Episode 87: What to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed with Dr. Morgan Cutlip
Brief summary of show:
What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed?
Between taking care of the kids, work, rushing to before and after school programs, play dates, seeing your own friends, exercising and trying to eat healthy – life can truly feel overwhelming.
So, how do we slow down? How do we take care of ourselves so we can better take care of the people we love?
Joining me for this conversation is Dr. Morgan Cutlip.
With a master’s in Human Development and Family Science and a Ph.D.in Counseling Psychology, Dr. Morgan Cutlip is a relationship expert and the cofounder of My Love Thinks, an organization that creates educational content to help people have lasting and loving relationships. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide learn how to form and maintain healthy relationships. She has been a featured relationship expert with Teen Vogue, The New York Times, Women's Health Magazine, and Flo, the #1 app in health and fitness, and shares practical relationship advice on Instagram @DrMorganCutlip.
Dr. Morgan is originally from Ohio but lives in San Clemente, CA and is happily married to her husband, Chad, and is the mom to two spirited kids, Effie and Roy.
Listen in as we talk about:
[3:00] Is burnout just a buzzword?
[4:30] What is the ‘mental load’?
[11:30] Tips to reduce our mental load
[16:15] How to check in with yourself
[19:15] The steps to take to feel better
[25:20] Tangible tips you can implement starting today
Notes from Natalie:
The FREE 4 Roots Of Emotional Eating Clarity Quiz and Starter Kit: www.innerwork.me
Connect with Dr. Morgan Cutlip
Connect with Me
View Transcript for this Episode
[00:00:00] Natalie: Do you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, on the brink of burnout tips today to help you regain your life.
[00:00:08] Natalie: Hi everyone, it's Natalie. How are you? If you like me, Things are busy, but I'm trying not to reinforce that notion that I'm just always busy because underneath it all, it's my choice to be busy. I'm actually looking forward to Thanksgiving week, having my whole family here, and that's a time of year That can particularly get overwhelming, but you know, it doesn't change the stress so many of us feel today.
[00:00:35] We're gonna talk about that stress. We're gonna talk. Ways to find more peace. My guest is relationship expert Dr. Morgan Cuttle. She has a master's degree in human development and family science and a PhD in counseling psychology. She's been a featured relationship expert with Teen Vogue, the New York Times Women's Health Magazine, and much, much more.
[00:00:56] You're really gonna like her and we're gonna learn a lot. Today we're going to discuss emotional regulation, burnout. Invisible labor and the stress of trying to do it all.
[00:01:08] You are not alone in feeling this way. Please know that. I know that feeling. Morgan knows that feeling and so many others do. So let's get to it. I want you to take a deep breath, maybe jump on the treadmill, take a short walk. My goal is to make these episodes and interviews. Just the right length of time to learn while running an errand or doing something for yourself.
[00:01:30] Hit subscribe as we get started. And remember, I always put more information into show notes or on my website, natalie tis.com. Let's get started.
[00:01:40] Morgan, so good to see you today and talk to you and I, I wanna get your advice today for all of my listeners and those watching as well on burnout. And it's one of the most downloaded episodes that I've ever had on this topic. And I feel like it's every evolving and we're always learning, we can get better mm-hmm.
[00:02:00] um, at handling things, but it's just a tough issue for so many.
[00:02:05] Dr. Morgan: It really is, it's really great to be here. So thank you so much for having me. Yeah, I mean, I think it's a topic that there's a lot more buzz around, right? Mm-hmm. , you see, if you're on social, you're kind of seeing this more discussion. I think after the pandemic, we are coming out of it and um, this topic of mom burnout or parental burnout has just really moved to the forefront and it's something.
[00:02:28] We really need to address and come up with some good
[00:02:30] solutions. Why do you think we talk
[00:02:32] Natalie: about it? Is it just a buzzword or are we dealing with it more than ever? Do we have too much on our plate?
[00:02:37] Dr. Morgan: I think both. I think that, um, the pandemic really highlighted how much women especially are carrying, uh, in terms of how we manage the home.
[00:02:48] We manage our relationships, we manage our schedules, um, manage inventory of the home, just all that we carry. I think it really highlighted that having that extra layer of kids in. Um, and not in schools and things like that. So I think part of it is, um, it is what we're carrying it is, all that we're doing.
[00:03:05] And, uh, I think too, it's. It is, it's been talked about more. And so I think there are concepts that sort of pick up steam and move to the forefront of our consciousness. And I do think that burnout is one of these things. It's like right now it's just on the forefront of our minds. We're discussing it more, we're putting it on the table and we're like, there's a problem here.
