Getting Unstuck: Four ways to overcome overwhelm

By Thursday morning this week I found myself in a state of overwhelm. You know, that feeling of paralysis, when you don’t know what to do first. Everything feels like a priority.

The feeling of impotence had me in a major funk. I checked my calendar: manageable. I reviewed my to-do list: nothing I couldn’t handle. So, why was I stuck?

I couldn’t identify exactly what had put me there. But the truth is, how I got into this funk was not nearly as important as how I would get myself out.

Everyone finds themselves in a state of overwhelm from time to time. The stressors of daily life are real and constant. Our phones and computers constantly clamber for our attention. Our jobs demand more, faster, better. The daily news provides an ever-present stream of doom and gloom.

It’s a wonder we get anything done!

A little science:

Remember our friend the amygdala? In last week’s blog we learned about its relationship to fear. The amygdala (sometimes referred to as the primitive brain) is designed to keep us safe.

Because it receives messages milliseconds prior to the thinking brain, the amygdala can trigger emotions and put us on notice before the rational brain has a chance to kick in and analyze the situation.

In his 1996 bestselling book Emotional Intelligence, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman coined the term “amygdala hijack”. Hijack occurs when the amygdala interprets a stimulus or experience as potentially harmful or dangerous. The amygdala’s perception that this is a fight, flight, or freeze situation hijacks our mind.

deer-headlight-618x264-e1497539768463When we find ourselves stuck, seemingly unable to taking action, we are in freeze mode, not unlike a deer in the headlights. But fear not! It won’t last!

Fortunately for us, emotions are temporary. Fear, joy, anger, hurt, sadness; they all fade with time. Amygdala hijack is also temporary.

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