Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s how to get back on track (by understanding patterns and habits)

It was Easter over the weekend, and I hope you had a good one 😉

Perhaps you managed to catch up with friends and family or maybe you managed to steal away for a few days for a much-needed rest – A much-needed rest? – What the? I mean, it’s only April….

Things seem to be getting busier, more now than they were at the same time last year – and I think this happens every single year ?!

I’ve been catching myself feeling overwhelmed, and things that I’m generally on top of, well, I’m just not on top of 😞

I’ve probably had way too much beer and chocolate over the weekend, but if I’m honest, I think I’ve been letting my nutrition slip for the last 6 weeks

For me personally, my youtube, insta, beer, and chocolate consumption goes way up when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I just don’t want to deal with what I’ve got on my plate

Patterns, habits and chunking

I think there are patterns – ways of doing things for when you’re ‘killing it’ and patterns for when we’re feeling overwhelmed, but the thing is you have you be able to see the pattern to make a change

In his book: The Power of Habit, Charles Duhig explains the concept of ‘chunking’ – and how habits are formed – just about all habits can be broken down into the following sequence:

  1. Cue
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

Example/chunk #1
You go to the bathroom and pick up your toothbrush (cue), which in turn kicks off a (routine) -> put toothpaste on your brush -> you brush your teeth -> since your mouth out and voila, you get to experience that minty fresh feeling (reward)

Example/chunk #2
The alarm goes off in the morning (cue), and you reach over and hit the snooze button (routine), your (reward) is your warm snuggly doona

Habit formation

I’m not sure if you can remember the first time to tried to drive a car – Think about the first time you ever tried to reverse the car out of the driveway (with your mum or dad in the passenger seat)

For most people it’s a moment they’d rather forget – generally due to the pressure of having to work your way through each of the steps in the process (or reversing a car)…

Is your foot on the break?
Is the clutch depressed?
Is the car in reverse?
Have you checked the revision mirror?
-> Check. Check. Check – routine: slowly let the clutch out while depressing the accelerator – wait! What about taking your foot off the break?!

This initial routine required a high neural load – meaning you really had to think about what you were doing because any deviation from the correct sequence would have you bunny-hopping the car out the driveway or stalling it altogether

After you’d practised if for the twentieth time though, you started to get it down pat and now 15 years on, you can be reversing out of the driveway with the radio blaring, the kids screaming in the back seat and amidst the chaos, realise that you’ve left your lunch on the bench

That’s because this chunk (reversing the car out of the driveway) is now stored in part of your brain – it’s actually imprinted on a cluster of neurons called your basal ganglia – once stored there, it requires less cognitive load to complete the task – it’s become automatic

Right, so habits are stored on your BG – so what?

Whatever you practice: the patterns, the habits, the routines, the chunks – well the more you do them, the more they become ingrained on your basal ganglia, and autopilot takes over

Let me say that one more time: Whatever you do most. Becomes WHAT YOU’LL DO MOST.

If you’re stressed out, and your habit is to reach for a drink or your smartphone to numb and distract yourself – if that’s what you do most…. Then that’s what you’ll do most (every time you’re stressed out)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like me, have a tendency to reach for a choc milk stout or a block of Cadbury, then that’s going to much easier to do as opposed to doing something way better for you like getting outside to go or a walk or ride in nature

If you’re trying to develop new, positive habits and routines just remember this: it’s easy to fall back into your old habits – not because you’re a failure but because those chunks are already imprinted on your basal ganglia

I hit a point this morning where I decided I’d had enough of where I was at, and decided to make some changes

I put together a bit of a plan, set myself some boundaries and today I’m going to take action – If I don’t manage to nail everything that I’d set out for myself, the good news is that I get to have another go tomorrow 😉 #groundhogday

When you’re killing it – what kind of habits and patterns work for you?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and aren’t happy with your current pattern/s, firstly what’s your pattern? What chunks are you working with? Can you break down the cues, the routines and subsequent reward for each chunk? As it’s not until we can acknowledge our patterns, then we can take steps to change them 🙂

Stay Fit,
Ben
Coach& Owner

PS: If you’d like help with a bit of an action plan to bed down some positive lifestyle habits, Let’s book in a 1:1 together ~ B

Sharing is Caring ;)
Coach B

Husband of @rebeccafwarren. Dad of Madz & Isabelle. Coach & Owner of @adaptcrossfit. One Passionate Dude.