It is very common today to feel overwhelmed, there's just so much going on in or world. Some say that it is too simplistic to suggest that technology is to blame, but that is squarely where it sits. Depression, anxiety and suicide rates began to significantly increase worldwide 40 years ago, coincidentally (or not) this was when mobile phones became commercially available.
It's not just the fault of the mobile phone, other technological advances over the last 40 years include the development of - GPS, fax machines, pagers, computers, VCRs, gaming, wireless networks, digitsation, smartphones - all designed to make our lives much easier through efficiency.
With each of these advances comes not just a more efficient way of doing things, we now have to battle with a completely new way of doing the same thing each time. As new models of the same item are produced comes a new way of doing the same thing in a different way. Instruction booklets that were once a few pages long are now doubled or trebled in size. Worse still, they are online which means we have to introduce another piece of technology to access the manual on how to use that new device.
What we know now through advances in imaging of the brain such as MRI, PET, and HFMRI scans, is that our world has advanced exponentially but our brains haven't, we still have that brain from thousands of years ago, albeit we are learning more about the way our brains work. Our brain is flooded with information, information overload.
Is it any wonder that we feel overwhelmed today? We have the same age-old brain that once worked methodically across our day to now asking it to undertake numerous tasks instantly. This has caused something termed 'inattentional blindness', the brain only sees what is an immediate priority, what is directly in front of it. How often have you watched someone walk in front of traffic while looking at their phone, oblivious to the danger around them?
So, how do we slow down this hamster wheel that we are all on? The simple answer is to get off social media, do one thing at a time, take up meditation and learn to breathe properly. But who has got time to do these things right? You have is the answer, if you want to leave the 'I am feeling overwhelmed' club.
Here are 10 simple things, in no set order, to start taking control of your 'life' again to reduce stress and anxiety;
- Take a break - walk away from all technology for 10 minutes every 50 minutes. Get off all smart technology at least two hours before bedtime.
- Remove all distractions - when working on an urgent task, turn off all possible distractions or go to a quiet place until you have completed what you need to complete.
- One task at a time - multitasking is a myth. Our brain can hold up to three tasks in our frontal lobe and we jump from one to the other so fast that we believe that we are doing three things at once.
- Practice mindfulness - an easy trick is to fully focus your thoughts on the task at hand.
- Breathe - take a single long slow deep breath every 30 minutes. Think to yourself (to slow your mind) "cold air in, hot air out" as you take that breath.
- Clean and tidy - tidy your work space, putting things in some semblance of order allows us to see where things are. A cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind.
- Look forward - every so often focus on good things that are coming up, in an hour, at the end of the day, in the weekend, in a month... The bonus, you'll also get a shot of the short-term feel good chemical, dopamine.
- Find the truth - our brains are designed to look for danger then exaggerate it, known as catastrophisation, to bring clarity to our problems. Don't allow your brain to exaggerate things, find out what is actually going on before you jump to conclusions.
- Remember the 3's - the three most important things that you can do for yourself are; socialisation (talk face-to-face with real people), exercise (30 minutes at the end of every work day) and sleep (7 to 8 hours each night).
- Write things down - our memory, regardless of our age, only holds on to what it believes that we need to know. Additionally, when we forget things, (and we always do), we incorrectly believe that our memory isn't as good as it once was.
I am not a technophobe, quite the opposite in fact, I believe technology is fantastic. We just need to use it wisely until our brains learn to adapt, which shouldn't take longer than a few more generations.
Next week I will follow this post with how to deal with that single major issue that is playing on our mind, the one that is vexing us, the one that we can't find a solution for, the one that is taking us down.
Being a member of the overwhelmed club is not the club that you want to be in, leave it now so that it becomes obsolete.