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Too Much To Process — Finding The Antidote To Emotional Overwhelm

Written by: Deirdre Morrison, 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.

 

Hands up if you have too many feelings about all the stuff going on in the world...


It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the state of our little blue dot in the universe. Just as we seem to be seeing some chinks of light after a global pandemic that has killed more than six million people, we wake up to news of a war in Europe. And that’s before we even consider the environmental crisis.


For a lot of people, it’s as though any tiny thing could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

We’ve been holding up for a long time under a lot of uncertainty.


(Side note: If you’re the kind of person who’s already scoffing cos in your day, it was so much harder, and you just got on with it, then it’s probably best if you save yourself some time, and continue with your day elsewhere. I’m going to be sickeningly kind, and you might find yourself wanting to judge that, or writing an irate letter to the editor…)


We don’t really fare well with all that uncertainty. It puts us under a kind of constant stress, even if it’s low-grade. We’re unsure of what comes next. We’re in a sort of mild, internal chaos state.


This lowers our emotional resilience. Things that we’d normally take in our stride become blown out of proportion. A good way to think of it is someone who gets ‘hangry’ irritability that can be attributed directly to the stress that being hungry has placed on their system.

And we can experience many emotions in the light of this on-going psychological wear and tear. In fact, we might often feel many of them in a very short space of time, which makes us feel even more disoriented.


On any given day, it’s not crazy to

  • Wake up feeling irritable cos you didn’t sleep well

  • Sit in work feeling stressed cos 3 people on your team are off with Covid

  • Be just gob-smacked that spring blossoms still know how to be beautiful in this crazy world

  • Feel guilty that you’re still just getting groceries while people are being bombed out of their homes

  • Get angry that fuel costs are so high, and no one seems to care that you still have to get around

  • Find yourself really confused cos you want to help the refugees, but don’t know the best way

  • Be happy and excited to see your friend that you literally haven’t seen since before lockdown 1

  • Feel anxious and teary cos your teenagers could be inheriting another world war

  • Be totally exhausted and numb just from trying to keep it all going.

Chances are you can relate to some or all of these.


It can be incredibly overwhelming.

Very few people are at their best with all this going on.

It’s like emotional bingo. And the prizes are not good. They include frustration, aggression, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and despair.


Most people are just trying to hang in there, swaying in the uncertainty, like autumn leaves in the breeze not knowing what gust will take them away.


How can we feel safe enough to relax our heightened stress response in this day and age?

It’s easy to feel like we’ve got no control.


But we do have control we have far more control than most of us realise. And an important key to taking this control is recognising and understanding how our brain is working in the face of all the things the world is throwing at it.


Here’s an example. Our brains have networks known as the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the Task Positive Network (TPN). Now, the interesting thing about these is that they can’t both operate at the same time. So, the DMN is our ‘resting’ brain state. (The clue is in the name!).


This network roams the timeline, taking our imagination into the future and back to the past. This is all well and good if we’re experiencing positive or helpful emotions, in which case DMN can let us daydream or imagine an ideal future for example.


Of course, when our brain is already carrying an emotional load that tells us that we are under threat (such as a pandemic or war in Europe… or even rising living costs), then that flips to a less positive outlook and starts to lean towards rumination and worry.


So, knowing as we do, that moving ourselves into TPN, ‘deactivates’ our DMN so our rumination and worry can’t be activated, what are our options?


Well, taking action is one. Your TPN likes to be doing something. It likes something to work on. And that can be as simple as a mindfulness exercise.

Or it can be joining forces with others participating in something bigger than ourselves.


Actually, this is exactly how we came up with our plan for action in the face of the current humanitarian crisis. None of us here at the NeuroDevelopment Institute was happy to just watch the world fall apart. We wanted to find ways to contribute.


We’re well aware as individuals that the skills and information we have at our disposal, and the skills we use with our clients every day, help us to stay out of the vortex of emotional overwhelm that so many fall into. So, we’re currently using them to spread peace of mind and raise much needed aid for those who’ve lost everything and had to flee their homes.


We still don’t have all the answers. We don’t have to. But we’re doing something that is making a difference, both to the individuals who join our initiative AND those who urgently need humanitarian aid.


And most importantly, we know that people who have these tools in their own hands will go on to make the world better too ‒ because every action, reaction and interaction have taken with increased awareness, understanding and empathy have the potential to spread ripples of good through the world. It’s a multiplier effect.


If you want to know more about what we’re up to, what these tools and techniques are, and how you can actually take action WITH US, as we create awareness and evoke positive change in the world, then I invite you to join our current initiatives at NeuroDevelopmentInstitute.com

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


 

Deirdre Morrison, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Deirdre Morrison is the founder of The Learn for Life Hub, including the Ambition Incubator platform and podcast. Her mission is to deliver practical tools from the field of neuroscience to help entrepreneurs and leaders be happier, healthier, more effective and successful in all the areas of their lives that matter to them.


Deirdre is an advocate of life-long learning, an interest that ultimately led her to study applied neuroscience.


She works with individual clients primarily through her N=1 programme, which creates a unique brain-science informed toolkit, based on the client’s unique circumstances and needs. She also hosts a number of small group events, including monthly TED Circles, and development groups based on dynamic co-readings of business classics. Registration for these is available via ambitionincubator.com


Her other interests include the Japanese sword art of Kendo, road cycling, and reading.

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