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Multi-Tasking Increases Stress

By Expert HERWriter
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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

Women are natural born multi-taskers. We often pride ourselves on having several conversations at once (think your last girl’s night), performing several tasks at once and thinking about several "to-do’s" at the same time.

This superhuman ability often saves us in the long run and allows us to accomplish more than believed in a short amount of time. But how healthy is multitasking? Turns out, it’s not as healthy as we would like to think.

How many of you used and abused the multi-tasking gene until one day it just gave out? Suddenly you walked into rooms and couldn’t remember why, you went into the grocery store and forgot half of your mental list, or chalked everything up to "mommy brain" except that your kids were too old for "mommy"?

In the December 2011 American Sociological Review, researchers found that (and I quote), “working mothers spend 9 more hours a week multitasking than do working fathers, or about 48 hours per week for moms compared with 39 for dads.”

On top of this, those nine extra hours are causing women to feel stressed out, leading to other symptoms as fatigue and eventually the inability to multi-task as well as they used to. Research clearly documents that women are overwhelmed and overworked when you combine the responsibilities of work and home.

It works for awhile and suddenly something has to give and women find themselves in their health care provider’s office demanding something for memory or mental clarity.

This isn’t new research, however nobody took notice in 2001 when the August 2001 issue of Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance reported that "multitasking is overtaxing" on the body.

Women still expect the same out of their ability and their brain now as they did then. I often repeat back to women their situation to remind them that they do have a full plate, and help them realize that it is okay to let a ball drop here and there because it is impossible to do it all, all the time.

What helps?
First, recognize that you are human and your abilities 10 years ago (or even before kids) is very different from your ability now. You may never be that person again. It’s okay.

Second, start writing stuff down and make lists. You have more important things to remember than BUY TAMPONS AND MILK AT THE GROCERY STORE. Start a list for the mundane and relieve your brain of those things.

Third, get enough sleep. If you aren’t firing on all fours (so to speak) then don’t expect miracles.

Fourth, ask for help. If your partner is able-bodied then let him or her do some of your list and remember to let go. There is no right way to do everything -- there is only "your way" and it doesn’t have to be right all the time. Also, start your kids out young with chores and helping around the house and yard so they aren’t expecting Mom to do it all everytime.

Fifth, put yourself (yes ... you!) in your top three people, on your list of priorities. Don’t consider yourself selfish but consider yourself as vitally important to the function of your household and as a result you deserve "me days" and tiny treats here and there. Don’t feel guilty.


1. Multitasking Is Overtaxing, Researchers Find. Web. 1 December, 2011.

2. Multitasking Stresses Out Working Moms More Than Dads. Web. 1 December, 2011.

Reviewed December 2, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments


Oh how I remember attempting to do it all.  Days starting at 5:30 a.m. and ending no earlier than 11:30 p.m.  working 8 hours and then going to our business and working on the books for an hour and coming home to make dinner and homework with the kids.  I made all my bread, buns, soups and most meals from scratch.  I did not ask for help.  Yes, I do remember burning out.  A few years later I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer... could there be a connection???

December 2, 2011 - 8:52pm
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