The Truth About Stress And Multitasking

When it comes to good health, most of us recognize that stress is the enemy of good health in many, many ways. Did you know that stress and multitasking are connected?

Stress contributes to health problems we all deal with every day and others so serious that we hope to never experience them. From headaches to stomach problems, emotional upset to sleep problems, weight gain to cancer, stress is a bad actor.

None of us want to knowingly increase the stress in our lives!

Stress on some level is inevitable in the world. In today’s world stress is a certainty on a higher level than ever before. So how frustrating to think that in our efforts to cope with the expectations we each face, we have inadvertently exposed ourselves to greater levels of stress than we would have experienced.

Here are comments from David Meyer, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan to Health Day.

Doing several tasks simultaneously may seem like the height of efficiency — and it would be, if a person had more than one brain. In the real world, multitasking actually wastes time and reduces work quality, Meyer says.

Missed deadlines and shoddy work may get a person fired, but they’re not the most worrisome consequence of multitasking. According to Meyer, juggling tasks can be very stressful. In the short term, stress makes you feel lousy. In the long term, it can become a serious threat to health — and that’s not even counting the dangers of sending a fax while changing lanes.

One brain, one task

Meyer sees three major types of multitaskers. Some people do it out of desperation. In their minds, talking to a client while doing research on the Internet is the only way to keep up. Other people multitask impulsively. They’ll abandon a report in mid-sentence to check email without thinking about the consequences. The third group multitasks with pride. “Many people delusionally believe that they’re good at this,” he says.

Some people’s jobs, like air traffic controllers and emergency room doctors and nurses, virtually demand multitasking under pressure. But in reality, nobody can effectively do more than one remotely complicated thing at a time. “The brain is not equipped to do heavy-duty multitasking,” Meyer says. “People are being asked to do multiple things, but they would need superhuman abilities.”

Multitasking is especially futile if the different activities use the same part of the brain, Meyer says. For example, the brain only has one language channel. If a person tries to read while talking, one or both tasks will get short shrift.

Multiplying stress

Whenever demands exceed abilities, stress is bound to follow. Multitasking is especially stressful when the tasks are important, as they often are on the job, Meyer says. The brain responds to impossible demands by pumping out adrenaline and other stress hormones that put a person “on edge.” These hormones provide a quick burst of energy, but energy won’t make multitasking easier, he says. An old pickup can’t go 150 miles per hour no matter how much fuel you put in the tank or how hard you step on the gas. – Consumer Health Day 

Multitasking Could Be Costing You Time

Since most people who multitask do it to save time, it’s hard to swallow that this method of approaching your day could actually be costing you time. Take a look at the results of an important study and consider applying techniques to improve your focus and save yourself stress and time!

On the surface, multitasking makes sense. We have more work and less time, so we must perform more than one task at any given time in order to complete everything. But is this approach working for us? Scientists say no.

The Multitasking Myth

Multitasking may seem like a smart way to achieve more in a shorter period of time, but the truth is that multitaskers may actually be less efficient. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that people took longer when they tried to perform tasks simultaneously and switch back and forth between tasks rather than completing the tasks one at a time. In some cases, they were 50 percent less efficient and accurate.1

Another study showed that multitaskers have a difficult time focusing on relevant information and blocking out irrelevant information.2

The worst news of all? Scientists have found that multitaskers actually experience more stress and that the effects of multitasking linger once the tasks are complete, resulting in persistent fractured thinking and lack of focus. In other words, multitasking is affecting our brain and stress levels even when we’re not doing it.

Time Management Trumps Multitasking

If you want to reduce stress, time management is a more valuable tool than multitasking. We all have too much to do at one time or another. The best way to tackle that mountain of tasks is to do one thing at a time and do it well.

– A Woman’s Health

Do you think you could transition into using a more focused work plan to help reduce stress and get more done?