How to Manage Stress: Mindfulness vs. Multi-tasking
Do you have a habit of thinking about tomorrow’s hassles? Yesterday’s arguments? You wouldn’t be alone: most of us do this. Many of us are used to thinking about our problems-to-be and ruminating over past problems we wish we had handled better. We do this at the same time we are dealing with our responsibilities of the present.
I want you to stop that.
I know what you’re thinking. You can multitask like nobody’s business. You’ve bragged about it. Multitasking is your way of life. You are like a master juggler. You will not stop multitasking. Multitasking has made you what you are.
I hate to break it to you, but all of the research shows that you are much more productive and make fewer mistakes when you focus on doing things one at a time.
But that’s not the point that I want to make anyway.
This is the point: Not only does multitasking make you less productive, it is also stressful — and who needs more stress?
The solution is mindfulness. Mindfulness is being in the present, paying strong attention to the here and now, being in the moment, taking it all in. It’s using all of your senses to really be aware of what you are doing or experiencing right now.
The chances are good that you are practicing mindfulness already, but don’t know it.
Here are the tell-tale signs that you are being mindful:
- You are in deep concentration
- What you are doing is satisfying or enjoyable
- You cannot or will not multitask during this activity
- You easily lose track of time in this activity
I’ll give some mindfulness examples that others have given me over the years, and maybe that will make it clearer.
- Playing or practicing a musical instrument
- Reading or writing
- Watching a gripping movie
- Playing a sport, like golf or tennis
- Drawing, painting, sculpting, or some other form of art
- Fixing something around the house
Take golf, for instance. Did you ever know someone who seems addicted to golf? “Golf is relaxing,” they’ll say. That’s a lie. Golf is far from relaxing. It’s very frustrating, in fact. But it’s also all-consuming. And that makes it a good stress reliever. For 4-6 hours, you really can’t think of anything except trying to get that little white ball into a hole, over and over again. You know what you aren’t doing on the golf course? You’re not thinking about your problems. Not your real ones, anyway. You’re only thinking about golf problems, and golf problems don’t rock you to the core of your being like your career, finances, relationships, etc.
Now ask yourself: What do I already do that I do mindfully?
Now that you know what you already do mindfully, start making it a priority. Make it a regular part of your life. Carve out time for it. Consider it to be “you” time, and cultivate it.
Practice mindfulness. It’s just a less stressful way to be.