So, have you ever been overwhelmed with all kinds of information? You probably said yes, right? Well, you’re not alone. Many of us deal with that everyday. Students, co-workers, teachers, parents, anyone whose anyone has dealt with this.
What is Cognitive Overload?
When you try to mutli task and learn several things all at once, you’re pretty much overloading your brain. Some of the signs are:
- High amount of stress
- Inability to concentrate
- Decrease in work efficiency
This can result from various situations like studying, listening to a training video, running back and forth doing one thing, and then another, reading a book for an extended period of time, etc.
Your brain reaches a point where it can’t process anymore information. You are then unable to act on anything you just heard. From my experience, a headache occurs, and sometimes a sudden onset of drowsiness where you can’t keep your eyes open anymore.
There are 3 types of cognitive overload: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. Intrinsic load is where your brain is having trouble processing and learning something new and complex. The harder it is, the heavier the load will be. Extraneous load is where you get unnecessary and distracting information that makes it harder to learn something new.
Germane load is actually a good kind of load, believe or not. This kind of load is when we are building schemas or frameworks to understand new information about the world. These schemas decrease the cognitive overload and internalize information better.
What do we do About it?
When it comes to the bad kind of cognitive overload, the first thing is to pay attention to your body and recognize the signs. The sudden headache is a good sign. If you notice that you feel fatigued, stressed out, or frustrated with normal daily activities that are small and minor, those are good indicators of cognitive overload.
Once you notice the signs, try taking a step back, breathe, and pause for a moment. This may be a good time to reassess what is going on. During this period, you should try to do these things:
- Taking a break can reduce stress levels. Regular breaks help ease the mind and can better process current information without being overwhelmed with incoming new information.
- Simplify the big tasks into smaller ones. I’ve mentioned this in the past and doing this can make things less daunting and more manageable.
- Try to include some physical activity or practice some relaxation techniques. Either one can help calm the mind and again reduce stress.
- A small power nap can be helpful. 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes of rest can better help put the mind at ease. What happens is that your mind processes and stores any current information away into your subconscious so it’s not overwhelming your conscious.
At some point in our lives, we have been overwhelmed with all kinds of information, tasks, homework, chores, etc. Have you ever seen a stack of boxes that haven’t been stacked right and have things sticking out of them? That’s one way to picture what cognitive overload looks like.
Now imagine having those boxes separated, stacked nicely, and with nothing sticking out of them. It doesn’t look daunting and looks nice and organized.
When you take breaks, break big things into smaller ones, and calm your mind, the overload to your brain decreases. The headache can go away as well as the fatigue. Power naps are helpful as well for the recharge.
Take care, stay safe, and remember your not alone and you have worth in this world.