It’s that time of the year. We make all kinds of promises to ourselves to be healthier – more exercise, better diet – and to spend more time with the family and be kinder to our neighbours.
I find that it helps me to choose a word that creates a theme or a framework for the year and acts as a kind of touchstone to remember my promises and resolutions.
My word for 2014 is simply focus! Some may call that being more mindful, more focused or less scattered.
I am a hopeless ‘multi-tasker’. Multi–tasking is when you try to do many things at once – the drawback being that not all of them is done well. Have you ever talked on the phone while checking your email or tried to make a dinner, carry on a texting conversation and help with a school project at the same time?
Multi-tasking can lead to mistakes and missed cues. There is a reason why driving and texting or using a hand-held device is no longer legal in the province of Ontario – multi-tasking at its most dangerous! And other Canadian provinces are adopting this law. Giving full attention to what we are doing (like driving) helps us to do it better with fewer mistakes.
In our society today, many people take pride in how well they multi-task. But new research suggests some big downsides to it. Multi-tasking may be a mental health hazard. Experts have different opinions on the effects of multitasking, but overall it appears that many professionals believe multitasking can be detrimental to mental health. It is said to be more commonly called ‘fragmented attention’ or ‘attention switching’.
Some of the problems associated with attention switching:
- Inability to focus well on any one activity.
- Feeling rushed all the time even when you’re not doing multiple things.
- Feeling unproductive when only doing one thing (this is especially true for women).
- Impatience and lack of empathy for others who are often seen as getting in the way.
In my experience, feeling rushed or unproductive or impatient is not healthy. And, a study at Michigan State University confirms that multitasking, especially when it leads to these negative emotions, causes stress – including increased heart rate and blood pressure.
A few years ago, with a busy household and a demanding job, I found I was collapsing into bed at night wondering how I had managed the day. Not a restful start to the night when you start mentally ticking off what got done and what was missed! Did I even have a chance to enjoy the delicious dinner or the evening activities?
How could I better savour the moments?
Many people have found that staying in the moment (a form of stress management) and spirituality complement each other by helping to balance a person in mind, body, and spirit.
Having a spiritual connection to a higher power allows us to let go of feeling we have to do it all (one reason for multi-tasking) and to trust in God (by whatever name). And, this lets us surrender the stress instead of hanging onto to it.
And connecting to this higher power through prayer definitely requires focus. As recommended by Jesus, when he gave us the Lord’s Prayer “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (The Message)
I knew I needed to create a quiet space in the morning and pray to connect with the divine. I wanted to find the ability and grace to savour moments. This quiet time of prayer is now part of my morning routine and it helps me to focus on the tasks at hand and achieve a better balance in a busy schedule.
It’s helpful to remind ourselves from time to time what it is that happens when we pray. Prayer enables me to acknowledge that God already has a plan in place and I need to humbly recognize this. I sleep much better as I acknowledge the grace of God’s directing of each day.
Multi-tasking may be a fact of life in this busy world, but it does not have to be hazardous to our health.
One focused healthy resolution essential to the New Year!