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8 Brain Health Strategies To Reduce Overwhelm And Reclaim Your Peace Of Mind

Written by: Allison Liu, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Allison Liu

Does life seem like an endless struggle, with tasks piling up faster than you can keep track? Overwhelm can be paralyzing, robbing us of the ability to act. I’ve been there, drowning in a sea of responsibilities and deadlines, trying desperately hard to keep my head above water and watching despairingly as my world seemed to implode.

A photo of woman having deep breathe.

The thing I’ve learned is that the more unfinished tasks you have, the harder it is to be productive and the more your energy gets drained. It’s like having too many tabs open in Google, which just saps memory and slows down your computer.


Those uncompleted tasks create a level of tension in your brain that keeps them at the front of your mind until they’re completed. It’s called the Zeigarnik effect, which is a great asset when you want to study for an exam, but not so great when it comes to juggling tasks that don’t get struck off the ‘to-do’ list.


Ultimately, keeping things in front of your mind contributes to your sense of overwhelm, so how can you get to grips with those unfinished tasks?


Here are my 8 brain health strategies for reducing overwhelm and reclaiming your peace of mind.


Get everything out of your head and onto paper


Get everything you need to do out of your head and into a notebook, on Post-it notes, or into an App on your phone. Once you have the tasks written down you no longer need to keep them ‘front of mind’. Then, identify the topmost important task.


Schedule when you’re going to do each task


Now that you can see what you need to do and have identified the most important priority, schedule some blocks of time, such as a power hour once a day, when you are utterly focused on completing this one thing. Ultimately, everything you need to do will take time, so carving out the time to get a task done just makes sure it will happen. And remember that it’s a myth that you can multitask - you will be significantly more productive if you focus on one thing at a time.


Take a walk before you start


To tackle tasks that have felt overwhelming, it helps to get your brain into a good place first. This is where exercise comes in, as it boosts blood flow and increases all the happiness chemicals in your brain that will help you focus on achieving your goals. Try taking a brisk walk or dancing to upbeat music for 20 minutes and see how much more productive you are!


Identify the smallest step you can take


If you have been procrastinating over a large task, break it down into smaller sub-tasks then take the first smallest step today to get started. For example, if you need to study, you could start by reading the first page of the study guide or if you need to clean the house, you could start by emptying the bins. Once you’ve started it’s easier to keep going for a bit longer. Then, every time you complete one of these smaller tasks, you get to take that weight off your mind and feel great that you’re a step closer to getting the overall job done.


Clear out the clutter


If you’re surrounded by constant noise and stimulus, it’s draining your energy, making you distracted and unproductive. Consider where the noise is coming from: is it from your cluttered home or desk; the numerous open tabs on your browser; or the pop-ups, pings, and notifications on your phone? Take a few minutes now to declutter, organize, and clear away distractions in order to bring quietness back to your brain.


Give caffeine a miss


When you’re feeling overwhelmed, caffeine will just add fuel to the fire. It stimulates the adrenal glands to pump out more stress hormones, which is not what you need! Try swapping to decaf, green tea, or herbal teas, such as chamomile instead. While green tea also contains a small amount of caffeine, it also contains something called theanine, which has a calming effect on the brain.


Ask for help


It is quite possible that the load you are currently carrying is unachievable, in which case you need help. It is not reasonable to expect yourself to be a superwoman or superman. Where can you get some support, or what conversation do you need to have, in order to reduce the load?


Change the way you talk about a task


How do you think or talk about what you need to do? Are you saying “I should”, “I must” or “I ought” a lot? If so, you are repeatedly telling yourself off and making yourself feel bad about the things you haven’t done yet. It’s time to be kind to yourself instead. Try changing the way you talk by using the words “I want” instead. For example, if you have ‘do the weekly grocery shopping’ on your to-do list, say to yourself, “I want to shop for groceries that are healthy, nutritious, and create tasty meals” instead of “I have to do the shopping”.


Final words of hope


These powerful strategies have helped me to regain control and find peace in the midst of chaos. I come back to them whenever I notice that I’m heading into a tailspin and can quickly reclaim my peace of mind.


Getting all the ‘to-do’s out of your head, figuring out which one is the priority, scheduling some time to work on it, identifying the first smallest step, getting a walk in fresh air before you start, clearing out the clutter and switching off the noise, giving caffeine a miss, getting help and changing the way you think about what you need to do will help you reclaim your peace of mind and free you from the weight of overwhelm.


Check out this article by Andrea Ryan for tips on Turning overwhelm into optimism,


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Allison!

Allison Liu Brainz Magazine
 

Allison Liu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Allison Liu, a brain health coach and expert in helping people get their brain younger, healthier and stronger, struggled with early warning signs of memory loss in her late forties. Forgetting what she was saying in the middle of saying it, feeling increasingly irritable and struggling with panic attacks, she felt she was losing her sense of self. Adopting a science-based approach, which she uses with her clients today, she increased her own ‘brain reserve’, improving her memory, mood and relationships. She now coaches clients around the world through a personalised plan to prevent or slow down cognitive decline so they can remain present with those they love. Her mission: Staying sharp for life.

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