Done with Dieting Episode #151: The Mental Offload with Shawna Samuel

The Mental Offload with Shawna Samuel

Ever feel like you’re constantly bombarded by societal expectations and pressures, especially as a woman? Well, you’re not alone. 

I recently had an eye-opening chat with Shawna Samuel, the founder of Mental Offload, and we dove into this hot topic, exploring how imperative it is to subtract these pressures to reclaim our time and energy. Shawna’s insights on shedding the perennial need to please others, to make space for self-care and personal growth, are just the wake-up call we all need.

Navigating the labyrinth of household chores and responsibilities often brings its own set of challenges. The talk with Shawna brought to light the concept of weaponized incompetence, and how it’s often entwined with maternal gatekeeping. These patterns can strain relationships, but more importantly, they can impact our ability to trust and allow space for our partners to learn. We dug into how we can shift these dynamics and embrace a more balanced, equitable approach at home.

Finally, we took a hard look at the mental load that women, particularly women of color, carry. This emotional and mental burden is often underappreciated, yet it can steal precious time from self-improvement and skill-building. Shawna shared practical advice on how to offload this mental load, making decisions about travel, childcare, and self-care that put you first. 

Listen in and discover how to challenge societal norms, advocate for your personal space, and set the path for a life that’s balanced and fulfilling.

About Shawna Samuel

Shawna is an executive leadership & productivity coach for women and the host of The Mental Offload podcast. She’s the founder of The Mental Offload, which specializes in helping women balance demanding jobs and busy family lives, without losing their minds. Shawna has led teams across 20 global markets in her professional life and holds an MBA from Yale in addition to Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching. She lives with her husband and 2 children in Paris.

Chapter Summaries

Subtracting Struggles for Women’s Success (0:00:01) 

We discuss expectations from society, how to take back our time and energy, and the importance of saying no.

Challenges With Delegating Household Chores (0:17:25) 

We examine weaponized incompetence, maternal gatekeeping, and how expectations can impact trust and learning.

The Mental Load and Gender Equality (0:24:01) 

We examine the emotional and mental toll of appearance expectations on women of color, and how this can lead to gender gaps.

Minimizing the Mental Load for Women (0:46:48) 

Put ourselves first to reduce mental load, advocate for space and time, and make decisions on travel, childcare, and self-care.

Offloading the Mental Load (0:56:36) 

Women reduce mental load, reduce expectations, and prioritize self-care to improve emotional and mental well-being.

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What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Societal expectations for women can make them undervalue their time and feel compelled to say yes to others, highlighting the need to unlearn these beliefs for personal well-being.
  • The unequal division of household chores, where women handle daily tasks and childcare, while men are assigned less frequent chores, resulting in a gender imbalance.
  • You’ll discover that it’s best to return a task to your partner for correction, using guidance and humor to encourage learning and challenge the idea that you must handle everything yourself.
  • Explore the mental load women bear regarding appearance, its time-consuming nature, and the added challenges for women of color regarding professional standards.
  • The importance of support and teamwork in managing daily responsibilities and how it challenges the unrealistic expectation that women should handle everything on their own, drawing from historical examples of household staff.
  • The pressure women face as holiday project managers and the idea of reclaiming their own time and priorities during these occasions.
  • The significance of prioritizing self-care while having children dispels the misconception that it equates to neglecting family responsibilities.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

And there’s also this sort of companion phenomenon. In the parental realm, they call it maternal gatekeeping. This idea that I have to do it myself because I don’t really trust the other person to do this well or to do this my way.

This can come up outside of the child care realm as well. This can come up with any chore where it’s like, I don’t want to put up with their grumping about it. I don’t really trust that they’re going to do it properly. I’m probably going to end up having to redo it myself. So, why do I even bother asking?

Welcome to the Done With Dieting Podcast, where it’s all about designing the life, you want in midlife. I’m your host, Elizabeth Sherman, a master certified life and health coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, feminist coach, and specialist in women’s hormones.

Are you tired of scales, food logs, and strict diets? Struggling with hormonal symptoms and the challenges of aging, changing relationships, and entering the next phase of your life? You have come to the right place.

Here, we talk about food freedom, nurturing a better relationship with your body, and feeling great again. All without the weight of traditional dieting methods.

Through a mix of solo podcasts and conversations with industry experts, I’m here to guide you towards a healthier, happier you.

Join me as we explore ways to look and feel better and strive for optimal health regardless of where you are in your journey. But more importantly, to reclaim control, confidence, and joy in this beautiful stage of life.

This is the Done With Dieting podcast. Let’s dive in.

And so, there’s this phenomenon of us sort of self-censoring. Before we even ask for help, we decide we’re just not going to make the ask because ultimately, it’s not worth it.

