Overcoming overwhelm with the practice of Chunking

How would you remember the numbers below?  Are you a two by two, three by three or set of two and set of four kind of person?

47 38 96

473 896

47 3896

Does it confuse you when someone repeats your very own phone number to you in a way that you don’t remember and recall it?  That’s because they chunk in a different way to you.

NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) practitioners (who study and promote successful behaviours) believe we all process information differently, which can influence our experiences.

We’re facing a shift in the new normal and we are being bombarded with new information on a daily basis. Information about what our new social norms are; who we can and cannot see, how long we need to quarantine for, if the kids are going back to school soon, do we have to go back to a workplace or are we staying at home, how we shop…. so we’ll all be trying to figure out how we might go about making the best and most out of those social norms. We’re also thinking about what our future, be it socially, professionally, economically or personally may look like.

This pandemic and its affects are here to stay and all of this new information, all of this emotion, stress and fear of the unknown is bound to be inconvenient at best and confusing and overwhelming at worst.

So, how can we overcome overwhelm? 

NLP practitioners would suggest that practicing the process of chunking could help.  Chunking is the process of grouping information into smaller or larger units, which can help you to organise your thinking and help you to prioritise and make sense of what is going on and what needs to happen, via thoughts, emotions or actions.

The benefits of chunking are that you are probably already doing it and just need a helping hand in understanding what it is and how you can hone your existing skills to benefit you further.

You can chunk up, or you can chunk down

So, if chunking is about the categorising of information into groups, we can either see them in the bigger picture (the macro view) by chunking up, or, we can look into the smaller, micro detail, and chunk down. It’s like zooming in or zooming out.

Chunking up

Chunking up involves going from the specific to the general.  By chunking up and looking at the macro image, or the bigger picture, we see our overall goal, purpose or mission, which will give us our direction, meaning and motivation.

Chunking down

Chunking down involves going from the general to the specific. So, we need to start with the chunking up to get our overall goal and then chunk down to be able to get more specific and detailed about what we need to think, believe, feel and do, how and by when to achieve the goal.

How does this help?

Well, if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you start off with the end goal, which might, for instance be to lose 2 stone.  You will have arrived at the number by chunking up.  You’ll have decided that that is the amount you need to lose to get you looking, feeling and being healthy and fit.  You (hopefully) won’t expect yourself to lose that weight just because you decided to, and to just lose it by will overnight (if only it were that simple, right!), you will devise yourself a plan which will involve a target loss per week which you achieve by doing x amount of exercise x amount of times per week and eating x amount of food each day, etc.  – this is the chunking down, getting to the nitty gritty and the specifics of the process of the overall lifestyle shift and weight loss plan.

This process can be applied to other areas of life, too – who’s going to help to keep the house running, by doing what, how and when.  How am I going to deal with impending redundancy or job role change?  How am I going to deal with a change to the school run or home-schooling if it happens again?

All of these changes can be overwhelming, especially when the whole country is facing moments of uncertainty and our usual support systems are maxed to their limits trying to figure all of this out themselves.

So, when overwhelmed, we need to break things down into smaller chunks.  Divide a piece of paper into different areas of your life that need attention, write a heading at the top of each area and make a statement about your overall objective, i.e. save more money, and then write a list of how you might go about doing this, and how you might go about making a bit more money, i.e. speak to your bank about a payment break, contact all of your utilities for a better deal, creating a meal plan to cut back on the weekly food shop bill, what’s lying about the house that you can sell – get rid of old things in the shed and at the back of the wardrobes – this will line your pocket and give you a feel good factor when you’ve had a good clear out.

This type of chunking helps you to feel more in control, will help you to think creatively and spur you into action, because sometimes with stress and overwhelm we feel backed into a corner or pinned down with the weight of it.

Practice the art of chunking up and chunking down, going up and down and back again, which will help you to see if you’re on the right track – sometimes when we don’t achieve something, it’s not because we can’t, or because we’ve failed, it’s simply because we don’t want to!