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Overcoming Overload

In today’s ever-changing world, success is recognized by how busy we are, how many likes and comments we collect on an Instagram post, and by how many balls we can juggle at one time. We have become a society that rewards those who are able to - seemingly and effortlessly - do it all, in order to have it all - the great job, the perfect relationship, the beautiful home, the amazing trips and the full calendar of social events. At least, this is the skewed version of reality that is plastered all over social media, on television and in print magazines.

The ideal that is often featured is something that is unrealistic for many and truly out of reach. In truth, many people in our world are struggling with cognitive overload, a condition that results in chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression, because our nervous systems were never designed to process the plethora of information that comes at us each and every day.

Cognitive overload occurs when the brain can no longer process information. A person can literally begin to shut down and move into a state of information paralysis. The anxiety can be overwhelming for some, including students and those in high-pressure jobs in the workforce. Some topics may be so complex, with so many nuances and viewpoints, that it becomes impossible for a person to process the information, and so they simply shut down.

Anger and frustration can set in, especially when one’s learning style does not align with how information is being taught, or communication styles vary in the workplace. For example, if you are a student who learns by actually doing a task at hand, or a professional who thrives with in-person meetings, yet you are being asked to learn something new or communicate through a Zoom meeting, this can be quite frustrating, demoralizing and disruptive. We have seen an increase in mental health issues with children who have had to learn reading, writing and arithmetic from home, and from the Covid quarantine, many students are still trying to catch up from the lost time in the classroom. Many adults are still working from home, blurring the lines of work and personal life, and widening the social gap for meaningful in-person connections. More than ever, people are feeling burned out and overloaded.

What can we do to help manage cognitive overload?

Recognizing that each person has a different learning or communication style, it is important for teachers, caregivers and leaders to honor the ways in which a person learns and communicates best. Eliminating distractions and finding a designated quiet place for study or work can be quite helpful. Breaking tasks down into chunks, rather than a pile of requirements, can be helpful for integrating and processing information. Holding space for different types of meetings, varying from group to 1:1 sessions, can present different ways for individuals to shine. Creating a sacred space where one can express how something has affected them personally can also be effective.

Managing One’s Emotions

When we're feeling overloaded, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is one way to manage our emotions. DBT was created in the 1970s by Dr. Marsha Linehan, who had personal experience with mental health issues. DBT incorporates mindfulness techniques for managing one’s emotions and using distress tolerance, so that we can take a step back and come to a situation with a fresh perspective, calmly and purposefully. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook is a great tool for anyone seeking ways to navigate their anger, frustration and anxiety in a more supportive manner.

The REST Skill is one simple technique for managing a tough situation:

R is for RELAX


S is for SET an Intention

T is for TAKE Action

Changing any behavioral habit can be challenging. You must first acknowledge:

What are the actions would you like to change?

What are alternative actions you could take?

It's important to remember that you want to do something DIFFERENTLY!

When you get overwhelmed by your emotions, it can be hard to stop and pivot, so it can be helpful to plan ahead and keep this REST Skill in your tool box.


· Stop what you are doing and give yourself a time-out

· Take some deep cleansing breaths

· Step away from the situation

· Look for a different perspective on the situation

· Create some space between your desire to act impulsively and your actual reaction


· Ask yourself, “What’s happening in this situation?”

· Acknowledge but don’t over-analyze why you are feeling overwhelmed

· Determine what are the facts versus perception?

· Observe what is happening to you physically, mentally and emotionally

· How are other people handing the situation? Become an observer

SET an Intention:

· Understand what is the goal?

· Assess what do I need to do right now?

· Ask yourself how you want to feel about the situation

· Get clear on how you can protect yourself and use the Rest and Evaluate skills to help guide you

TAKE Action:

· Make small, manageable steps to put your action into motion

· Proceed mindfully

· Move ahead slowly and with awareness

After practicing REST, here are some questions to ask yourself:

What happened in this distressing situation?

How did I feel?

What did I do?

Did I act in the best interests of everyone involved?

If you got stuck in any of the REST steps, that's okay! Take a moment to think about how you could have done things differently and ask yourself what the overall advantages would have been if you had implemented the REST skill?

The 7 Types of Rest We Need:

In addition to using the REST DBT Skill or other coping skills, there are seven types of supportive rest we all need. According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of Sacred Rest, it is imperative that we find time each day to minimize our exposure to the bright lights of the computer, TV and phone screens, so that we can restore balance to our frazzled nervous systems. It’s also about needing more than just a good night’s sleep in order to feel vibrant and healthy. Beyond good shuteye, we need physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sensory, social and creative rest.

A few ways to implement rest:

1. Set aside time every hour or 90 minutes, whether it is to close your eyes for a few moments, get outside in nature, take a walk, stretch the body, get a fresh glass of water or even sneak in a nap to help restore rest in the mental and physical bodies.

2. If you have friendships and relationships that are constantly draining you, rather than lifting you up, it may be time to say goodbye to those emotionally unsupportive people that are no longer serving you.

3. Practice meditation or participate in a daily spiritual practice, something larger than yourself, to begin to carve out inner peace and restore your spiritual body.

4. Take time for quiet, closing your eyes, tuning out the sounds around you and sitting with stillness to rest your sensory body which get overloaded everyday.

5. Honor when you need to say 'no' to something like a social commitment in order to say 'yes' to giving yourself rest and taking a break from the constant demands.

6. Delegate decision-making when you are able. Solving problems for everyone all the time depletes your creative body and taking a break will give you time to refresh your mind and renew your creative energies.

Take time for yourself - you deserve it!

Here at the Newtown Wellness Collective, we offer an oasis for healing the body, mind and spirit. We invite you to join us in community, at one of our upcoming workshops or for a 1:1 healing session. Our team of holistic practitioners offer a variety of services, from restorative yoga, Reiki, bodywork, sound healing and talk therapy. We welcome the opportunity to meet you and to help you unwind, relax, and recharge your batteries.

By Dorina Leslie, Member of Newtown Wellness Collective

LMT, Alexander-Method Sound Therapist, Aromatouch Sensory Therapist

Contributor - Jen Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective

Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher, Lifestyle Wellness Guide

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