It’s six days until December 25th, and the Christmas break is well and truly under way. I must say however I’m not sure “break” is the best word to describe these few weeks away from university, because I’ve barely stopped studying. The January exam timetable was just recently published and I’m feeling quite overwhelmed by the amount of studying and essay-writing that I need to do in the next month. I’m constantly reminding myself of how much my final year exams and essays count towards my final grade, which is motivating me but, at the same time, it isn’t exactly helping with the stress.
This is where ‘cognitive load’ comes in. Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort that we use in our working memories when studying or learning. ‘Cognitive overload,’ however, comes in when too much demand is placed on our working memories, and it affects our abilities to process information. So we may experience cognitive overload if we’re bombarded with too much information in one class, or if we’re given too many tasks to complete simultaneously.
The past week or so I’ve been researching and writing essays for several hours at a time, and I think cognitive overload is beginning to take its toll on me. For example, after an intense study session I sometimes find it quite difficult to follow normal conversations with my family. Sometimes I start to say something but then completely mess it up and forget which words to say. I’ve also had some trouble with my spelling recently. My brain is having to process a lot of information with all of this studying and researching, and so completing ordinary, everyday functions are requiring a lot more effort. If this sounds familiar to you, then you may also be experiencing cognitive overload.
So how do you deal with cognitive overload? The important thing is to just take plenty of study breaks. If we try to concentrate on something for a long time without a break then eventually our minds will just start wandering and it becomes harder to process new information. There have been times when I get frustrated with myself because I’ve been working for an hour or two non-stop and concentrating on what I’m doing becomes laborious and my mind starts getting distracted. So I just make myself a cup of tea and sit in front of the TV for half an hour or so. It helps to clear your mind a bit so that you can return to your studies with a longer concentration span.
Anyway, enough of the gloom!! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!