Sometimes my brain is like an internet browser with too many tabs open. It’s buzzing with ideas, to do lists, projects as well as family things – what I need to get in the next food shop and when swim training is. Not only that, it can end up full of conflicting messages and ideas, it’s like I absorb information and other people’s feelings and internalise them, turning them over and over in my head like a pebble in my hand. I’m taking on so much information from so many different spheres that it ends up impacting on my mental health. When we reach this information overload it means we aren’t giving ourselves time or space to process what we are consuming. We are just not meant to process the level of information thrown at us on a daily basis. It’s not just the level of information either it’s being mindful of where it’s coming from too. It’s the news apps, the Facebook comment threads, the podcasts, the blog posts, the Instagram captions, we can end up feeling overwhelmed from being endlessly marketed too and shouted at.
When this is at its worst it can impact your mood, your resilience levels and relationships. Let me share an example. I know if first thing in the morning while I scrolling on Facebook I can easily fall down the rabbit hole of a thousand heated comment threads. This can then causes me to end up feeling cross and very distracted. If I then wake my children up and have breakfast with them while I’m in that mindset, they then pick up on my bad mood and act out. Not the ideal way to start the day! Something so little can have a huge impact.
I recognise that my sense of overload is partly due to my personality type, as an introvert, or more specifically an INFJ, I am prone to internalise and carry other people’s feelings, yet I think that dismissing this as just a personality thing would be rash. From talking to friends, especially those with a strong social media presence, personally or professionally, they too admit they can end up in this kind of space too. It goes beyond personality type -it might just look and feel different or be triggered by other influences.
When I’ve reached peak information and influence overload I have to ask myself questions about what I’m letting speak into my life and then set clear boundaries to build up my resilience levels.
Let’s start with those questions,
Who or what is influencing me?
What I am allowing to take up too much space in my life?
Is it necessary? Can I do without it, or even just step back from it for a while?
Why not grab a piece of paper, ask yourself these questions, and write down your answers, transfer it all from your head and out there onto the paper. Then reflect on it and set yourself some boundaries.
When you are setting boundaries in general it would be easy to have a knee jerk reaction and for example choose to stop reading the news because it upsets you, or not listen to that friend who has called you out on something you don’t want to face. To just cut everything out. Let me be clear for a moment, I’m not advocating cutting ourselves off entirely or only surrounding ourselves with ‘yes men’ – the people or influences that only affirm our world view and don’t challenge us. The last thing we all need is an echo chamber that is cut off from diversity of thought. It’s about that magic word, balance. Not ending up in an echo chamber is a whole other blog post in itself, but just be careful and keep this in mind when you re-evaluate what influences you.
Points to consider
Are we letting people influence and speak into our lives that haven’t earned the position to do so?
With social media playing such a huge role in our lives we are subject to more and more opinion and perspective. This can quickly become overwhelming and even mean we lose a sense of ourselves. Let’s use Instagram as an example. I know when I’ve let Instagram take up too much space in my life when I have unanswered text messages from friends yet all the messages in my Instagram DM folder are replied to. When I want to garner the opinion of people I don’t know over the friends that truly know me and can speak into my life with context. Instagram and the people on it aren’t the crux of the problem, it’s the amount of space and influence I’ve given it.
Are you giving space to a person or voice that’s not good for you, whether online or offline.
Is this leaving you feeling deflated, confused and end up questioning yourself.
There are many ways of addressing this, maybe it’s something simple like having an unfollow spree on social media. Ask yourself, does this account spark joy or make me feel crap? It’s not a value judgement on that person or account, this is about you. It might be something we step back from and pick up again when we’re feeling more resilient or in focus. I have friends that delete certain social media apps from their phones when the influence on their lives from spending too much time on them is negative. I appreciate that this is simpler to handle when it’s an online issue, it’s far more complex when it’s a ‘real life’ or ‘offline’ friendship or relationship.
Could it be the sheer volume of information we are trying to consume?
If that’s the case for me then I set myself boundaries by limiting my time on social media, cutting down the podcasts I listen to, stop watching that all consuming box set and being more mindful of who I give my time to. I make sure I have time to really switch off and recharge, these ways are really helpful to me.
I hope that if you’ve been feeling distracted or feeling like you’re lost in information overload that this has been a useful post for you to read. Do let me know if you take the time to work through the questions, and work on the boundaries you may feel you need to set for yourself at this moment. If this is something you’d like to talk through more then feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.