Learning to relax

Are You Multi-Tasking Yourself into More Stress?

by Susie Cortright

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When was the last time you experienced that hypnotic feeling of being so utterly concentrated that you lost track of the rest of the world? When was the last time you were completely task-oriented, enveloped in a self-induced trance, hypnotized by the joy of just doing something - of being entirely focused on a single task? It takes a great deal of discipline, but it is possible to cultivate this awareness and to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary. This mindfulness is meditation in itself.

When you are able to lavish this kind of singular attention on your kids, you honor them with the greatest gift in the world. And you unleash enormous focus, creativity, and energy for yourself.

Single-task orientation

We develop this present moment awareness, in part, by ending the multi-tasking that pervades a typical mom's day. When we live a life that has us cleaning the fridge while talking on the phone while baking cookies while toting a toddler, days, weeks, and our children's birthdays slip by.

Ask yourself: Are you multi-tasking yourself into more stress? When you try to do too much at once, you raise your stress level, which diminishes your energy and puts you on the fast track to burnout.

Only mindless tasks should be multi-tasked, and there aren't a lot of mindless tasks when kids are present. Decide which tasks (and people) deserve your full attention. Then give it.

As you do so, work on full-sensory awareness. What does your child's hair smell like? How does she look at you? How does her hand feel in yours? What will you remember about this moment for years to come?

Think about how much better it is to slow down, to get lost in the moment, to appreciate every one of our God-given, miraculous moments by creating an environment of serenity, peace, and pure productivity. A place where there is no frantic, frenzied rushing but only a singular focus that guides us to the next task and the next, throughout the day.

Related: Is it time to consider a simpler lifestyle?

Your life is made up of ordinary moments, and it doesn't make sense to rush them in an attempt to find a bigger, better, more dramatic moment. Joy exists in the mundane tasks, and learning to immerse yourself in them brings a quiet, powerful form of energy.

You will learn, gradually, how to savor this "everydayness." Begin now.

Whenever you feel your attention start to shift away from the present, gently remind yourself to return. Focus on each of your senses in turn. At this very moment, what do you see, smell, hear, feel, taste?

Start small. Begin practicing mindfulness with a simple routine you do every day, such as brushing your teeth or making your bed. As you go through the routine, focus on what your body is feeling at each moment. Once those simple tasks can hold your full awareness, shift that awareness to the other tasks in your life.

When you start to feel as though your mind is slipping away from the present, bring yourself back by asking yourself "what am I doing?" Once again, focus on the physical sensations the activity produces.

It takes a great deal of discipline (and many, many reminders) to cultivate this level of awareness and attention, but you'll feel more creative, focused, and alive if you can master it. Begin today.

This article is excerpted from More Energy for Moms by Susie Cortright. momscape.com/energy. Susie is the author of three books for moms and founder of the award-winning Momscape.com, a website designed to nurture busy women. Visit momscape.com to get her free course-by-email, "6 Days to Less Stress."

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