is given a thorough clean. This relieves part of the burden – not only in terms of workload, but also in terms of mental effort.

Delegate

If the overall mental load becomes overwhelming, it is important to delegate tasks. But watch out: delegating is one thing, and no longer thinking about it another. An important factor when delegating is to also hand over full responsibility – which includes accepting that the work may be done in a different way.

Communication

Communication is also key when it comes to relieving the mental load. While it's important to communicate your personal needs, just as important is thinking them through in advance.

  • Which tasks are important that I give up?
  • Which activities can I manage well?
  • Does activity X have to be done this way, or could we also make it easier?
  • Why is it important to me that activity X is done this way?

The next step is to use these reflections to find a joint solution on how to share responsibility for both coordinating and performing the tasks. However, for this to succeed, both partners must demonstrate commitment and acceptance.


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