Hey there, welcome back to the podcast. We are kicking off something special today. Today we are kicking off the holiday health series where we dive into how you can take better care of yourself during this most hectic time of the year.

So, you know how the holidays can be a time of joy for sure. It can also be a time of stress, extra duties, and yes, that invisible workload that just seems to double all of your work.

Well, I brought in an expert to help us unpack it all. Meet Shauna Samuels, founder of The Mental Offload Coaching and podcast by the same name. She is a powerhouse who’s all about helping high achieving women, just like you, reclaim their time and energy.

Today we are digging into how societal expectations and ingrained behaviors are adding unnecessary weight to your to do list. Like, have you ever found yourself stuck doing all of the holiday prep while everyone else around you is enjoying their own merriment?

You’re frustrated that you’re the go to for all things family, home, and holiday. If so, we’ve got tips on how to delegate effectively so you’re not carrying the entire holiday season on your shoulders. We also tackle the tricky subject of the emotional and mental toll all of this takes, particularly for women of color.

You’re going to hear real talk on how to minimize that mental load. And no, this isn’t just about adding more self-care to your already packed list. It’s about freeing up space in your life so that you can show up as your best self for you and everyone around you. By the end of this conversation, you will walk away with actionable advice on how to manage the overwhelm that can come with the holidays.

So go ahead and pour yourself a cup of something cozy, find your favorite chair, and let’s dive in. This is one conversation that you are not going to want to miss.

Elizabeth: All right, everyone, welcome Shawna Samuel to our podcast today.

Shawna, I am so excited to have you here because I think that this really just encapsulates so many of the struggles that women face, what you do, how you help your clients. So, first of all, let’s introduce you. Who are you? Who do you help? What do you do?

Shawna: Elizabeth, I am so thrilled to be here with you. This is so fun. I’m Shawna Samuel, and I’m the founder of a coaching practice called the “Mental Offload.” And really what I do is I work with high achieving, sometimes perfectionist women on really taking back their time and their energy and being able to lead in a world that is often biased.

So, many of my clients are in pretty highly demanding professional roles and being able to lead both in the workplace and at home requires offloading a lot of stuff that does not serve us in life.

Elizabeth: Oh, I love that. Because so often we’re thinking that we need to add things, right? And so, what you’re saying is subtract. So, let’s talk a little bit about that. Like what are some of the things that women need to subtract from their lives?

Shawna: Ah, so this is a good one. I love talking math. I think subtraction is such a key thing. Because as women, we are often told that we just need to, as you said, like, just keep adding more and more, do more and more, and do things for everyone around us.

So, part of what the idea of subtraction is about, what I talk about is like, let’s talk about household math. There are three people who can do any task in a household. There’s you, if you are partnered, there’s your partner, and there are outside individuals who you bring in to support you as part of your team.

So, some of what we can subtract is individual. I happen to love baking, so I don’t subtract that from my list of things to do, but I subtract a lot of cooking and cleaning. Whereas for some of my clients, it might be different. But the main thing that everyone needs to subtract, and this is universal, I think are the expectations that we receive about all the things that we should be doing.

So, we kind of start by having to look at, like, what do we get told that we need to be doing in the world? And then, start to question it and be like, all right, what do we want to subtract? What no longer is sparking joy in our lives and households?

Elizabeth: Yeah. And I think that that’s actually really super important. And I’m glad that we started off with this because I think that for so many women listening, they are on this health thing. And we all know what we’re supposed to be doing, right?

We all know that we’re supposed to be eating vegetables. We all know that we’re supposed to be moving and being physically active. We all know that we need to sleep more and meditate and like all of the things that are marketed towards women.

And when we can’t do all of those things, or when we stop doing those things, or when we’re not able to keep it up, be consistent, be disciplined enough. Right? That’s what were the voices in our heads are saying, you’re just not disciplined, or you’re just not consistent, you need to get consistent.

It’s usually because there’s something else in our life that is butting up against that commitment to ourselves. And that other thing is the thing that we’re prioritizing, right? And so, when we say things like stop people pleasing, I don’t know that many of us really see that how it impacts our health. Right?

Shawna: A hundred percent. I always think that like, one of the first ways that we see people pleasing is that it shows up on our calendars. It shows up in how we’re choosing to use our time. Society tells us, that before we’re allowed to do those things to take good care of ourselves, we’re supposed to make sure that all the household cleaning is done. Make sure that everyone else has lunches packed. Make sure that we’ve, you know, driven people to appointments or after school activities if we have kids.

So, we have this whole running to do list of things that we’re supposed to do before we’re allowed to be concerned with ourselves. And so, we can see that people pleasing in our time and what we prioritize to do first, right?

