STRESS MANAGEMENT – SINGLE TASKING
There’s a reason stress management has its very own segment on my Wheel of Health. So many of us struggle with it. I certainly do.
Without exception, stress management is one of the most challenging areas of adopting a healthier lifestyle for my crew. So, finding sustainable strategies to add to your personal ‘health toolbox’ is at the heart of my mentoring and coaching practice.
Single-tasking is a super accessible tool for stress management. You can do it anywhere!
At the time of writing, I have just returned from a few days R & R. David and I rented a favourite cottage by the coast on Culburra Beach. It was just lovely to get away from the crazy of this COVID year. Of course, while I was there, I took advantage of the proximity to the water and the beautiful sunrises by adding an early solo beach walk to my morning ritual.
It is my habit to listen to a podcast or talking book during my solo walks in Sydney. Usually something gentle. But, these past few days found me unwilling to disrupt my beach wanderings with extraneous noise. Rather, I fancied some single-tasking. That is, I wanted to be fully present in the moment and appreciate my surroundings and the simple act of walking along the beach at sunrise.
I am so glad I did.
This exercise is a particularly effective little thing you can add to your daily life that makes a difference over time. You won’t even have to find time to do it – you just need to shift your perspective a little…
It’s easy to get stuck in autopilot as we go about our daily lives
In fact, we’re still encouraged to juggle as many balls as possible. Multi-tasking and busy-ness are celebrated in mainstream culture.
I’d even be willing to put down money on the notion that at times you feel like Dr Doolittle’s pushmi-pullyu – When one half of you wants to move forward, the other half wants to move back because of expectations you (and others) have placed on yourself…
Take a Few Minutes to Single Task
Single-tasking means doing one activity at a time with as few distractions and interruptions as possible.
Increasingly, studies are confirming the benefits of focusing on one task. In one study, psychologists found that spending time reflecting on a task leads to better performance and recall on subsequent tasks.
How do you SINGLE TASK?
It’s ridiculously easy. Truly.
Simply choose an everyday task – something you perform by rote like cleaning your teeth or emptying the dishwasher. Focus all of your attention on that task. All of it. 100%
That means, while you are physically completing the task, you’re noticing everything there is to notice about doing this particular task.
If you are cleaning your teeth, instead of wondering what you are going to wear for the day or what you should take out of the freezer for dinner tonight, consider:
- the smell of your toothpaste
- the feel of your toothbrush on each individual tooth as you clean
- making sure you get right to the back and clean those molars all the way at the back!
- what is the temperature of the bathroom?
- where is your tongue?
- how does it feel when you rinse?
- be sure to swish all the way around your mouth
- run your tongue over your clean teethies. Notice how much better you feel.
- appreciate what this act of cleaning your teeth is doing for your health… (Digestion begins in the mouth, after all.)
- do all of this slowly and with intent – make yourself aware of this simple, everyday process.
- if you find your thoughts drifting in another direction, gently bring them back to the task at hand.
When you have finished, take a breath to center yourself and get on with your day with a sense that you are more grounded and present than you were five minutes ago…
This has got to be one of the easiest and most effective tools to add to your stress management toolbox.
Introducing small, incremental changes over time can have a profound impact on your health.