[00:03:26] Mm-hmm. that we need to figure out how to do something about.
[00:03:30] Natalie: Okay, well I wanna get your advice. But you know, the first thing that comes to mind when, when I deal with. A mom of three, even though two are in college, I still feel like I'm managing and helping with things and then work and the podcast and all of that.
[00:03:44] But what I think of often is it's not like I can just let those things go. I still have a house to maintain and kids and husband and all of these things, so it's really a matter of how we manage it or our mindset around it.
[00:03:58] Dr. Morgan: Yeah, I mean, I think sometimes it's a mindset. I think there's, there's like different categories.
[00:04:03] So you're kind of talking about something that, um, is labeled a mental load. Okay. It goes by many names. So invisible labor, um, mental load, mental labor, all of these things. But I think there's different sort of categories of how you approach this. And one is, is our mindset. It's like stuff that we're responsible for, that we have ownership over, that we can do some things about how we think about it, how we prioritize, how we kind of manage ourselves, which I think is a big part of burnout.
[00:04:28] Um, it's how we manage ourselves. Um, another piece of mental load stuff is, you know, maybe there's actually. Things that need to be handed off to your partner or to your children or things that really do need to kind of be delegated out, be divided up differently, um, have all sorts of thoughts we can get into about those things.
[00:04:49] And I think another is, uh, and I don't see this one talked about as much, but I think sometimes, a lot of what we do is in. It's like, that's part of what makes the mental load really tricky in, in relationships is that oftentimes our partners don't see it. So they don't get it. So now we have the responsibility of explaining what it is on top of trying to find a better balance to it.
[00:05:12] And so what happens when it's invisible is that we don't really get. The support we always need. And one thing that's I hear over and over from moms in my community is that you, you don't get the appreciation we need. And so I think this other sort of realm of intervention, if you wanna call it like boxes of intervention, is that sometimes it's, uh, people in our life showing up for us in their words and acts of appreciation and support being told.
[00:05:42] Gosh, mom, like I see all that you're doing and just how your work and your energy propels our family forward. And I'm grateful for that. Like sometimes that hits that release valve. That's a long way. Yeah, and, and really what we're needing, and so I know there are times where my husband will say like, You seem more like stressed out, what can I do for you?
[00:06:04] And it's like, I don't need you to do anything for me right now, but being acknowledged would do something for me. Right? And so I think there's all these sort of different ways of, of approaching that piece of it.
[00:06:15] Natalie: So let's talk about this mental load a little bit more because I know it's a concept, uh, that you are writing about.
[00:06:21] Look forward to your, your book on this. Sometimes I feel, and I, I think many others feel this way too, where I'm exhaust. and I really haven't done a lot like, is that what this is about? Like, you know, in terms of like physically, like I feel like the list is a mile long. Not really getting through it, but just thinking about things, the worry about it or you know, I mean some of that is anxiety probably, or other issues, but it's just, there's just so much in my head.
[00:06:53] Dr. Morgan: Yeah. Okay. , it's so me. Help give Rice Morgan. It just is really relatable. I mean, so first I'm gonna challenge this piece, like I didn't do anything. Okay. I'm sure that you did. I think this is, I, I've actually talked about this in my. Instagram before, which is that feeling of, I'm so exhausted, I haven't done anything, is I think, almost universal for a lot of moms.
[00:07:16] And, part of the reason why is because so much of what we do is repetitive. Mundane. And I think especially moms of littles will do stuff all day and look around the house and how is the house still a mess? like, right. You know, you're like, all day I'm on a, I know. I remember we were like talking with my audience, we're like, let's name it.
[00:07:36] And they're just like, these are hamster wheel days where you're just like, you're going, going, going, but you don't feel like you move forward. Mm-hmm. . And so I think I wanna say to you, you are doing. There's a reason why you're tired. Um, you just might not look around always and see the outcome of it.
[00:07:53] so the other piece is that yes, it's exactly what you're saying around our brains. Um, use this is, this is one of the hardest parts of the mental load is that it takes cognitive capacity. It takes up a lot of space in our minds. And, It's called different things. You can call it willpower. Um, emotional regulation is more of like the way we're talking about it these days.
[00:08:13] Mm-hmm. . But, um, everything takes from our ability to regulate. So I, I describe, um, you can think of it as like a battery or a cup, but I use, usually use the visual of a tape measure. . And so every single day, every person starts with a certain, certain amount of capacity to regulate. I'm like motioning with my hands, pulling out this tape measure.
