Multitasking, Stress, and Forgetfulness

"To do two things at once is to do neither."-Publilius Syrus, 100, BC   

We are driven to maximize our time.  We find in ourselves and others examples of this all day long, doing things like walking while texting, walking through the grocery store while talking on the phone, driving while putting on make-up, or typing an email while someone is trying to talk to us. And I am guilty of all of the above! And we do these things because we believe it will help us be more efficient. However, researchers have found multitasking can actually trigger a stress response, releasing and elevating the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  So our multitasking actually increases our stress level! In addition, according to nutrition writer Jack Challem, when these high levels of stress hormones are sustained over time, it can damage the brain cells that are involved in forming new memories.  This is why we can feel forgetful or spacey when we have too much going at once. People often mistake this for ADHD or something similar, however I think it's important to explore a few other possibilities:

1)  What is your diet?  A lack of healthy food or a high amount of processed foods simply means we are not getting enough neuronutrients, or brain nutrients.  If we get the nutrients both our brain and body needs, there's a much higher chance we will feel more focused, clear-headed, and emotionally stable.

2) Are you addicted to your distractions? Technology is just as addicting as drugs and alcohol, which means cravings, moodiness, and withdrawals are motivating factors for use.  Not knowing what to do when the feeling of boredom comes along is a key factor of impulsivity and distractibility as well.  

3) Are there some interpersonal issues or feelings you're avoiding, or are afraid to sit with? Often people are consciously or subconsciously avoiding what's stirring inside of them, so multitasking becomes a coping skill for sustained avoidance patterns. 

4) Are you saying yes to too much?  A lack of both personal boundaries and boundaries with others could lead to saying yes to things out of guilt or some other fear.  When we say yes on the outside but mean no on the inside, it can lead to resentment, an overbooked schedule, and burnout. 

A change of diet, brain addiction education, exploring uncomfortable feelings or held memories, and learning how to establish boundaries are some possible areas of focus for those who find themselves both multitasking or stressed on a regular basis.  Learning the art of being rather than doing, with techniques such as mindfulness or meditation, can also change distractibility and impulsivity. This change can lead to mindful living, a clearer memory, and an increased ability to feel more connected and alive to life as it's actually happening.