Feeling Overwhelmed? Know How To Do Better


Understanding a bit of how our brain works might give you ideas on how to handle it effectively

New Year festivities is over, all of sudden the year is getting too busy. Deadlines at work, early Flu season, upcoming Valentine's Day all are adding up. I won't blame you if you are feeling a little overwhelmed. Do you wonder why it happens? Understanding a bit of how our brain works might give you some idea.


The part of the brain behind our forehead is called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is a very small part compared to the rest of the brain (where permanent memory resides, in the form of patterns). It mainly performs the executive functions (processing, analysis, decision making etc.). PFC needs lots of energy to function, not only that, at a time it can handle only a few pieces of information. For example, think about a 10 digit phone number, when you have it like 4258234417 VS 425-823-4417, notice, which format is easier for you to grasp? When more information is needed to process something the PFC needs to clear up the existing data before taking the new set. The phenomenon is very similar to paging inside the CPU (computer professionals would be able to relate to this).

When we have too many things to think about we start overloading our PFC. The PFC continuously switches context and therefore needs to load data back and forth. It happens when you are trying to finish that report for work and are worrying that you haven't picked a present for your valentine!  Due to the space constraint and high energy requirement of the PFC, we feel tired though not too much is getting done actually (feeling overwhelmed)!


So what would be a better way of utilizing our very smart PFC?

  • Focus on one smaller piece of a problem at a time.
  • If the problems are too many, write them down so you don't have to use your PFC as a data storage device.
  • Allocate some time in your calendar when you will work on those. If they don't fit, prioritize/let go, delegate or simplify (shopping online works for me:)).
  • If a problem is too big, break it in such a way that you can effectively focus on one manageable part of it. How you break it down is totally up to you. It could be linear or from top down - depends on the issue at hand and your own style.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes :).

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.