Feeling overwhelmed during career change is a very human experience. But it can lead to self-doubt and getting stuck. What if you could had a way to reduce your feelings of overload?
This article describes three approaches that you can apply right away.
As human beings, we often find change challenging. Too much stress and our brain gets overloaded. It’s hard to move forward. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with too much information. Here are three ways to use your mind and your body to reduce overwhelm and make progress more quickly.
1 Reduce the Input
One simple but effective step is to intentionally reduce the amount of information that you are taking in. When you’re feeling stressed your brain naturally focuses on survival. This means your capacity to process a lot of extra information is reduced.
Think back to the last time you felt overwhelmed. Maybe, it was an unexpected problem with a project you were working on. How did if affect you? Was your mind racing? Did you struggle to decide what to do first? Did you find yourself jumping from one task to the other and not completing anything? Stress affects how we process information. You can help yourself by taking control.
Each person’s experience is different. But ask yourself a simple question: What can I do to intentionally control the amount of incoming information I am handling right now?
Come up with simple changes. Choose simple steps that you can take that make sense for you in your situation.
Examples might be:
- Deciding in advance how I allocate my time
- Using a timer to limit the time I spend researching and on the internet
- Re-ordering activities so that I vary the types of things I do
Reducing your overall input is the first step. It’s time for your second simple step – how to go beyond a list.
2 Use your Imagination
One way to postpone activities for later attention is to write a list. But sometime that’s not enough. Even if you’re someone who usually finds it easy to stay organized and get things done, you may need new approaches during transition.
Here’s a real example. A job-seeker, knowing that in a few weeks time he would be out of work, did what always helped before. He created a thorough task list. A list of over 100 items in fact. But then he found he was unable to take action. He felt completely overwhelmed and stuck.
So what can you do if your usual tools are not helping? One approach is to tap into your creativity by using your imagination to clear some space in your mind. Working with your imagination gives you a bit more freedom to explore different options.
Create your own method to clear your mind. Here is one example. You’re probably familiar with the Roman room technique used in ancient times by orators to remember their speeches. They created associations between physical locations and the information they wanted to recall. By using their visual spatial memory they reduced cognitive load because they knew they didn’t have to remember everything at once. By imaginatively going to each place in the room in the right order, they could access the right information at the right time. Similar tools are still used by memory champions today.
Rather than use the Roman room as a tool to remember things, can you use a similar approach to “get things out of your head?” When you notice yourself feeling overwhelmed by your “to-do” list, look for ways to create holding places. Look around the room or create a space in your imagination. Lighten the load by placing information in a holding location of your choice.
So far, we’ve discussed two simple ways to reduce overwhelm. First you can choose to reduce your overall input. Second, you can use your imagination to create temporary holding places. Our third and final step adds a way to tap into the power of your physiology to alter a stress response that otherwise may feed feelings of overwhelm.
3. Change the Input
The third simple step is to interrupt your experience by altering your physiological responses. If you’re finding it difficult to focus because you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, pay attention your physical body. By intentionally interrupting your stress response, you give yourself opportunities to recalibrate.
What can you do in a short time that will make a difference?
Examples might be deepening your breath, doing a short visualization, or stretching. Cognitive processes can accelerate the body’s stress response. Yet, even micro breaks can be effective in interrupting this pattern. This allows the body to rebalance. You can take advantage of this.
Choose one thing to do regularly throughout your day. Initially, you may need to set an interval timer to remind yourself until it becomes part of what you do. Stop for a moment and intentionally take a small action to reset.
Summary: How to Reduce Career Transition Overwhelm with Three Simple Steps
Overwhelm during periods of transition is a very human experience. Feeling overloaded don’t have to mean that you won’t succeed in your career change. But it may mean that you need new approaches. Start with these three simple steps that harness the power of you mind and your body.
- Reduce the input by controlling incoming information
- Use your imagination to clear space
- Change the input by using the power of your body
Small changes will help you deal with the challenges as they arise, so that you can continue to make progress towards your career goal.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 7, no. 7
About the Author
Jennifer Bradley, Ph.D. helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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