Our brains are constantly bombarded with stimulation. Smart phones, emails, social media, internet, television and other forms of infotainment raise the levels of physiological and nervous activity in our brains and in our bodies. Information overload, too many choices for human powers of attention, and constant demands for decisions stretch our brain-power to capacity. Technology is making quantum leaps and our human brains struggle to keep abreast of the changes.
“I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up.”
quote from Erma Bombeck
Often I feel fatigued with the amount of stimulation that I experience. The image of my brain blowing up happened more often when I was in the world of work — but even in retirement, my hard drive sometimes feels like it is functioning at over-capacity.
My energy level is the barometer I use to check on brain overload. When my energy drops to the point where even easy tasks seem insurmountable, I know that I’m overloaded. Old habits — trying to do too much, trying to multi-task, trying to ignore the need for sleep and rest — die-hard. I still think and act like superwoman moving into over-drive and ignoring the fact that my mind is overloaded.
For a postworksavvy lifestyle, this overload is not the preferred state. I don’t like those unsettled all-over-the-place feelings. I don’t want my brain so busy with processing information that other areas of my life — exercise, sleep, fun, and hobbies are compromised.
“One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There’s always more than you can cope with.” — quote from Marshall McLuhan
People express feelings of brain overload in different ways that are related to individual experience and personal coping skills. When overload occurs, feelings of being stressed out are common. Judgement falters. Decision making is compromised. Internal conflict rages as attention is diverted by constant stimulation. In the extreme, significant anxiety and depression may occur.
When suffering from brain overload, the normal ability to digest, understand and synthesize information is weakened. Attention gets chopped into shorter intervals. Ability to process thoughts and to feel emotion is damaged.
There are Solutions………..
By exercising discipline and taking control of my immediate environment, I am trying to control some of the overload. As I feel my level of energy diminishing, I know that I need to take action. I’m developing a variety of techniques as I know myself well enough to understand that some things will work better than others — depending on the day, my mood, and what’s happening in my life.
- Having a snack is an easy solution. Sometimes a boost to the blood sugar helps the brain to re-gain its equilibrium. I try to go for the healthy stuff — fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers, etc. but sometimes it needs to be chocolate or a sugary pastry! I try to eat it while sitting at a table and I try to eat without any media distractions.
- Taking a break is another easy solution. Just turning off the electronic gadgets, the screens and the email works wonders for me. Last winter I undertook a week of media deprivation which made me realize how much the constant bombardment of media and infotainment was distracting me. I don’t want another week of media deprivation but I find that just a few hours without media helps to re-balance my brain. Media break time can also involve spending some time knitting, playing the piano or exercising — anything that interrupts the gaggle of information coming into my head.
- Spending time outdoors — without an iPod or phone to interrupt the sounds of nature — is another quick solution. Whether taking a short walk, sitting on the patio with a cup of tea or doing some work in the garden, the time spent breathing fresh air restores my mind and restores my energy level. The sounds of nature soothe the jangled nerves and create a different vibe in the brain.
- Having a face-to-face conversation. Stopping all activity and having a conversation with my husband or with a friend, forces me to change my pattern of absorbing information. As I focus on listening to a human being speak to me instead of absorbing information from a device, my brain shifts into a different mode and I relax.
- Taking a nap is another easy way to restore energy. Just after retiring, I took naps every day. After some months of getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night, I no longer need these naps. Sometimes, just closing my eyes and resting for a few minutes will restore my energy — especially when I also use some of my yoga breathing techniques to empty my mind and keep my awareness in the moment. Slipping into the moment and breathing consciously works well when I find myself in a crowd of people. It restores equilibrium regardless of the environment.