Use These Mental Techniques When Your Brain Is Overwhelmed

UPDATED: May 31, 2017
PUBLISHED: May 31, 2017

Our subconscious mind processes information not in terms of words and numbers but in terms of images and pictures. Mental imagery techniques communicate directly with the body’s nervous system that regulates basic bodily functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. In this way, mental imagery tools help you manage life in a competent manner while contributing to your body’s harmonious operation; in other words, they align the world inside you with the world outside.

A Fork in the Road

Every so often you come to a fork in the road and you need to decide which course to follow. This old metaphor of a crossroads is best applied in a situation that requires a sober assessment of the benefits and pitfalls of different alternatives. It helps develop your authority in selecting the best available option at that time and then committing to your decision.

Related: Top of Mind: 5 Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness

1. Grow quiet and establish a steady pattern of deep and even breaths.

You have come to a symbolic fork in the road of several paths that lead toward different directions and outcomes. Your dilemma is which one to take.

Your first order of business is to narrow your choices down to a manageable number of no more than four. This means selecting the most viable routes, with the least potential harm and the greatest likelihood to generate your desired outcome.

2. Look down each trail as far as your eyes can see.

Use your imagination to visualize all conceivable opportunities, risks and consequences. To be clear, this is a lengthy process that requires attention and effort, but the resulting quality of your decision will also be equal to the energy you invest to compile all necessary information.

3. Now make the best decision at this juncture.

Stand behind the decision, knowing that this is the most educated choice you could make according to the facts available at the time.

Remember that even if later your decision doesn’t produce the desired outcome, even if it proves to be wrong, it doesn’t change the fact that, at this point, this is the most informed decision you can make with the available options.

This is how you face life’s tests and gain authority as a person who is accountable for their decisions. These choices define who you are.

Related: 10 Ways Successful People Make Smart Decisions

The benefits include:

  • It increases your confidence to deal skillfully with different situations.
  • It teaches you to evaluate simultaneous, interdependent factors that form the regular fabric of life.

The Eye of the Storm

This mental sequence uses the image of a raging storm whose center is tranquil and still. No matter how dangerous the circumstances outside of you are, the eye of the storm inside you is stable and safe.

This technique is best used in turbulent circumstances of any kind—work, family, physical danger, a sports competition—where it is vital for you to stay cool to resolve a crisis in a positive manner.

1. Remember that you are dealing with an event over which you have little or no control.

You are facing forces much larger than yourself. Your primary objective in this situation is to come out of it without harm.

2. Grow quiet and follow your breath into your center.

Shift your mental focus from the storm raging around you to the peaceful place at your core.

This inner world is your safety net. You can feel it as a solid foundation under your feet which provides you with steady support.

3. Now make a mental switch to shift your attention from the negative event over which you have no control to a positive action which you can regulate—your breathing.

This is how you begin to regain your authority and strength in this situation: through steady breathing.

A helpful mantra here is: The only thing I can control is my own behavior, but that’s plenty.

4. See a mental image of yourself passing through this storm and emerging on the other side healthy, centered and competent.

The benefits include:

  • This sequence helps you to locate a sense of center and discipline in yourself.
  • It gives you confidence that you can face challenges in a self-respecting manner.

In the future, a certain event you encounter will trigger a memory of the mental tools described above, and will bring it to the forefront of your psyche. That’s how the subconscious mind works. At that point, you’ll be able to recall the specific mechanism of that imagery tool, and it will help you to handle that situation in a competent way.

Related: What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Guy Joseph Ale is founding president of Lifespan Seminar and vice president of Asia Pacific Association of Psychology. Lifespan Seminar received the “Best of Beverly Hills Award” in Health and Wellness Workshops the last four years in a row, and the “Los Angeles Excellence Award” in the Life Coach category the last three years in a row. Guy is the author of A Manual for Mastering Your Life and co-author of Idea of Excellence: Multiple Perspectives, written with fellow speakers at the 2015 World Congress on Excellence. Guy works with private clients and organizations in USA, Europe and Asia. Learn more at