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Cognitive Overload – 3 Solid Ways To Declutter Your Mind

Written by: Theresa Agostinelli, 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 Theresa Agostinelli

Your mind is your greatest asset. How you use your mind can have quite an impact on overall health and wellness. Since our brain is like a computer, it stands to reason that there are going to be times when your brain needs what some might call a desktop declutter.

woman in deep many thoughts

Just like you add and delete apps and programs on your devices, your brain needs to have the same attention. This article will discuss some ideas on how to declutter your brain for optimum performance.

But first, we must understand what Cognitive Overload means. Studies have shown that we are now seeing an increase in mental and emotional health issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, lack of energy and other things due to an increase in digital usage and information overload. When there is too much information to process, you may feel what scientists are calling “cognitive overload”. This happens when you reach a point when your brain stops processing information. It is almost like your brain is temporarily paralyzed.

Many people feel the effects of having too much information stored in their brain with nowhere to store it. The brain tries to download it, but the system is overloaded. Subsequently, the brain begins to stop processing information. This is what is now being called Cognitive Load.

Cognitive Load Theory was introduced by John Sweller in 1988. Sweller suggested that our working memory has a limited capacity to hold information. His theory of cognitive load relates to the amount of information that our working memory can hold at one time. He believes that since our working memory has a limited capacity, and can stop processing the information. When this happens, it is considered cognitive load.. (Sweller, 1988).

While it’s true that there is more information available at the click of a button than ever in the history of civilization, we are now seeing that most people are not able to mentally store much of the information and over time will possibly experience cognitive overload.

If you are overwhelmed by more information than your brain can receive, you may feel a sense of frustration, anxiety and worry about the detachment from the details your brain is processing.

Cognitive overload can also occur from your internal memory sources. Think about your current knowledge of a particular topic that has been gathered from your education, experiences, and interactions with others.

If you are convened about cognitive overload for you or someone you know, you can start with some questions, such as these

  • Would you or someone else say you are spending more time than usual on information gathering?

  • How does the topic affect you or your team?

  • How does the topic make you feel or act?

Here are some signs that you are experiencing cognitive load

  1. Difficulty making decisions.

  2. Difficulty concentrating or staying focused.

  3. Extreme fatigue or brain fog.

  4. Severe insomnia.

Here are 3 techniques that can help you overcome cognitive load

  1. Listen to your body: Watch for cues that are a sign to slow down or step back from actions affecting your well-being. Increased stress, fatigue, and frustration with your normal daily activities can indicate cognitive overload is affecting your actions. If trying to stay updated on daily events or current news, look for alternate ways to stay up to date on relevant topics you need to know.

  2. Counter effects of cognitive overload with a shift in your routine: If you are used to having devices in your bedroom, then it’s probably time to move them somewhere else so you can get a good night’s sleep. You might also want to limit your sources of information and limit the number of discussions over topics that really aren’t relevant to your day. Instead of looking at your phone the moment you wake up, give yourself at least two hours to check your devices. The world can wait for you to hop on your social media.

  3. Seek professional help: If you're experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety daily that is interfering with your ability to enjoy life and do things you need to do, it's time to seek professional help or talk with someone about those feelings. A professional coach or counselor can help you process your feelings and help you with your goal-setting and keep you accountable.

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Theresa Agostinelli Brainz Magazine

Theresa Agostinelli, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Professor Theresa Agostinelli is a licensed psychotherapist as well as a certified personal and professional coach. A widow and single mom at age 26, she found herself with few resources, no job and not many skills. She dramatically changed her life and rose from widow to successful business owner, entrepreneur and author. She has dedicated her life to helping others by teaching them how to maximize their mental and emotional well-being. Theresa is the author of the prolific book, The GRID System which speaks to unlocking your potential and living your best life. Her mission is helping people create more of what is good in life.



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