The effects of multitasking and stress on the body is currently a very popular topic in research circles. Through new brain imaging techniques they are discovering that the expression “I’m feeling fried” is actually quite accurate. Not only does multitasking increase stress hormones in your body, but researchers can see the impact on the learning centers of the brain. Multitasking results in a decreased ability to concentrate and significantly impacts our ability to both memorize and process complex information. We also know that prolonged stress negatively impacts our total physical health and can result in chronic headaches, backaches, and heart disease. It has the potential to shorten our life.
People tend to report that they multitask because it makes them feel more productive. While they might subjectively feel that way again the research suggests otherwise. We may increase the quantity of items that we attend to, but we seem to attend to none of them particularly well.
Technology has changed the playing field. We are connected around the clock to phone calls, emails, text messages, and social networking sites. The work day no longer ends at 5 pm if you are receiving emails 24/7. If your child’s school needs a volunteer instead of sending home a written note they will bombard you with daily emails. People no longer have to leave a message for you at home if you are away. No, now with your cell phone they have instant access to you, no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Smart phones may be part of the problem but they can also be a rather convenient scapegoat. It’s how we individually interact with them that interferes with our life. Coupled with that is the pressure we put on ourselves to effortlessly manage it all, keep all the balls in the air at once, and stay one step ahead of the person next door.
I don’t know about you but I’m nostalgic for a simpler time. I see what the stress is doing to us, and that instead of getting ahead and feeling more satisfied with our lives we find ourselves unhappy. I see people turning away from their families and instead turning towards alcohol or prescription drugs just to “take the edge off”. We voice that our stress levels have reached the breaking point, yet we feel powerless to stop the flood of pressure that is pounding down on us. In our frantic attempts to keep up we actually seem to be slipping further and further behind. It might sound a little counter-intuitive but sometimes we have to slow down to win the race.
I’m a strong believer in the need for balance and moderation in our lives. I also believe that if we don’t do a better job taking care of ourselves we can’t begin to take care of anybody else. There is no magical or simple solution to the problem. The solution lies in prioritizing better, letting go of unreasonable demands and expectations of yourself and those around you, and taking the time to live in the moment and become less concerned about what you might be neglecting at the expense of something else. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. I believe this to be true. Slow down, take a breath, and you might find that much of what you thought absolutely must get done really wasn’t all that important after all.