Is multitasking the real cause of your stress?

Is multitasking the real cause of your stress?

One thing I always notice when walking with my canine co-coach, a wonderful black Labrador Retriever named Melling, is that he’s consistently in the moment. He isn’t thinking about what he’s going to have for dinner, or yesterday’s tug session with his doggy-buddy. He’s focused on savoring the moment…,appreciating every smell, every sound, every opportunity to sniff or say hello to a new person or a dog. I realized I could learn a lot from him.

Multitasking is a ubiquitous term today. We hear business executives say (sometimes with pride) that they’re multitasking across multiple meetings/calls/emails. Busy parents become masterful at multitasking the complexities of parenthood. But multitasking isn’t natural for us, and it can be a real cause of stress in our lives. According to Professor Earl Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, the human brain isn’t able to multitask at all, but what it can do is switch very rapidly from one task to another. Which in and of itself sounds stressful, especially if we’re doing it all the time!

According to a Special Health Report by Harvard Medical School, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to practice mindfulness–the art of purposely focusing our attention on the present moment. And one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to walk with a dog and observe their behavior. Many of my coaching clients have done exactly this, and have found being in the moment can be a strong antidote to the stress of multitasking. Here’s what we do when we walk with Melling:

  • We try to accept each moment as it occurs, setting aside what just happened, what’s ahead of us this evening/tomorrow/next week.
  • We try to feel sensations in our bodies, heat/cool, light/heavy, and yes, that might sometime include feeling a bit peckish.
  • We start to notice each breath in, and each breath out. Just as Melling may notice and appreciate each new smell.

And when our minds wander (back to that To Do List), we take another look at Melling who reminds us of the joy of being in the moment.

If you’d like to try an antidote to the stress of multitasking, book a walk with Melling.