multiWe all know the drill- juggling work and personal chores, rushing against time and trying to split the seconds. “Modern” live puts pressures on us to wear many hats and be able to perform superbly at all our roles. Simply put, we are often forced to multitask. The common stereotype is that people who are “good” at multitasking (MT) exhibit excellent organizational and time management skills. Professionally, they are considered to be meant for greater and better things. In reality, though, MT is not healthy for our brains.

When we try to do even two things at the same time–driving and talking on the phone (via hands-free device), for example, our brains are switching quickly between the tasks. * One area of our brains is always unengaged- depending on which activity is dominant at that moment. For example, if we are involved in an intense conversation, this will be our leading activity and we will listen more that we keep an eye on the road. The other extreme is also true- if we need to switch lanes, for instance, we way miss what someone says on the phone.

Research has found MT to have some serious effects on our minds and bodies, such as feelings of frustration, agitation and depression; making errors, forgetting more often and getting severe headaches. More specifically, MT has been found to have a profound influence on us in three main directions:

1. It increases our stress levels- this makes our brains to release hormones in our bodies that affect our memory and learning.

2. It affects our immune systems- since stress is deadly to our immune systems, and MT increases stress, it also indirectly weakens our immune systems.

3. It influences performance- according to a study by Stanford university in 2009, people that were asked to MT, compared to a group that was not, performed more poorly.

So, why do we do it then? According to research, MT is addictive. In our fast-paced, technology-driven era, we simply like to be exposed to new excitement and stimulation as often as possible. MT can serve as an  anti-boredom mechanism. And while science agrees that MT is not healthy for us in the long-term, if we can not avoid it, there are few simple steps to follow, in order to take the optimal advantage of it.

* Pair a low-level task with high-level task – for example, fold laundry while watching our favorite criminal drama. Don’t try to watch a movie and read your email at the same time.

*If possible, delegate some of your responsibilities.

*Create a list of all the things you need to do during the day and prioritize.

* Take breaks often, to blow off the steam. It will help you to find your focus again and view things more objectively. Plus, it may help you make better decisions.

*Practice meditation- free your mind from all the daily clutter so you can have a clean slate to start tomorrow.

Finally, remember that while we all want to be superheroes, sometimes just taking one step at the time is the path we need to take in order to succeed and preserve our health.

*Source: Canadian Health & Lifestyle. October 2013.