Love & Anxiety # 14: In Praise of Uni-tasking!

Hopefully you tried some of the suggestions in the last blog and found them beneficial. Today’s blog could be an addendum to the previous blog on the pace of life. Because hectic, busy people often perform that purported time saving talent, multi-tasking!Actually, in our fast paced world, most of us have to do some multitasking to not be buried under all of our tasks and responsibilities. However, just like racing about, today I suggest that consistent multitasking is not a beneficial practice and can lead to increased anxiety!

When we multitask, we split our focus into at least 2 or more streams of attention. We return emails or text while talking to our children after school, we plan our daily schedule while at the gym, or talk on the phone while walking on the beach. There is nothing wrong with doing these things simultaneously, but have you considered what you might be losing even while you gain a few minutes in your schedule? If you are texting while talking to your family, you are missing a true intimate connection with them. You may hear what they are saying, but you are not connecting with them as you would be if you were fully present and just listening. On the beach, you are missing a big dose of refreshment and beauty because your attention is distracted by having to give some focus to your phone call.

When we are focusing on more than one thing, task, person, etc., we are not fully present. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, we are rarely fully present. Many experts state the importance of mindfulness and “being” in the moment! There are reasons these two things are so often recommended. When we are deeply grounded in our bodies in the present moment, (not in our minds worrying or planning our next move), we are rarely anxious or deeply stressed. When you are present and aware of your environment, a different region of your brain is engaged and that region directly connects to our amygdala. (Early blogs talk more about this smoke/danger detector in our brain.) When you are aware and present to your environment, that direct connection allows your body to automatically calm down, barring any actual danger. “Awareness is curative”, states a famous writer whose name I cannot currently recall, perhaps because I am focusing on writing this blog;)

Whenever we are in our minds stressing and obsessing about future, or tasks we have to do, or worrying about the past and what we already did, we are not grounded or feeling safe in our own body. Therefore, multitasking can set us up to experience more anxiety. As opposed to, if we are present throughout our day focusing on one thing at a time. As a side note, think about how much less focus you have on each task, if your attention is broken up into many different streams.

You may think what I suggesting is impossible with your busy schedule. But I encourage you to try. Just one day, set your intention to be in your body, stay present and aware as you encounter one thing, one task or one person at a time. It may make you really uncomfortable at first because your mind may be shrieking at you to pick up the pace, get more done. But most people get past that fairly quickly and then report experiencing much greater enjoyment throughout that day! It is hard to feel deep joy or pleasure if you are not present in your body because emotions begin as physiological events not as mental constructs. More about this in the next Blog.Image

                    Children find uni-tasking much easier. Ben & Eli at the beach!

Going deeper:
1) Does this blog apply to you? How often do you multi-task? How often are you present and aware and focusing on only what is in front of you?  
2) Are there areas in your life where introducing uni-tasking may be easier?  If you give any of concepts in this blog a try, be sure to notice how your body responds. (The body “speaks” in the language of sensation, the mind uses words.) If it is too overwhelming to begin with an entire day, try beginning with moments during your day.

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