Avoiding overwhelm

Knowing which criteria are important to you will make it easier to eliminate choices.

by Ada Porat —

Overwhelm occurs when our brains struggle to adapt quickly enough to the increasingly complex environments in which we live.

Historically, human life has been shaped by scarcity and limitation. Our biological brains and instincts are still geared for an environment of lack, whereas today we are faced with an overload of choices in Western society. This results in mental and emotional overwhelm.

We can become overwhelmed for many reasons. We are surrounded by expendable goods, bombarded by information and paralyzed by the range of choices available to us.

In The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz explains how the abundance of choices floods our exhausted brains. We are faced with aisles of cereals in the grocery, department stores filled with cosmetics, 10-page restaurant menus and hundreds of cable television stations. We are overwhelmed. So, what can we do about it?

Many people feel they need to research every possible option, solution or opportunity before making a decision. They feel obligated to explore all their possible choices. And guess what? They often often become paralyzed by overwhelm and cannot make a decision, or they worry that one decision may cause them to miss out on a better one, so nothing gets done.

Here are a few simple (if not necessarily easy) ideas to help you avoid overwhelm:

  • Accept that good enough really is good enough most of the time. Perfection is paralyzing and not a healthy way to live.
  • Recognize how important a choice really is in the big scheme of things. Choosing the right cereal is not that important; choosing the right spouse is.
  • Do not second-guess yourself.
  • Knowing which criteria are important to you will make it easier to eliminate choices.
  • Make choices based on what you want, not on what others think.
  • Rely on knowledgeable friends and reputable consumer resource guides to help you narrow down choices.
  • Do not go to a megastore or giant supermarket when a boutique or neighborhood grocery will do.
  • Ask yourself what the consequences of a wrong choice will be. If it’s negligible, move on and move forward.
  • Give yourself a time limit for choices and decide that when the time is up, you will make a decision based on the information you have.

Above all, trust your intuition — and dare to take a risk once in a while.


Ada Porat is an energy kinesiologist and life coach who facilitates personal development through the integration of body, mind and spirit. 602-283-4628 or www.AdaPorat.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 6, December 2008/January 2009.

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