[00:08:34] Um, and everybody's capacity is different. Okay? And so as the day goes, let's say you're, I'll do moms of littles type of example. You're getting ready for school. Um, you're doing that whole get your shoes on thing. I think that's like so common. Just get your shoes on as you're, as you're operating in this.
[00:08:54] you are using a bit of your capacity to regulate. You're just using a little bit. Um, if you get in the car, you're running on your way to school, you're running a bit late, you hit traffic. Mm. You just wanna scream, you use a little bit more. Now you've got this running list in your mind, right, that this is the mental load piece of, oh my gosh, Halloween's coming up.
[00:09:12] Have I ordered the costumes? Do I have candy? What's going on with the kids' classrooms? Like we should plan some special outings. Did we go apple picking? Like all of the things we think about this use. regulation capacity. And so the way that what, what is important through the day is that we. Fuel ourselves again, right?
[00:09:29] We, our, our tight measure keeps going, getting smaller and smaller unless we have moments of resetting and recharging, which can build it back up. But usually what happens is that we're way out of capacity to regulate and the mental load takes this. Capacity. It takes it up. It wears it out. This is physically exhausting.
[00:09:48] It's mo emotionally exhausting. Yeah. And this is one of the big reasons, um, where moms will say, I don't know why, but by the end of the day, I'm losing it on my kids. Yeah. Mm-hmm. . Yeah, because you've already used up your capacity. We have a limited amount of capacity to regulate every single day and we can recharge it, but we have a limited amount that we're each working with.
[00:10:10] Yeah. And. A lot of moms don't recharge during the day. We don't reset. And so we run out of capacity and we're, we're exhausted. Plus we look around and then you wanna regulate one more feeling. The feeling of, what the heck did I get done today? ? Yeah. How am I,
[00:10:25] Natalie: how does everybody else get so much done? Why am I my health a mess?
[00:10:30] Dr. Morgan: Yeah. Think of all these things as drains on that capacity. Mm-hmm. , um, self, self criticism, comparison, uh, All of these things. Mm-hmm. drain that capacity. So it's a powerful concept to understand.
[00:10:45] Natalie: So I just saw your tape measure. You know, when you like pull it out and it snaps. That's what I just saw happen.
[00:10:52] it. Like you pull it out and you forget. Push the little button and it's like mine just snapp. So , we know the problem. We have visualized this problem.
[00:11:02] Can you give us some things, some ways, you know, give yourself some grace, give us some things to work.
[00:11:09] Dr. Morgan: Oh yeah. There's so many things, so I will so, so pop in and ask me more questions if I just keep going.
[00:11:15] But I think there's lots of ways to tackle this. I think tackling the mental load is an, is an entire, um, beast on its own. That's also very important to manage in a relationship. But I think big picture, what we need to do is we need to reframe how we think about caring for ourselves. I think self care is another buzz.
[00:11:38] that's been going around a long time, but it's lost its potency. It's like a buzzword dying out. Mm-hmm. where we're like, we'll be like, moms, you need some self care. Whatever. Yeah. Yeah. We know. What does that even mean anymore? What does that even mean? Like, I, it doesn't, like I, I even hosted something today.
[00:11:54] Like it has to mean something different. We need to expand it. And so I wanna just like kind of urge everyone. To think about deep, meaningful self care is really in how we manage our relationship with ourselves. So we think of who, you know, we have a relationship with our kids, we have a relationship with our partners, with our coworkers, with, you know, your teacher, with your students.
[00:12:18] But we don't often think of having a relationship with ourselves, and it's one of the most important relationships we have because it feeds into everything else. And I don't. I don't mean that in the sense of, you know, fill your cup so you can pour into other people's. I mean, that does fit, but also like we have to have a full cup.
[00:12:39] Like we're , we're, we're regular human beings. That, that deserves that as well. And so part of it is managing our relationship with ourself differently. This involves things like, um, how in touch we feel with ourselves. So I think. . Um, there's these lots of moments in motherhood because it's such a shift in our identity and how we see ourselves that we'll have these moments where we're acting in a way that is like, gosh, that's not the me I thought I was.
[00:13:14] Where there's this disconnect or. I don't even really do anything that feels meaningful anymore, or I'm not pursuing stuff that brings me joy. So one piece of how we tend to ourselves, how we care for ourselves is by thinking about how connected are we to who we really are. And we might need to redefine that and shift that.
[00:13:35] let me back up one second. Another big picture thing with understanding it as a relationship with ourselves is that we have to regularly check in with our. So I'm giving you areas that you can check in on, um, to, to assess, you know, I'm feeling off what's going on with me, and then what can I do about it?