So, many of us think the only way to get it all done is to put myself last. And that is the kind of thinking that we absolutely need to start turning on its head if we really want to be healthy and have sustainable success, both professionally and personally.

Elizabeth: Yeah, so that’s really hard. Right? Putting ourselves last seems like the easy thing to do because everyone else is coming at us, right? Everyone else is demanding from us.

Now, to the listeners who are listening right now. You need to know that Shawna and I met through the Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching. And so, why that’s important is because we are socialized as women to take on all of these things.

We are taught as women that our time is not valuable. That anyone can ask of us, and also that we are not allowed to say no. Right?

Shawna: Absolutely. Yeah. So, one of the things that we get told so often is that we should be at the service of others. We are supposed to be human givers, not human beings. And so, anytime someone else has a request, whether it’s at home, or this happens in the workplace as well.

If someone else asks us to be a team player and pitch in on a project, or our boss asks us to just take on this one additional little thing. Being able to say no in a way that protects our time, we’re told that that’s selfish and that’s wrong. And so, it requires, I think, a lot of unlearning of these messages that we internalize.

Elizabeth: Well, and something that is just so simple, like I was talking to a client the other day and she was telling me a story about how she asked her partner to do something. She was washing dishes and it was something that was a little bit complicated or heavy. I don’t remember what it was. But he asked her, Hey, is there someone who could help me with this?

And her initial reaction was I need to be the one to help him with it. Right? Like when someone asks us, Hey, is there someone that can help me with this? We Initially, like internalize that to be, we’re the ones that have to answer that. Right?

Shawna: Yes.

Elizabeth: But we really don’t.

Shawna: So true. And it’s very uncomfortable though, right? Because sometimes we feel like everyone’s kind of looking in our direction, expecting us to raise a hand and volunteer to be the person who helps.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And then, what it means about us or what they’re going to think about us if we don’t. Right?

Shawna: A hundred percent. We’ve all got that little voice in our head, that’s telling us, Oh, we should be doing more. I should be taking care of this. People are going to think I’m a bad person.

Elizabeth: If I don’t volunteer. Yeah.

Shawna: Yeah. So, all of this conspires to make us want to put ourselves last. It seems like the easiest course. And I think the reality is that in the short term, it usually is the easier course, right? It’s often easier to be like, Oh, I’m just going to, I’m going to step in and do the dishes. Or I’m going to be the one to organize the party at the birthday parties at the office.

That in the short term, often feels like the easier and quicker route to just get things done. And what we discount though is the longer term cost of that. Because when we’re constantly putting ourselves last, when we’re the ones who are constantly over giving.

When we don’t build a team and ask for the support that we need, over the long term, this is where we end up burning out professionally. Where we end up being very resentful in our relationships.

And ultimately, as I’ll bet you’ve seen with many of your clients, like your health starts to suffer.

Elizabeth: Well, yeah, because we’re doing all of these things for other people. And so, we don’t have time for meal planning, or exercise, or whatever it is because those things get crowded out. So yeah.

Now, as you were talking, it reminded me that there’s going to be an episode coming out called Weaponized Incompetence. And so, let’s talk about that a little bit in the context of what you’re talking about right now.

So, I think that for many women, well first, Let’s define it. But also, I think that for many women listening right now, they’re like, well, of course, I have to do everything because if I don’t, then everyone else is going to mess it up. Right?

They’re not going to do it right. And I don’t know if that’s because I’m too demanding. I’m too controlling or what. So, let’s talk a little bit about weaponized incompetence. And then, also why it is that we feel that we need to do all of the things, whether it’s in work or whether it’s in our home.

Shawna: Great. So, maybe I’ll just back up for a moment and talk a little bit about the mental load at home and how this tends to play out statistically. So, when we talk about the mental load overall, just to kind of set expectations for the audience, the mental load, we tend to talk about it as being around mostly the household and it’s particularly problematic once people have children in a relationship, but not only.

Even in couples without children, there is a huge imbalance in who does the chores at home. And so, what we noticed statistically, and this holds across many different countries, is that people who are socialized as women tend to do on average three, sometimes more hours of chores per week versus people who are socialized as men.

And that number just goes up, if there are kids in the household because people who are socialized as women end up taking on a much larger share of childcare at home. And it’s not just the amount of chores, it’s also the kind of chores and work that gets done.

So, what we’ve noticed is that in the household, people who are socialized as women often tend to do the daily chores, the cooking, washing up of dishes, the meal planning, all those little daily chores, the laundry, exactly.

And people socialized as men tend to be given the chores that are a little bit more occasional. So, it might be like taking out the trash, cleaning the gutters, hanging up the Christmas lights. So, their chores are maybe not done every day.

So, we see an imbalance, not just in the amount of time that people are putting against chores in a household, but also the kinds of things that we expect people of different genders to do in the household.

