Your Brain (and Life) On Overload
I opened the door, peeked inside, and knew in an instant what I’d done wrong. My washing machine–overloaded with items I stuffed in early that morning–sat sideways, away from the wall in the middle of the room. It had spun out of control.
Just like I do when I cram too much stuff into my brain.
And, whether my head is full of worry, what if’s, work-related tasks, or what the heck is going on in our world? when I have an overloaded mind I usually have an out of control life.
At least it feels that way on the inside.
Of course, we all have seasons where we have a lot on our plates, but for many of us, occasional seasons of overload have morphed into month after month of stress and anxiety.
There’s a name for this: Information Overload. And while the phrase was first coined in 1964 (yes, you read that right), the definition remains as pertinent as ever. “Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity.”
Imagine if I overloaded my washing machine above capacity day after day. Eventually, the spin out would lead to burn out.
No wonder so many of us feel like we’re crashing. The parallel between our minds and my washer are too important to ignore.
When it comes to our thoughts, we pile stuff in, push stuff down, and hit “start” until one day we’re forced to take a good look at the tangled mess inside our soul and realize something’s got to change.
I found myself in this spot last week. Too many to-do’s and not enough head space made me wonder if the human brain can actually explode from information overload. I’m not sure that’s scientifically possible, but it can sure feel like it is.
So, how to we manage what goes on inside our minds?
Entire books have been written on the subject (Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen and Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer are two great ones) but let’s start with something practical and do-able for right now.
How do you deal with piles of laundry? Sort and separate.
The same is true for an overloaded mind.
When we don’t sort and separate, every thought, emotion, and piece of information bleeds onto everything else.
For example, our endless lists of demands (real or self-imposed) affects the stress level in our bodies, which determines how we perceive a co-worker’s comment, which bleeds into how we handle the hard day we have with a child, which affects the patience level we have with a stranger.
Every thing affects everything.’
As a result, we’re left tangled, tired and totally spinning. We’re stretched beyond our capacity to handle life well, in large part because we simply have too much on our minds–much of it stressful.
Solution? Sort and separate.
With laundry, sorting and separating is a physical process of evaluation: heavy darks go here, fragile delicates go there. Managing piles of competing thoughts, emotions and information works in much the same way.
Interestingly, the principle of sorting and separating is found all over the Bible, especially in reference to our thoughts.
“The mind set on the flesh is death but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
Thoughts set on the flesh go there; thoughts set on the Spirit go here.
Sort and separate.
Thoughts that fill me with death (including emotional, relational, or spiritual death) get tossed; thoughts that fill me with life and peace, get to stay.
Sort and separate.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing: fix your thoughts on whatever is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)
True thoughts go here, untrue thought go there.
Things that are important, move to the first pile, things that are less important go to the last pile.
Praise-worthy thoughts get prioritized, critical thoughts get canned.
Sort and separate.
Yes, it takes intentionality to sort and separate our thoughts. It means we have to pay attention to to the quantity and quality of what goes through our brains.
We have to think about what we think about.
But, if we sort and separate something as mundane as laundry doesn’t it make sense that we sort and separate something as meaningful as the human mind and soul?
Information overload isn’t going to get better. Truthfully, it will probably get worse. But, by putting God’s game plan into action (Does this thought overload my head? Does it lead me down the path of life and peace? No? Well then, I need to take a different thought path. I need to sort and separate) we can manage our thoughts so information overload doesn’t become life overload.
Let’s be wise in the way we think. Today, let’s put God’s Word into practice by sorting and separating what we allow to spin around in our heads.
Because, as we all know, an overloaded mind too easily spins out of control.
You are loved,
More than a Bible teacher, Donna is a self-described Bible explainer. A colorful storyteller who combines Biblical truth with real-life anecdotes, her messages not only help listeners understand God’s Word, but most important, grasp how to live it out in real life.