Is your brain overloaded? | radioinfo

Is your brain overloaded?

Monday 20 October, 2014

In a session that at first may have seemed out of place at a radio conference, Lucia Kelleher tackled the theme of brain overload in our modern society.
The cognitive neuropsychologist from IA Advisory had some great tips for retaining good personal balance and maximising productivity.
“Our world has changed due to modern technology, but we are still animals… the instinctive, animal part of our brains has a big effect on how we live and work, if we understand it we can better handle the overabundance of stimulus that exists in our world today,” she told the National Radio Conference.
Working 9 to 5 is an old “industrial age paradigm,” according to Kelleher, who says we work much more than that in this modern ‘always-on’ information age and that brain overload can lead to brain fatigue.
The overabundance of stimulus keeps our primitive ‘flight or flight’ instinct always switched on, which leads to an inability to think clearly and analyse situations.
“If you are walking down the street and someone is following to attack you, your instincts kick in, you don’t think, you just run away. This is an instinctive, natural protective response. If we took time to think deeply about it we might not survive, so our primitive brain takes over and makes an instinctive decision to get us out of trouble.”
But, says Kelleher, too much stimulus passing through our brain’s ‘stress filter’ locks the primitive brain into always-on mode, even when there is no physical danger, and it blocks higher order thinking and our ability to deal with complex decision making. 
In this stressed state we access negative feelings and overproduce oxytocin, which results in lowering of the immune systems, increased insulin resistance, and a decrease in the vitality hormone DHEA.
We need to switch off the primitive brain from time to time by reducing stimulus through exercise, meditation, yoga and other methods. The effects of these things last for a few hours, so it is important to build ‘switch off’ routines into your day to make the time that you are working more productive.
“When you decrease brain overload you improve brain power and memory,” she said.
One simple exercise to ‘switch off’ the over stimulated primitive part of our brain is to close your eyes for one minute and imagine being in the shower, with water falling over you and your mind clearing, as it does when you have your daily shower. If you do this mental exercise or some other sort of meditation regularly through out the day you will think more clearly.
Some people pride themselves in multi-tasking, but Kelleher says it is not a productive way to work.
“When the brain’s full, it's full. If we try to do more we lose our ability to focus and stay on task.’
Your brain can only give 100% to one thing at a time. It doesn’t go higher than maximum, so when you are working on one task at a time you can give it your 100% attention and concentration. If you are working on two tasks, they may each only get 50% percent concentration on each. There are some exceptions to this rule for routine low-level thinking tasks, but most of the time multi-tasking leads to trying to do too much at once and not giving any task full concentration.
She urged conference participants to decrease outside stimulus, apply more focus to the highest priority tasks and not get distracted by multi-tasking. For increased productivity we should turn off our email alerts for a while, put the phone on silent, and concentrate on the most important tasks.
In the modern workplace, we’re distracted every 3 minutes on average, then it takes about 20 minutes to get back on task. Kelleher says people should change their habits (it takes 21 days to change a habit) and their working environments so that they minimise distractions and maximise the chance to keep concentration on the most important tasks they have to do.


The session was hosted by Steve Ahern at the CRA National Radio Conference in Melbourne.

More information on Lucia Kelleher and IR Advisory here.

Hear ACRA winners thankyous and comments from back stage, just after receiving their awards. Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Click the tags below for more reports from the CRA Conference 2014

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