[00:13:52] And if I can't do anything about it right this moment, at least I've defined what I need to do and I can come back to it later. And sometimes definition to a feeling that isn't good can provide a lot of mm-hmm. relief. So one is, are you in the know with yourself? Are you connected with yourself? The other is, how do you see.
[00:14:12] So you see yourself in a positive light. I think this one needs more press. Like I think we need to talk about this one more, especially as women and moms of how we conceptualize ourselves. we construct a picture of ourselves in our minds. that we interact with. If we see ourselves, um, as a grumpy mom, we're gonna really focus in on that.
[00:14:33] If we see ourselves, it's like, I'm a hot, I'm a hot mess all the time. If that's what we focus on, we're going to feel that and it's gonna weigh on us and it's gonna drain our capacity. Mm-hmm. , um, guilt comes out of this. Um, self-criticism, judgment. And so sometimes when we kind of do a scan, we check in with ourselves, it becomes about, um, how am I thinking about myself right now?
[00:14:57] Mm-hmm. and is this really based in reality and how can I make shifts around that? Yeah.
[00:15:02] Natalie: Okay. So let me back ups with all of this, all of this. You've, you've, and all of this, you, I want you to give me more, but the first thing that comes to mind for me is I know I need to check in with. But I'm not even getting dinner made.
[00:15:47] Natalie: So
[00:15:48] how do you, how do you check in with yourself? What does that look like? Is it sit down with a journal and ask yourself certain questions? Is it meditation? Is it, how do you check in with yourself? You know?
[00:16:00] Dr. Morgan: Yeah. I'm a big believer and like we have to give mom. Moms tools and equip moms with strategies that don't add more to their plate.
[00:16:08] Absolutely. So I think, and that's what bugs me about the self care movement. Mm-hmm. is like, go exercise. Well, yeah, that always helps. Like for sure science says, you know, research after research will say that, but like, we don't always have. That time. Mm-hmm. . So, um, a check-in can look like whatever you have time to do.
[00:16:25] So if you don't have time to sit down with a journal, then that's not what your check-ins gonna look like. Has to be something that you can make happen. So if you've got that time, do it. It'll be wonderful for you. Be really like, Soul, I think like deeply nourishing to like sit down and really reflect on yourself.
[00:16:42] Sometimes it might be when you're going to the bathroom and you're just like taking that moment and you're like, you're all by
[00:16:48] Natalie: yourself. No one's bothering you. Hopefully,
[00:16:49] Dr. Morgan: hopefully, hopefully. I know now even our dog comes in, I can't get a minute. So we like take that deep, you know. Whew. That thing that we need to take that deep breath.
[00:16:57] Yes. Okay. And it's a quick scan and um, a book I have coming out in September gives, gives the framework for how you check. With yourself, um, and what you can do. And, and so there is a framework for it, but you check in like, okay, am I in touch with myself? What's going on? Is that feeling out of alignment?
[00:17:14] What's going on with how I'm seeing myself? Another is, um, around needs. What do I, what am I needing right now? Thinking we sometimes have a hard time defining what we need. Mm-hmm. , um, you know, how am I ranging my priorities? How is my physical self? You just do this quick in the moment. Scan, you can do it while you're making.
[00:17:32] I don't think that it needs to be a big event. It's just taking a moment to tune into you and determine, okay, where, where is, where are the needs? And it might be in every area. You might be like, I need it all. I feel just out of touch. I'm seeing myself horribly. I self-talk is negative. Um, but then you can at least be targeted.
[00:17:54] Okay, let's pick. I'm gonna be making dinner, I'm doing tuck in. I don't have any time to get away. So what can I do now in the moment to shift? And it might be an easy grab, is I have to start shifting the way that I'm thinking about myself and talking to myself in this moment. So there are things you can do without disrupting your routine that can be helpful, and then take off, um, some of that stuff that's draining your ability to, to regulate draining that, that battery or whatever you wanna.
[00:18:24] Tape measure
[00:18:27] Natalie: give. Okay, give me another one. So self-talk and the way that you can reverse it, give me another example of first step is to realize you're doing it right. Become aware of it, right? And then what to do about it. Because I can be aware of my negative self-talk, I can be aware that I am just overload.
[00:18:47] it's the,
[00:18:48] what steps do I take to get better that I think a lot of us struggle with.
[00:18:53] Dr. Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. So there's, um, so in the moment, so I like to give people an exercise that they can do outside of the moment. So, um, that would be more of a journal situation where you can come up with, Almost like what validates this self self-talk and what invalidates it.