When we start to talk about weaponized incompetence. Weaponized incompetence for listeners who aren’t familiar with the term, this is a really interesting phenomenon where sometimes what you see in households is if someone asks another person in the household to do a chore that is not typically on their list or not what they consider to be something that they should be doing as a way to not continue to do it, they just do it badly.

So, this is like, they put the dishes in the dishwasher in such a jumble that nothing gets clean. And then, you go to take a dish out of the dishwasher for dinner the next day and it’s like, we can’t eat off this plate. I have to redo all the d*mn dishes.

So, weaponized incompetence is this really specific phenomenon of doing chores really badly in the hopes that you will not be asked to do that chore again.

Elizabeth: Do you think that that’s conscious?

Shawna: Such a great question. And I think that there’s a spectrum here as there are in most behaviors. I think some people do do this on purpose.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Shawna: They think, if I do this badly enough, she’s not going to ask me to do it again. But I think for a lot of people, there is just this kind of subtle voice in their head that’s like, I really shouldn’t be wasting my time on this crap.

Let me figure out the easiest and quickest way to get this done because I really don’t care about the dishes, for example.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Shawna: So, I think there is that as well.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, and then there’s the other piece. I Think it was almost two years ago, Michelle Runnels. She gave a really great example about how we ask our kids to like, for example, pick up the dog poop in the backyard.

And the kid is just like grumping and grunting, you know, just irritated that they have to do this thing. And so, we would rather do it ourselves than listen to that person. It’s a little bit different than weaponized incompetence, but it’s still the same concept of I’ve asked this person to do something. They’re not doing it in the way that I want them to do it. Right? And so, I just find it easier to do it myself.

Shawna: Yeah. This is a really interesting distinction that comes up a lot when we talk about the mental load, because there are people who employ weaponized incompetence as a strategy to get out of doing their fair share at home.

And there’s also this sort of companion phenomenon. In the parental realm, they call it maternal gatekeeping. This idea that I have to do it myself because I don’t really trust the other person to do this well or to do this my way.

This can come up outside of the child care realm as well. This can come up with any chore where it’s like, I don’t want to put up with their grumping about it. I don’t really trust that they’re going to do it properly. I’m probably going to end up having to redo it myself. So, why do I even bother asking?

And so, there’s this phenomenon of us sort of self-censoring. Before we even ask for help, we decide we’re just not going to make the ask because ultimately, it’s not worth it. And I always try to challenge people on this because I’m like, I get it. Your partner is not a child. But if this were your child, you would probably expect it that they would do this very badly, five or 10 times before they figured out how to do it and they didn’t put up a temper tantrum about doing it.

And with our kids were like, Yeah, that’s just how kids operate. Like I got to give them some guidance and let them sulk it out a little bit while they’re picking up that dog poop. But when it comes to our spouse and having them do a load of laundry, we sometimes take it personally if they’re not all like sunshine and daisies about doing it, or they’re not as fastidious and knowledgeable about it from the start.

So, I’m like, sometimes we need to give our household partners the space to be angry and annoyed about doing a chore. Or we need to give them the space and guidance to learn to do it correctly over time, instead of taking everything on from the start.

Elizabeth: Ask you a question. Let’s say that I asked my partner to do a specific chore and let’s say it’s washing the dishes. And he washes all of the fronts of the dishes, but not the backs of the dishes, or washes the silverware, but not the handles. You know how it’s like kind of half there.

Anyway, do you suggest that they make that person do it again or fix the problem themselves?

Shawna: So, I think some of this depends on your particular partner and how they operate and present things. But in most cases, what I recommend is giving it back to them to redo. Sometimes with some guidance and some humor, it could be like, whoops, forgot that the plates have a back. You need to go back and redo these.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Shawna: And sometimes we might have less humor to offer about it. And we might be like, let me back up and represent this activity both sides need a wash. So, your tone will depend a little bit on your partner and what they respond to. But I think there are very few cases where it’s actually beneficial in the long run to take that task back over because what it does is it reinforces that you’re always going to be the one to fix the gaps.

Number two, it reinforces that you don’t think that they’re capable of learning to do it properly. And number three, I think it reinforces that you probably should be doing it all anyway, which is reinforces that belief that we sometimes have.

So, for all those reasons, I think it’s a really good idea to give the task back and offload it where you can.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And I think that the hesitation that many women have is that they are resentful. That they have to do that in the first place. And you had mentioned resentment earlier on in the interview. I think that resentment comes from not asking for what you want. And I noticed this in my own life just recently that once I started voicing what I wanted, and I’m getting better at it, that resentment kind of goes away.

