I was walking across campus the other day and witnessed the following: a young lady was riding her bicycle, listening to her iPod, talking on her cell phone and drinking what I could only imagine was an irresistible grande double macchiato soy foam latte cappuccino frappuccino with extra whip. By my calculations she was performing at least 80 independent actions at once.
Hyperbole aside, the idea of doing many things at once is not a new one to today’s college student (or non-student, for that matter). We are convinced that we can successfully multitask our way to…well…success. Many people engage in this type of behavior as a way to fit lots of activity into little time.
Unfortunately, research shows that successful multitasking is a myth. “What?!” You demand angrily, “I can too successfully toast a pop tart, do my laundry, talk on the phone and derive complex equations!” Nope, you can’t. Certainly you can attempt to do all of those things; you just won’t be doing any of them very well. Now, if that means you slightly under-toast your poptart, then no big deal. But what if you lose that focus on an important exam?
As a society we are constantly thinking ahead to the next thing. “Okay, I have to walk to class – ugh, I’m running late and this is the third time! – then I have to swing by the bookstore and pick up a…oh and there’s that bio exam I need to study for…call mom before she freaks out again…but wait, what about practice?” It stresses me out just imagining it. Constantly thinking about – and let’s be honest here, worrying about – the future causes stress. How do we take control of this? Well, let’s think about what you’re doing RIGHT NOW.
Usually that isn’t as stressful. Independently, none of the above tasks are particularly stressful. Taken all together though? Yikes!
When was the last time you did one thing? Just ONE thing? Been a while, huh? Well, I’m here to advocate for just exactly that. It’s a little trick therapists call “mindfulness.” Don’t let the name fool you – it’s quite simple. The idea is to just be present with what is happening RIGHT NOW.
One good way to do this is to go over each of your senses. I do it while washing dishes – it helps me get through a hated chore in a relaxing, enjoyable way. I focus on just the dishes – the warmth of the water, the texture and shape of the plates, the intoxicating ambrosia that is lavender Palmolive…you get the idea. It can be as long or as short as you want and fits almost any activity. Walking to class? BAM- time for mindfulness. Doing your laundry? Yet another chance. Your day abounds with opportunities to spend five minutes in the here and now.
Try it. You will be surprised by how much you like it.
For more relaxing ideas, contact the counseling center or visit our oasis room.
Joselyne Perry is the Campus Wellness Counselor at Pacific’s counseling center on Cedar Street in Forest Grove.