Multi-Tasking Tension

16th Nov 2016
Multi-Tasking Tension

Why do one thing at a time when we can do two or three, like eating, texting and shopping at the same time? We can be super-efficient, get through everything before time runs out, and achieve more. We may get a sense of accomplishment, but it may come at a price, which can be our health and our relationships.

Multi-tasking is attention-switching, which means flitting between tasks, but we risk not giving proper attention to any of them. It can lead to being less productive and less efficient. It can also cause emotional, physical, mental and social problems for the multi-tasker.

Emotionally, it can cause stress, impatience, and getting irritable with anybody who gets in the way.  Physically it can give rise to stress-related conditions such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, tense muscles, digestive disturbances and more.

Socially, it can affect our relationships, because while we're multi-tasking, we cannot give others our attention or our time, and empathy and sensitivity become non-existent. How often have you tried to reach somebody who is talking on their phone, tapping at the computer, and searching for something on their desk at the same time. If you are lucky enough to grab their attention, they look at you with glazed eyes, and you sense that they are not even seeing you, let alone hearing you.

Mentally, it can impair the efficient functioning of the brain's pre-frontal cortex, which is most sensitive to stress and can precipitate a rapid loss of cognitive function, such as concentration and memory, and negative changes in our dendrites (nerve connections).

We have a lot of control over the shrinking or growing of our brain. Neuroplasticity is the continuous changing of our brain in response to our lifestyle, habits, emotions, thoughts, environment and more (add multi-tasking here).  Neurogenesis is a process whereby we grow new brain cells and expand our brain's memory centre through our positive lifestyle choices.  So, if we reduce some of our multi-tasking, and focus on one task at a time, we can actually increase the dendrites between our nerve cells, grow new cells, repair old cells, and maintain healthy brain function.  We will also do the task more efficiently.

While multi-tasking, your body is in 'fight or flight' mode, with the potent stress hormone cortisol being increased and pumped around the body to alert all your body parts and organs to do their bit to cope with the alert. When the alert has passed, the body should recover and enter 'rest and digest' mode. This is the body's natural balancing mechanism called homeostasis, normalising all your body functions. If you are on continuous alert, you cannot rest and digest, and your helpful cortisol now becomes harmful to you. It can make you ill.

It may not be easy to reduce your multi-tasking, but there are ways to help your body to restore balance. Mindfulness, relaxation and good breathing can help to reduce any physical, mental and emotional stress related to multi-tasking or to any other challenging situation. They each have some quick and easy techniques which can be incorporated into your day. They will help to reduce any multi-tasking tension by providing the occasional short period of calm and focus. 

Try this. It takes only 30 seconds of your time. Be mindful of taking a deep breath in. Hold it for a few seconds. Breathe out and drop your shoulders. Your whole body will relax.  In those 30 seconds, you did Mindfulness, Breathing and Relaxing.  So, make three daily 30-second entries for 'rest & digest' in your diary, and work all your appointments around these.  Have a go, and see how much calmer you feel between bursts of multitasking. Your body and mind will be so much happier.

Copyright © 2016 Brenda Martin

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