Overwhelm: 4 Things that can Clutter Your Brain


In my previous blog post, I mentioned how everyone struggles with overwhelm, lack of time, felling stuck, and too much stress. Those feelings have more to do with brain fatigue rather than how much we actually have to do or our ‘time management’.

Our brains do not work well with unfinished business, unmade decisions, and loose ends. It craves organization, routine, and getting things done. It needs to feel some control over perceived chaos in the environment.

Here are five things that can clutter your brain and cause overwhelm:

  1. Ambivalence, indecision and self-doubt
  2. Tolerations
  3. Unfinished projects
  4. Trying to mentally remember something
  5. Random mental clutter


Let’s talk about the first three causes of overwhelm in our lives and careers:

Ambivalence and indecision

When ambivalence is high, and you have to make a decision, choice is unpleasant because of all the uncertainty about the consequences. We ruminate trying to make the ‘right’ decision. All of that ruminating leads to procrastination. Clarifying the issues, knowing your core values and strengths makes being decisive and choosing what to say yes to and what to say no to easier.


Tolerations are those things that bug you, and you do not do anything about them. When they pop into your awareness, they start an inner dialogue that’s annoying. Tolerations could be as simple as a drawer that sticks, or as major as an unsafe car you commute in every day or a person’s behavior or your own behaviors.

To eliminate tolerations, first become aware of them. Make a list of everything that’s bugging you that you tolerate.
Assessment Questions for each area of tolerations:

  1. What purpose does this toleration serve in my life?
  2. How much energy is this taking from me?
  3. What is the cost to me to hold this toleration?
  4. What are the benefits of not tolerating?.

 Unfinished Projects

About 10 percent of the energy consumed in an average household is used by chargers and devices plugged in but not in use, simply waiting in standby mode. In fact, many electronics and appliances (such as your TV) will use more energy in the 20 or more hours per day they’re off, but still plugged in, than during the time that they’re actually on and in use.

Drifting from project to project without purposefully completing the task you’re working on is like leaving chargers and electronics plugged in – you are using mental energy to stay “plugged in.”

This doesn’t mean you have to keep going until everything is done, but the projects need to be paused and unplugged for now. While it’s fairly easy to know if a discrete task is complete, it can be more difficult to do for larger on-going projects. Choose a stopping point in advance.

Does any of this sound familiar? Are you experiencing these signs of brain clutter? What are you tolerating? In the coaching sessions I have with clients, I hear about these conditions all the time. Ignoring the feelings of overwhelm, just keeping your head down and moving forward is not helpful.

Is it time you eliminated unnecessary sources of overwhelm and stress? Let’s talk, give me a call.


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