When you are overloaded and stressed, your range of attention narrows sharply. Under extreme stress, this narrowing can even result in tunnel vision. (This means we see the world as if we were looking through a tube, or “tunnel”, missing the surroundings).
As a result, you miss important cues, especially the subtle social cues needed to deal effectively with others. You are also likely to have trouble thinking clearly and solving problems.
Some years ago, I dubbed this “neurotic stupidity”. We don’t even notice this “I.Q. drop” because we are too overloaded to observe our own mental processes.
Our sensory and memory systems have huge capacity so it is hard to believe our brain has such an astonishingly limited “channel capacity” or “bandwidth”.
Very important is that our brains have to process huge amounts of information from our muscles. Notice that when actors imitate robots they inevitably do so by moving very clumsily. This is because even simple movements require processing of very complex information. A lot of information from muscles, tendons, etc. has to be processed to get movements right.
Information from the muscles is largely handled below the conscious level, so we do not notice it. Still, it floods our brains.
That is one reason why learning one or two techniques of deep relaxation is important. Relaxation of our muscles blocks stress responses but also reduces the information load on our brains, thus broadening our awareness and enhancing our creativity.
There is at least one way that our limited channel capacity can actually help us. If we direct our attention to positive things, there is no room left for the negative ones.