Matthew Cohen, MSW

Matthew Cohen, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Could Multi-Tasking Be The Cause Of Stress And Anxiety?

Production is a nice term, many pride on our ability to multi-task. When I was a kid I used to watch T.V. (sports), listen to music, and play video games at the same time. I think this was pre-ADHD boom, and I suppose I would have been the poster child for it, but there is something deeper here. When a child cannot not focus at all, they are given medication. I have always been able to focus just fine, even on multiple tasks. In other words, my tendency to be scattered has not interfered much with my ability to do work. This is important. Our culture is obsessed with maximizing work ability, and honing multi-tasking skills. The ability to produce is not seen as mental illness, but as a boon for potential employees. I am not given medication, but I am allowed to go to happy hours on weekends to “blow off stress”.

Lately, I wonder if this cultural tendency is the main cause of the rising rates of stress. Meaning, it is not so much that we are over worked, but that we are being overworked while we work.  Without any proof, my intuition tells me that we are expected to produce more per hour than 50 years ago. While at work, people fire questions at me, clients do the same, and I am expected not only to answer them, but to process them into a coherent story lines. The questions make sense to the people asking them, but they are my brothers and sisters in this culture; they too are multi-tasking and might not know that they are bouncing rapidly from topic to topic. In fact, social workers are taught to help clients partialize, it may very well be our number one task.

I am making an effort lately to go slowly on purpose. Stay on one task through completion, and writing down new ones into a que.  This is hard, I want to check my email or see how many new Facebook likes SJS has. I’m practical, I know that there will be a certain level of multitasking needed to operate in a modern work environment, but I also think that we are going overboard without knowing it. Do we need to text and check email in the car? Do we even need to carry on a phone conversation while we drive;  an even more important question arises as well, should we? What are we taking from ourselves when we operate this way?

Slowing down crates a more peaceful pace to the day. My anxiety over forgetting things has been lessened. I can safely say I am more organized, and believe it or not, I am acting nicer as well.  I have this belief that we get angry at people, more often than not, because they are interrupting our multi-tasking. We are all doing this to each other.  It’s likely that this is largely habit driven, built into that grey are we call the subconscious. So there it is, I propose that American’s will be better off by getting less done. Anyone have any thoughts on the subject?l

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