Multi-tasking and Stress: For Better or Worse
Liz Pearce, ParentTalk
How’s your stress level these days? Whether you’re focusing on “back to school” or just transitioning from summer to fall, everyone I know is pretty stressed out right now. Including me! I like to think of myself as a successful multi-tasker. After I took a few tests online* over the past few days, I’m not so sure anymore.
These days, adults are trying to squeeze more activity into every available hour – more than in any time in our history. This naturally causes stress on our systems.Stress can be described as:
One way to combat stress is to resist the lure of multi-tasking. According to Ed Hallowell, MD, “true multitasking is a myth. We may feel we’re doing two -- or more -- things at once, but it’s an illusion. Instead, we’re quickly switching our focus back and forth.” And when we quickly switch our focus back and forth, we lose small amounts of time as we move between tasks. They may be milliseconds, but they add up to less efficiency, and more mistakes along the way.
Our children are falling into the same trap, too. They see a variety of tasks to accomplish, and are having a hard time focusing on any one thing – which results in less success overall!
When we are multi-tasking, activities can actually take even longer, and stress levels can go up. Multitasking has been proven again and again to be a poor choice for reaching goals. There are certainly times when it’s more visible than others, and certain amounts of multitasking won’t kill you. It’s taking control of the habit, so that we can have power over it, rather than the other way around.
Here are a few tips to consider**:
· Mix and match. Pair high-cortical involvement tasks -- those that involve judgment -- with routine, physical tasks that the cerebellum, the brain’s autopilot, can handle. For example, talk to your mom on the phone while folding laundry.
· Rest your case. If your hectic schedule demands you rise at the crack of dawn, steal an hour from the TV at night. A sleepy brain can’t focus.
· Wean from screens. Resist email, the Internet, texting --anything that’s not essential to the work you’re doing right now.
· Ban boredom. Try to do what you love and what matters most. Organize your life around this principle, and you won’t be tempted away from the task at hand
There’s no better time than right now to regain control of your stress level. Pick at least one of the tips above, and give it a try – you’ll be glad you did!
* Type “multitasking test” into Google, or any search engine. You’ll be rewarded with several websites to choose from.