Shawna: Yeah. I read something really interesting about the emotion of resentment. So, I had always thought that resentment was a close cousin of anger. You know, some annoyance, some deep annoyance and frustration, that comes out as resentment. And as I was reading some work by Brene Brown and some emotion researchers, what I learned is that resentment is actually closest to envy.

What’s really coming up when we feel resentful in our relationships is often, we’re envious of the freedom of the other person to not care about this or not have to do it.

So, I think it’s amazing to be able to give voice to our own resentment, but also recognize that when that comes up for us, that it’s often a feeling of envy for freedom that we think our partners have that we don’t get to have. And allowing ourselves challenging that thinking, mind ourselves, Hmm, maybe I really do have this freedom, I just need to give voice to it is really important.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that is so good because I read Atlas from the Heart as well, which is where she talked about it. And it has completely changed my relationship with resentment. I grew up feeling resentful. Resentment is a family emotion. And once I started asking myself when I felt resentment, why do I feel resentment? What am I envious of?

Like where is this coming from, it’s really allowed me to open up and see where I haven’t been showing up for myself.

Shawna: So true. Right? And often, what we find when we do that is that there are some ways that we’re telling ourselves that our needs have to come below, the needs and desires of someone else.

Elizabeth: Yes. Yeah, that also ties into like the people pleasing with, you know, I’m afraid of disappointing them or them being upset with me. And so, yeah, all of that stuff is so good. Thank you.

So, one of the reasons that I reached out to you to be on the show today is because I was in the shower, and for those of you who follow me on social, you probably know that I used to have straight hair. I’ve straightened my hair for years. And about a year ago, I decided to embrace my natural curls.

And in that process, I had to learn about my curly hair. Shawna, you have curly hair or wavy hair. I don’t know, whatever you call it. And there are so many videos and information about products to buy, about how to do your hair that I was completely overwhelmed.

And one day I was in the shower. I don’t know, I was thinking about like a cold rinse on my hair and I was like, Oh, that’s supposed to like close up the cuticles. And then, immediately afterwards, I was like, why do I know this information? And I was like, I bet my husband doesn’t know this information that putting a cold rinse on your hair at the end of the shower will close up the cuticles.

And so, like this mental offload that all of the things that women know that women have to know and do, it like really hit hard at that time. Because it’s not just about work. It’s not just about home and we all know the Jenga like schedules that you have to keep and the family obligations and social schedules and stuff like that.

But then, there’s also this other mental capacity that we have to address, which is looking nice and appearing nice. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

Shawna: I love this. As a fellow curly girl, I can absolutely relate. It’s so funny because it kind of can sound frivolous. We’re like, oh, you know, hair care stuff, but the reality is like learning about this stuff. And then, doing it takes an inordinate amount of time. Time that traditionally falls on women and even more so on women of color. The beauty and makeup and fashion things that we are encouraged to do to look quote, unquote, presentable, and professional.

Even today, as we record this episode, there are black women who are being told that they cannot wear their natural hair to work because it is not professional. And the amount of time that they have to spend on things to quote, unquote, look professional is not negligible.

Let’s just think about it. Like, if you’re spending, let’s give a conservative estimate and say that it takes you about an hour a day. Most people to get ready and take care of ourselves. Some people spend more time than that. That’s a solid 365 hours in a year that we’re devoting to looking acceptable to show up in public.

This is not typically stuff that people socialized as men feel the need to worry about on the same level. And you know, we cannot say, Oh, it’s just time, but then you think about what’s the opportunity cost of having to invest so much in this kind of knowledge. And it’s not just in the beauty sphere either.

I was talking to some people the other day; we were talking about doing laundry. I was like, think about the amount of technical knowledge that you need to successfully do a load of laundry without ruining any item in that. You need to know stuff about wash temperatures and fabrics and what kinds of products work best for different kinds of stains, right?

All this kind of stuff that we discount as if it’s nothing, but it takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes skill. And what we aren’t able to invest in when we’re spending an hour or two a day on these bits of mental load, it’s stuff like our health, our personal and professional development.

You know, this old study that like to become an expert in a field, you need to devote 10, 000 hours and every time we are not able to invest our time into the things and the things that society rewards and puts money against. We’re creating these gaps, these gender gaps in society.

So, I think about it in two ways. One, it kind of a piece of the mental load that we need to address, but it has these super huge snowball effects that I think so many of us care deeply about as we like, see these gaps open up in society. Because we’re not able to use our time to in a way that allows us to close those gaps.

Elizabeth: Yeah. You know, it’s so interesting that you talk about that because one author that I really like is Benjamin Hardy. But I’ve honestly stopped following him because he’s a man who has a wife that takes care of all of his family obligations. And I’m probably making an assumption here, Benjamin Hardy, if you’re listening to me, which probably not.

