Pandemic Stress Mental Load
March, 2020: I get a call from my children’s school. They’re closing the school. They’re closing the after-school program. Two weeks and they’ll re-evaluate after that.

 

Two Weeks. Two Weeks! My mind goes in overdrive. But I have to work…but my spouse has to work…but we don’t have family that can help. My children may not be safe at school? My children may not be safe being with their friends? Little did I know I would be reckoning with the same thoughts nearly two years later. 

 

Last week, my children returned to school. The first full day of silence at home in the last 18 months. I’m typing and I’m NOT getting interrupted each few minutes. I’m typing and I’m NOT having to get up and prepare a snack or meal, each hour or two. I’m typing and I’m NOT sitting with headphones in my son’s room, crouched over his Lego bin. I love my children dearly, but boy has this been hard! I’m just now starting to recognize the mental weight my mind, body, and soul have been carrying, and continue to carry during this pandemic. 

 

Most all of us carry an immense mental load day to day. We hold the daily weight of managing schedules, household chores, medical appointments, finances, our partner’s well-being and relationship satisfaction. And, since the onset of the pandemic, we have been thrust into roles that are well beyond what we expected of ourselves prior. Now many of us are all of the following and more: parents, partners, lovers, employees, teachers, social-emotional providers, short order cooks, house cleaners, schedulers, coordinators etc. etc. (all at once!). 

 

You think you’re ok. You tell yourself, 

 

“Others have it so much worse than us”, 

 

“At least we have food and a roof over our heads”

 

… and then your toddler spills their milk all over the floor and you lose it. Just lose it. Maybe in the moment, crying over some spilled milk may seem like an extreme response, but it makes sense. The mental load is growing and you have little control. 

 

I get it and I struggle with it ALL THE TIME! 

 

The mental load we carry can have compounding effects and sneak up on us when we least expect it. 

 

So how do we cope? 

  • Protect your “me” time like a mama bear protecting her cubs! What fills your cup (and if you don’t know- that’s ok)? Do you re-energize from time alone or time with others? Who loves and accepts you for you and helps you revive your identity? For partners/support persons reading this article, who don’t carry as much of the mental load…also protect your partner’s personal time. Initiate completing tasks and chores so that your partner can keep their “me” time. Lower expectations. It’s ok if there is laundry on the coach and the dishes are dirty. 
  • Speak your truth. Talking about the struggle and enlisting another’s support may engage their role in being valuable, useful and loved. On the other side of this, for partners and support persons, don’t assume that your partner is going to always or ever going to ask for help (as this can add to the already overwhelming mental load). Be specific in initiating what you can do to help. Recognize and rebalance the weight of the mental load. Talk about it, and show your support through action. 
  • Practice “failure”. Weird idea, right? What is an area in your life where it may be ok to not be ok. If you don’t have the energy to keep your child occupied all through the day, and they’re bored, new opportunities may arise for your child to be imaginative, creative, read and play with their sibling. If your child goes to school constantly with mix matched socks, maybe they’ll start a new cool trend, and can grow confidence in picking out their own outfits. By practicing “failure”, you’re also leading the way for others. Demonstrating that we’re not perfect and we do have limits. Limits that allow us to be human. 
  • Focus on the little things in life. Pandemic. Wild Fires. Poor Air Quality. Global Humanitarian Crisis. It is all so important and it is all so overwhelming. It’s fine and healthy to take a break from the news and social media. Sharpen your focus. Look for the good. Maybe your toddler pooped in the toilet today! Maybe a client of yours was impressed with your work! Maybe you took a walk this morning and the chirping of the birds was lovely. Maybe your teen stood up for a friend of theirs. Relish the little things. Celebrate them!
  • Be open. Be honest with the others you’re close with. That mom who seems to have it all together. That co-worker whose reports are always on time and who responds to emails immediately… things are not always as they seem. Talking openly to others about your struggles, gives others the opportunity to share their struggles with you. Venting, vulnerability and validation can go a long way. 

 

One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. Sometimes that is all we can do. 

 

Be lenient with yourself and others around you will learn to be as well. If you find yourself overwhelmed, seek support. 

 

Although it can sometimes very much feel so, you are not alone. Counseling can also help you sort your feelings, gain support and navigate stress. I specialize in working with parents, couples and individuals to navigate stress and help them to thrive in their lives. 

daylyn musante sacramento therapist online

Hi, I’m Daylyn Musante, therapist for individuals and couples at Love Heal Grow Counseling.

You can experience more fulfillment in your life and relationships! I’m here to support you.

You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Daylyn