Five Reasons Multitasking Damages Your Health

I was attending a women’s empowerment event, listening to the wonderful John Assaraf. A woman asked about an all to common situation – what do you do when you hit the wall of overwhelm? He smiled lightly, and nodded his head, as he explained. “When it comes to attention, our brain has a finite amount it can handle at once. When you give the brain too much, it doesn’t know what to do with it…” Internally, I was screaming YES! This is something I preach to my clients all the time.

I worked in Corporate America, where we were rewarded for mastering the art of multitasking. In fact, we are deemed a failure if we didn’t. We were told we were high achievers, and go-getters, and we liked to GET THINGS DONE! The demands and pressures to respond to emails, calls, meetings and projects. Not to mention our home lives, where we attempt to fit family and friends into an already busy day. Multitasking is no longer about watching your favorite TV show, while you pay your bills. It has become the norm, the demand to always appear available and connected. But all too often, we are constantly being distracted. The truth is our brains are not wired to multitask. Not only is it not as effective as we think, it can be harmful to our health.


It takes longer to finish one project (or two, or three) if we constantly jump back and forth. No only does it slow us down, but our efficiency decreases, no matter how simple the tasks.Think about the last time at work, you were engaged in a project, and the phone rang, or a co-worker approaches your desk, and you were interrupted. Then you returned to your project and forgot where you left off. Not only that, the brain doesn’t know how to decipher which task is the most important, so it will gravitate to the easier, more familiar task (Hmm, ever wonder why we can check emails while we watch TV, rather than dive into something deep?)


So not only is it not effective, but it can be just dangerous. Think of a lion or tiger in nature. Animals are always present, whether they are targeting their prey, or watching their surroundings for predators. Ok, may we be a bit more complex than animals, but the truth is, when we are concentrating on several tasks at once, there is an enormous opportunity to miss something, putting ourselves in danger.


My mother was a strong believer in family first. If she had her way, we would have Sunday dinner as a family EVERY Sunday. While I was building my career, I worked long hours and weekends. When we did get together as a family, my mind was always focusing on some other unfinished project. Or I was on the computer checking emails, (or I was in a corner napping because I was EXHAUSTED).

How many of us get annoyed when we get together with friends or family, and people are constantly on their phones. When we are doing several things at once, we don’t see the obvious things in front of us, and we never become fully engaged in one specific thing. Think of all the things we miss by not being fully present and in the moment, and how this affects all your relationships.


This is a major factor I share with my clients. When we are constantly bombarded, our bodies are in a constant state of “high alert”, which increases our bodies production of cortisol. Cortisol is considered the “stress hormone”. When our bodies perceive a threat, the body releases cortisol. Small bursts are great- it increases energy levels, blood flow, and blood sugar. It decreases pain levels. However, high levels of cortisol over an extended period damages the body. This can show up in the body as symptoms like elevated blood pressure, blood sugar dysregulation, weight gain, chronic fatigue, impaired cognitive performance, lower immunity, and so much more.

Multi-tasking keeps the body in a state of “high alert”. While cortisol is important to help us push through those busy days, the body needs to return to a relaxation state, so the body’s functions can return to normal. If not, the result is a state of chronic stress.


This is the space we eventually occupy, when we give the brain too many tasks to process at once. When we multitask, we feel the pressure to get everything done at once. When we compound the effects of the inefficiencies, and the lost time, we can feel like the walls are caving, and we become stressed. You look at your “to do list”, and there is still much “to do”, so you copy and past for the next day. You start to have feelings of “I’m a failure”, or “I need more hours in a day “, or waves of anxiety.

Sound familiar. It’s simple. The brain is not wired to multi-task.


Take all the tasks, and group them into categories, then take each category and start to prioritize.

Ok, so won’t exactly SOLVE the problem, but it’s a start. And it will start to help you feel more productive.

Focus on one thing at a time.

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