But I am unwilling to take personal development advice and time management advice, like the four hour work week. It’s just bro stuff that doesn’t apply to women. And I’m unwilling to invest in that stuff anymore. Right. Because it just makes me feel bad. It’s like, I should be able to do the things that these men are doing, but I can’t. Right?

Shawna: Absolutely. And I think so many people who are out there in public positions or in the working world in leadership positions. They don’t talk about or acknowledge all the behind the scenes help and support that allows them to be able to go out.

And if you’re out there presenting on stages about your work three times every month, then there’s typically someone who’s taking care of things at home. At least in some dimension to enable you to go out and do those things.

And so, I totally agree with you that there’s just whole portions of industries that are built on failing to acknowledge the unpaid labor and the behind the scenes work that makes all this stuff possible. So, it’s very easy to say, go out and spend two to three hours in a gym every day.

If you are a single dude who has no children or who has a stay at home spouse who’s taking care of all that stuff. And very easy to say, eat three, perfectly balanced, hundred percent perfectly nutritious meals every day, seven days a week. If you have a support team for that.

And so, I think on one hand, we shouldn’t be taking that advice from those people who aren’t acknowledging the unpaid labor. But the one piece of things that I do want to steal from them, I don’t know Benjamin Hardy, so I won’t say him specifically. But the one thing that I do encourage us to steal is this idea that we deserve a team. That we deserve to have backing and that we shouldn’t be forced to go it all alone in all of these areas.

And I think that’s part of like why people come to us as coaches like we’re probably in many cases the first person that they’ve ever had on their team.

Elizabeth: Yes. Absolutely. And I actually just released a podcast episode that was about, if you see me online, you probably think that I can do it all on my own. And since we’ve moved to Mexico, I have a housekeeper that comes in three days a week. She doesn’t do my laundry. She does do my husband’s laundry. And we also have a private chef that comes in four days a week to do meal preparation because my business has gotten to a point where I just don’t have time for that anymore.

And it’s this unspoken thing that we don’t talk about as women. We don’t talk about the help that we have behind the scenes. That is paid because there is this expectation that we are supposed to do it all on our own, right?

Shawna: 100%. And I think it’s brilliant that you’re shining a light on the reality of like, it does take a team to get a lot of our stuff done. And I like to say, like, we’re encouraged as women to do it all, but you can’t do it all and have it all. You get to choose kind of one or the other.

So, if you really want to have it all, it also means having a team and being able to offload some of the things that you would otherwise be doing. I’m late to the game on this, but I recently started watching Downton Abbey.

And I’ve been struck by the fact that even less than a hundred years ago, there were still households that existed like this with significant staff, keeping a large house spotless and running is more than a full time job.

We’ve inherited those same standards, but we have not kept the staff on board. We’ve expected that like one human being, usually a woman, will be able to do it all. And it’s more than a full time job. It’s just not realistic.

Elizabeth: Yeah. I love that because like the 1980s really kind of did a number on us, right? Where women started entering the workforce and they were expected to maintain the household and be presentable. Whereas before, like you just had the household, right? But now with working, we’ve now added that on and none of it was offloaded to men at the time. Right?

Shawna: Absolutely. I think there was so much pressure on women in the 80s. I can only imagine what that was like to be part of that generation who was going into work and then trying to come home and still maintain all the standards as if they had no paid employment.

And we’re still living with some of the results of that here in the 2020s. We still expect that women are going to go out and have paid employment and also be stay at home equivalent parent, and also be a perfect, sexy, attractive spouse. We’ve kept all these same standards and just expected that like women can quickly change hats from hour to hour and be all these things.

So, this is not sustainable. It’s not sustainable. It’s not healthy. And it really requires us to pretend as if we have zero needs of our own as our time gets squeezed out.

Elizabeth: Yeah. So good. Okay. Let’s shift gears just a little bit. The holidays are upon us and there’s a whole bunch of mental load that comes along with that. So, hosting holiday dinners, parties, gifts, decorations, holiday cards. Do people do that anymore? I stopped doing that years ago. So, let’s talk a little bit about that and the offload that women can do during the holidays.

Shawna: This is such a great topic because the holidays are high pressure in a lot of households, and there tends to be a ton of overwhelm. What I’ve noticed, especially amongst parents of young children is that sometimes the holiday overwhelms ramps up even more. Because not only are we trying to create good holidays for our families. But if you have kids, like I need to be making memories for them. This was me, I was like, now I need to send out holiday cards, because people really do need an update.

So, whatever socialization we have about how to be a great partner and spouse will kick in tenfold during the holidays. I’m actually, I’m going to be running a masterclass all on Holiday Overwhelm shortly because this is such a big topic.

So, my tips on this really tactically. Pick three things about the holidays that you really want to make happen. What’s important in terms of your traditions and household activities that you absolutely hundred percent want to make happen. And really focus in on those three things.

