Feeling stressed? Try not to multitask

my mindMy column in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 8, 2018

I am a multitasker. It is a habit I need to break, but it comes so naturally. I do not know I am doing it. Multitasking got me in trouble the other night.

I told my friend Jane I would pick her up for a church event. Later in the afternoon, she and I, and another friend, Julie, were texting about the evening. At the same time, I was texting in another thread with an author friend, and I was also texting with my son. No, I didn’t mix up the texts between threads; I mixed up the texts between people on the same thread.

I thought Jane told me she would meet me at the event. But it was Julie who was driving herself. I saw the J and went with that in my haste of switching between threads not noticing it was Julie, not Jane. I thought it was strange but didn’t take the time to question it.

I arrived at the event, met my other friends and was waiting for Jane. She wasn’t there. Soon my cell phone rang, and it was Jane asking me when I was going to pick her up. I felt horrible that in my multitasking of texting I got the message wrong. Jane, being the nice person she is, forgave me — or at least I think she did.

As I was trying to fall asleep that night, I thought of all the other things I get mixed up or wrong because of my bad habit of doing too many things at one time or hurrying to get something done. It never turns out well, and it is exhausting.

I can’t watch television without doing two things at once. I usually crochet, read or play a few games on my cell phone while watching the telly. My husband is wonderful that he washes his own clothes, (it could have something to do with his “I want it folded this way” fetish), and when he is washing his clothes it is his only task. It is the same with all he does — one task at a time. He doesn’t understand when I tell him he can do more than one thing at a time.

My switcharoo tasking started when my kids were small. All mothers need to have two eyes in front, two eyes in the back and multiple arms, hands, and legs but we don’t, so we do as much as we can in the time allotted to get things done. We pretend we have more appendages because we use them so quickly. The problem is that when we get older such as retirement age, we can’t always stop. Somehow that need is drilled into us, and it takes time after we retire to find that sweet spot of being lazy without feeling as if we are lazy because doing only one thing seems to be the epitome of lying down on the job even when we don’t have one anymore.

And then, it has been drilled into us that we need to be hard workers and have a purpose in life and that, too, is hard to let go of when you get to be my age. Perhaps our purpose has been fulfilled and the only goal we need to have is to enjoy life and let each day take its own course while we meander along the way, living our lives without being on the proverbial multitasking spinning wheel.

There are those who are young and old that enjoy the multitasking busy life. Many older adults will tell you it keeps them young. Many will tell you it puts you into an early grave. I don’t know which is right, I only know the older I become, the harder it is to multitask without committing some real doozies of error.

Relaxing is hard when you see dishes still needing to be done, floors needing to be swept and scrubbed, knowing the next meal is right around the corner. Relaxing is also hard when you have a pile of books to read, magazines piling up, crafts stuck in every corner that you started or were going to do. Who knew fun and hobbies could be so stressful? And then don’t forget all the social events, the requests for volunteer help and visiting children, which also make us a multitasking genius.

The holidays are coming up. We have to multitask right now between turkeys and Santa. Do we grab Christmas as we are grabbing for Thanksgiving when we are in the stores?

I will opt for thankfulness as we settle in for the coming month before we usher in the Christmas hoopla. Maybe if the one task I commit to each day is sitting in silence and being thankful for what I have, what I can do, and ponder why I feel the need to multitask, my stress will settle down.

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” — Andrew J. Bernstein

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Thursday.

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2 Comments

  1. Boy, can I relate, she says after fixing food and serving lunch at the Blue Belle, filing federal payroll tax deposits and Iowa sales tax forms, balancing the business checkbook, collecting rent, answering a couple hundred phone calls and text messages, and writing some 1500 words for NaNoWriMo while watching TV!

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