[00:19:11] So it's like straight outta C B T cognitive behavioral therapy. What, when is this true? When is this not true? And usually, our self-talk is like really inaccurate. It's not usually based in reality. It's not a standard we would hold our friends to or anybody else to. It's not how we would talk to anybody we care about.
[00:19:31] Um, If you have time, you can sort of list those things out. What supports this, what, what negates this? And I say, then you come up with a replacement. And so the replacement is what you do in the moment because, and you can probably scan through some of these things if you're good at kind of thinking in this way.
[00:19:51] Um, you've probably scanned through some of this. In the moment cooking dinner. But I like people to have like a one liner that resets them in the moment for these situations. That is, feels true. It's like a, it's like a personal model motto that feels true. Um, and it, it helps you kind of snap back into shape, I think of it.
[00:20:11] Um, an example would be like, sorry. I'm thinking of horses. Horses are, when you're showing horses, they're sort of a lot of times kind of like slumping and slapping sloppy, and what you do is. Pull the reins and you squeeze your legs in and your knees and your heels and it, what it does is it gathers them, then their posture improves, their head is held high, and it changes everything in their presentation.
[00:20:35] And that's how I think of these statements. We have to come up with a few statements that are easy to grab in the moment when we're feeling really crappy. That is like, I'm gathered, my head is held high, I'm pulled together, and that helps to center me. I think the next step with some of these things, that is a bigger picture piece, which is, if you have challenged your yourself talk, if you've come up with a replacement, what behaviors, maybe one, maybe two behaviors can you incorporate to support that statement?
[00:21:05] You can change your beliefs, which can change your behavior, you can change your behavior, which will change your beliefs, but if you change both, you're really gonna pack a bigger punch. And so think about ways that you can incorporate some changes. So an example would be a stay at home mom with this belief, and I shouldn't need any help.
[00:21:24] There's a lot of stay at home moms that hold that very close to them, and so when they feel like they're failing or falling short and are drowning and need help, they don't ask for it because a good stay-at-home mom wouldn't need help as belief that is completely sabotaging. And so they run themselves ragged.
[00:21:44] They don't ask for help, and so part of it is challenging. Do I have other stay at home mom friends? Do they get help? Do I judge them? Do I think there's anything? Does um, is there anybody else I know that works? 24 7 job and never has a break? Mm-hmm. never has. So you start to challenge these things. Um, you come up with your one liner, which is whatever.
[00:22:04] I'll just come up with something, which could be, um, you know, it's okay if I need help. Everyone needs a break. Something, something more powerful than that. But you've come up with your one liner. So in the moment she's feeling overwhelmed. She's making dinner, she's like, oh, I shouldn't have to ask for help.
[00:22:19] Her partners may be sitting on the couch, is guilt is, is boiling over in her. But she's also frustrated cuz no one is helping her. But then it's conflicted. I shouldn't need the help. She centers herself with a statement and she incorporates a behavioral change and she forces herself to ask for help. Hey, I'm kind of drowning over here.
[00:22:36] Can you come take the kids while I'm finishing up dinner? Something along those lines. Mm-hmm. , um, kind of tackling these things from all angles.
[00:22:44] Natalie: Yeah. I love that concept and I have a, a small group of women that meets once a week, and it's been such a blessing and that very topic just came up in asking for help.
[00:22:56] Yeah. And how asking for help actually gives the person helping you a, a way to feel. That you're actually giving it back to them where they feel like, oh, you need me, and that's a good thing. Yeah. I'm so guilty of, doing it all and feeling like, oh, I couldn't ever ask for help. Not realizing that I'm shutting people out, my neighbors and my girlfriends, and who want to be a part of your life in that.
[00:23:23] Dr. Morgan: Yes. I think that's such a wonderful perspective on it. There's a lot of pushback on asking for help , so I love to talk about that, that, um, conflict that we have about asking for help. But, you know, when you show up for someone else, it feels good to you. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And so you're absolutely right that like when we invite our partners in, it's, we're also giving them something by letting them be a part of things.
[00:23:47] I, something I say often is we need to rebrand, asking. As insulting because, um, when it comes to the mental load, especially, there's a lot of pushback where people will say, I shouldn't have to ask. And I have like a whole theory on why we should have to ask , but, um, I shouldn't have to ask, they should just know, um, or asking is more on my plate.
[00:24:10] How come I have to take this on, like it's now, this is more on my mental load that now I have to delegate and ask and all of these things. And so I, I think we have to rebrand it as involving, um, it's inviting, like you said, our partners in to be a part of things, and it's also letting them see the invisibl