Because here’s the thing. I think that the people around us pick up on the mood, the feeling in the household, more than all the trappings and trimmings. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, put upon, frustrated, that’s the mood that you’re creating around the holidays in your household.

So, start with how you want the holidays to feel. You want them to feel relaxed, happy, connected. Start with how you want them to feel and then prioritize the three things that are going to make that happen and focus on those three things. That’s then require offloading some expectations and some tasks.

One of the things that I did during the pandemic was all the department stores here in Paris where I’m located were closed for a little bit during the pandemic. And so, the only way to really get gifts was to go through this personal shopping service. And they would literally text me pictures back and say, do you like this toy or this toy? What do you think about this or that?

And to be honest, it was the Easiest holiday gift giving experience I’d ever had. I was like, I’ll take items 1, 3 & 8. They wrapped them up and they sent them to my house. And I’d never done that before. But this is a strategy that I employ now, I don’t recommend it to all of my clients because some of them really enjoy shopping. But for me and for some of my clients, this is an easy thing to offload.

There are so many services that can do this kind of thing. You ask them, give me five ideas for something for my super picky mother in law.

Elizabeth: Oh my God, that’s amazing.

Shawna: And then, they can wrap them and send it up.

Elizabeth: I love that. I love that. When we think about the holidays for so many women, I know that this happened myself early in my life. And I think that this probably also happened with my mother is that we have this idea that we want to create this mood for the day of Christmas or the day of Thanksgiving or the day of whatever, the party.

And we think that people are going to be so happy and joyful and they’re really just themselves, right? And then, we get resentful because we’re going around trying to create this mood when they don’t enjoy it or they’re not showing their appreciation or whatever it is. And we feel very put upon.

And so, yeah, I love the idea of minimizing, only focusing on those things that really make an impact because I love Martha Stewart and all of her stuff is so beautiful, but it’s a really high bar, right? Like that’s her job.

Shawna: I’m a total Martha Stan. I love her stuff and I can’t always execute to that level and not be worn out by it. So, I think like really focusing on, and I would put it this way because I think you make a good point, but sometimes if you’re trying to engineer how everyone else in the room thinks and feels, then it’s going to be a very draining, resentful experience. I like to focus on how do I want to feel.

Elizabeth: Oh, so good.

Shawna: Do I want to feel connected? Do I want to feel joyful? Do I want to feel loving? And what do I need to do, and very importantly, not do in order to help myself feel that way. And if I’m spending time decorating Martha’s cookies with a beautiful royal icing and trying to get it all beautiful. Then, I’m probably yelling at my kids and telling them not to mess up the decorations. When I’m focused on feeling connection and joy, then I either skip the cookies or I let them be really sloppy because we’re having fun.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Going back to the mental offload for just a second. There is a coach, who’s very popular on social media. And I think it was last year that at Thanksgiving, her partner asked her, like, what do you want me to do for Thanksgiving dinner? She was having her entire family over for dinner, and she was just done with it. She called up her family, she canceled Thanksgiving, and she took off for Maine for an entire week. And I was just like, oh my gosh, the audacity, that is truly amazing.

Shawna: Yeah, I love it. I totally love it. I remember seeing that post and just thinking, way to go, right? Because we put so much pressure to make perfect holidays. And if what we really want is a week in a cabin in Maine, why not let other people sort themselves out if it’s not bringing you joy.

Elizabeth: Right. But it speaks to the idea that women become the project managers in their family. Right? And tell everyone else what they have to do. And yeah. And everyone is like, I don’t know what to do, ask mom.

Shawna: Totally. And as much as I talk about like being the CEO of your own life, one of the things that I hear from a lot of women is like, I don’t want to feel like the CEO of my household. Like the one that everyone comes to, to manage the projects, and make the decisions and tell other people. Exactly.

They’re like, I want a co-founder. I want someone who’s really sitting next to me at the table and being part of this decision making process as invested as I am. And I love really kind of thinking about how can we bring more of that co-founder energy and expectation to our lives at home.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Oh, so good. So, what else do we need to talk about as far as the mental load that women carry and how to get rid of that? Did we cover all the topics? I’m sure that we haven’t because you have a whole incredible podcast about it.

Shawna: You know, if we were to cover all the topics, we could be here until well after the new year. But I think we’ve done a really good job of talking about some of the basics of what women need to know and what they can do.

But if I had to leave people with one sort of really important thing that I don’t think that we have covered. It’s this idea that instead of putting ourselves last, maybe putting ourselves first is necessary. In order to live the lives that we want to live and start to reduce the mental load. It’s not selfish. I like to call itself full.

Elizabeth: Talk a little bit more about that. What does that mean to you when you put yourself first? Because a lot of people are like, well, I can’t possibly put myself first because I have kids. Right?

