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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Jarvis

Are you struggling with IFS? (Information Fatigue Syndrome)

We've created more information in the last 5 years, than all of human history before it. - Daniel Levitin. Neuroscientist.

I'm deep into a work group training course this week, and I'm struggling.

I LOVE learning, but there's something that happens when too much information is presented, without the time and space provided to digest it.


After 2 days packed with slides, statistics, and scenarios full of complex departmental jargon, I'm feeling dazed, confused and OVER IT. I've been bamboozled and over-stimulated, and feel like I need a week in a cabin in the woods to recover my sanity. The trainer, God bless her, just keeps on barrelling through more and more content, and I'm tempted to take myself off mute and scream "MAKE IT STOP!" I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Most of my colleagues have also tuned out, and are secretly Netflixing, reading books, doing Soduku, or searching for other jobs.

This doesn't just happen in work training courses, this is modern daily life.

I've heard that we consume as much information in one day, than a person living in Shakepeare's time was exposed to in a lifetime.

It's called Information Fatigue Syndrome. It's also referred to as: Information overload, infobesity, infoxication, and information anxiety.

It's real, it's pervasive, and it's sabotaging our health and wellness.

IFS (information fatigue syndrome) is defined as a condition in which the volume of potentially useful and relevant information exceeds the processing capacity of a person. That overload of information becomes a hindrance rather than an asset. - Bradley T. Wajda, D.O.

Our nervous system was not designed to deal with the level of information we're taking in on a daily basis. The overload is causing us to feel wired and wacked. We wouldn't sit down and eat 100 cheeseburgers at once, so why are we consuming information in such a frenzied state?

The Social Dilemma

It's scary and helpful to know that technology is designed to be addictive. The Silicone Valley posse work hard at getting you to never want to put your device down. Watch the confronting doco The Social Dilemma to know more. It's essential viewing for anyone using tech.

Bookshop panic attack

I love bookshops. Reading is a passion of mine, and sharing wisdom really lights me up. I can't imagine life without books.

A few weeks ago I was in a bookshop, my hallowed haven, and something strange happened...

I was browsing through the health and wellness section, excited to find so many books I wanted to read. Books on meditation, mindfulness, longevity, slow-living, all the things I love. SO MANY GOOD BOOKS! Too many. Soon, my excitement turned to overwhelm. The choice was crippling.. I started to shallow breathe and feel really scattered. Too many books, not enough time! All this knowledge I wanted to absorb and share, and yet my current schedule of work/family/life just didn't allow for me to possibly be able to read them all. Luckily, I caught myself before spiralling too much further down the rabbit hole, and left the store...

And breathed.

And laughed at the irony of the situation.

I was in the health and wellness section, having a meltdown.

The incident reminded me:

Too much of a good thing can be toxic.

  • Have you ever felt nauseous after a Netflix binge?

  • Do you ever get vertigo scrolling frantically on social media?

  • So many great podcasts - not enough minutes in the day to listen.

  • Inbox anxiety. Studies show we tend to hold out breath when checking email.

  • A buffet of wonderful online courses, memberships and masterclasses - where to start?! (Heart palpitations.)

More content keeps rolling in begging for your attention, before you've had time to look at yesterday's!

Healing IFS. Moving from chaos to calm.

I have a sensitive or finely tuned nervous system.

My vagus nerve is telling me....

This way of living is insane.

I'm shifting a few things around to create more space for mindful living.

I'm reminding myself:

I have a choice with how I interact with information. Just because it's there doesn't mean I need to consume it.

Moving forward:

I'm choosing to simplify, slow down, and savour the content I consciously consume.

I'm welcoming in more space, silence, silence and serenity.

What boundaries around content consumption do you know you need to set?

While moving to a cabin in the woods is an extreme example of reclaiming your mental calm, setting simple clear boundaries around what content you're consuming is a good start.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Mindfully navigate when browsing the web - have a clear purpose and set a time limit.

  • Minimise browser tabs - no more than 3 open.

  • Go for quality. Find your top beloved sources you trust will deliver excellent wisdom, and cull all other crap.

  • Designate screen-free time every day. Stick to it.

  • Do a digital declutter weekly - unsubscribe/unfollow from junk and process inbox to zero. Dedicate 30 mins each week to stay on top of emails. Schedule this.

  • Decide on one platform for Social Media and set yourself a daily limit.

  • Always ask yourself when consuming content - does this nourish and support me?

  • Unplug. Trial a screen-free Sunday and see how that serves you.

  • Turn off notifications, and decide when you will respond rather than react to messages.

  • Be on the lookout for fake news. Consider if what you're consuming is truth/opinion or pure propaganda.

If you're feeling anxious and overwhelmed - the best thing you can do is: step away from your device.

Finding Zen

Follow this simple protocol when you catch yourself in an IFS spiral.

  1. Pause and notice what you're doing without judgement.

  2. Mentally note what's happening - "I'm scrolling again. I'm swiping quickly and feeling scattered."

  3. Step away from the content/device and give yourself space.

  4. Breathe slowly and deeply for at least 6 breaths. More is better.

  5. Decide how you want to proceed mindfully in a way that supports you.

Anchoring yourself in the body just by breathing mindfully is incredibly powerful and underrated. We have this amazing inner technology of our breath which is programmed to help us regulate our heart rate, mental fluctuations and all bodily systems. Everything improves when we remember to breathe.

Focus your attention

A Microsoft study has shown that since the year 2000 our average attention span has decreased by a third, from 12 seconds to just 8. Incidentally, that's less than a goldfish who comes in at 9 seconds.

Terrifying, but not surprising considering the manic pace at which we live, and how addicted most people are to their digital devices.

A daily meditation or mindfulness practice can really help with finding focus and flow.

Becoming aware when you've drifted off and welcoming yourself back IS the practice.

Insight Timer is fabulous and free. It's also an example of how tech can support our wellness.

There's so much to be said on this topic, but for today I'll leave it there.

If you'd like to create some superb habits that will support you to start feeling well, I'd love to work with you.

Click here, to book in a free Clarity Call to see how Wellness Coaching can support you.

If you're already coaching with me, I'll see you on Zoom soon!



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