Shawna: But the reality is you can, even when you have kids. I have two kids at home, one of whom is a preschooler. So, you can do things to put yourself first. And what it means. Here’s what it does not mean. I think some people when they hear put yourself first.

What they think is like, well, then, I guess I would just get up and go to work and leave everyone to get themselves to school and not care if anybody has lunch or dinner. I’d just be over in the gym working out and then I’d be like, see you all later. Plan your own vacation.

Elizabeth: Peace out.

Shawna: So, peace out. That’s like our vision of what putting yourself first, means. But what it really means in practice is not like, screw all y’all, I’m out. It’s really starting by thinking about what do I need and want to support me so that I can operate as at my best, both for me and as a parent and as a partner.

And so, I do this and I encourage clients to do this every single week when we’re thinking about our priorities and our time and how we want to show up. And sometimes that means advocating for a decision.

My spouse and I often have business travel that comes up at the same time. And so, it’s being able to advocate for how are we going to make decisions about whose travel gets prioritized, how we cover childcare during that time. Putting yourself first also means advocating for the space and time that you need to be able to show up as your best self.

So, if that’s I need half an hour every day to go out and take a walk, or I really would like to sign up for this yoga class so that I can come to our household feeling calm and relaxed. It’s being able to advocate for that or being able to advocate for the support you need, so that you’re not doing it all at home.

Elizabeth: So good. Yeah, exactly. I love everything you’ve said. All right, Shawna, so if people want to work with you or find you on the interwebs or find out more about you. Where can they find you? How can they work with you? Tell us about your upcoming masterclass. Tell us all the things.

Shawna: Excellent. So, for those who want to find me, I have an amazing podcast that’s all about work life balance, it’s called the ‘Mental Offload Podcast.’ It’s available on all the major podcast players.

And for those who want to dive a little bit deeper into the work that I’m doing at the Mental Offload, the upcoming masterclass, just come on over to And you can sign up to get updates on the upcoming master class. As well as each week, I send out a really actionable tip to help people achieve balance without burnout. So, that comes out once a week.

Elizabeth: Awesome. Well, thank you for being here. This was an amazing conversation. I’m so glad that we talked about all of the things. And yeah, thanks again.

Shawna: Thank you so much for having me. This is such a fun conversation and I hope that all of your listeners walked away knowing that this stuff, even though society is telling us that we’ve got to do it all, we can start to offload the mental load.

We don’t have to be hanging on to all of it. And when we free up that space, it has such an amazing effect on our lives. So, thank you for being part of helping make this change happen in the world. It’s so needed.

Elizabeth: Thank you.

All right, that was such an eye opener. I want to give a huge shout out to Shawna Samuel for joining me and shedding light on the invisible workload that so many of us deal with, especially around the holidays. We tackled how societal expectations can clutter up your calendars and your minds.

Two concepts that I think are super important as we walk into the holidays are one, weaponized incompetence. That’s when someone pretends that they can’t do a task just so that you’ll do it for them. And the second is Maternal Gatekeeping, which is basically when we don’t give our partners or others the chance to contribute because we don’t think they’re going to do it right. Changing those patterns can free up time and mental energy.

Also, I want to highlight our conversation on the mental load that so many women carry around, often more so for women of color. The takeaway here is not about adding another yoga class to your schedule. It’s about saying no when you need to and creating space for what truly matters to you.

Now, if you’re nodding along and thinking, I need to make some changes. You are not alone. Look, the new year is just around the corner, and if you want next year to be different, if you don’t want your health to take a back seat to obligations you haven’t even signed up for, let’s talk.

Reach out to me to see if I’ve got coaching spots open and together, we can make sure that you’re setting boundaries that make sense for you. The holidays can be a time of joy without the added stress of an overflowing to do list.

So, if you’re ready to say no to the things that don’t serve you and yes to a healthier, more balanced life, Let’s make it happen.

Thank you for tuning into this first episode of our holiday health series. Stick around because we’ve got more great episodes lined up for you to navigate this busy season without losing yourself in the process.

All right, that’s a wrap for today. Take care and I will see you next week. Bye bye.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you found some gems in this episode that spoke to your heart. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we are all on this journey together?

Now, if you want to dive deeper and get even more valuable tips and techniques to help with your health, I’ve got something special for you.

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I absolutely love connecting with my listeners. That’s you. And your thoughts and feedback help me create more episodes that resonate with what you need.

Thank you again for being here. Your presence truly lights up my community and I cannot wait to connect with you in all of these ways. Until next time, keep shining and keep being you. You are doing so amazing and I’m right here cheering you on.

Thank you again for listening and remember, I’m always here for you. Take care and I’ll see you soon.

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