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The Stress of Doing Nothing

Why is multitasking so satisfying, even when you know you shouldn’t do it?

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Multitasking

Do you multitask? You’ve probably heard that it can make you less productive, but that doesn’t stop us (maybe you, too) from doing it. And technology has only made it easier. We’ve been caught whipping out our MacBook Airs just moments after landing in a new destination. In fact, some of us feel stressed doing nothing. You can’t just consume, you have to create, too.

MORE: Are You Multitasking Too Much?

Why do you have this need to use up every minute of our time? A new study offers one reason: it’s satisfying. Those subjects who multitasked with different media sources weren’t more productive, but they were more emotionally satisfied. For example, a student who was watching TV while studying wasn’t more effective with their studying, but it gave them a little emotional boost anyway.

Researchers believe that the subjects were (mistakenly) attributing the good feelings to multitasking, when the entertainment source (TV) was what was really giving them the positive vibes.

We can relate to this finding (just a little bit…). At basketball games, Dr. Mike reads medical articles during the time-outs. Maybe the excitement of the game is what’s really serving as fuel for this work drive, rather than my feeling of using time efficiently.

Yet another recent study suggests that media multitasking (music, web surfing, e-mail, social networking) might not be as bad as you think: those who media multitasked the most were more efficient at soaking up everything at once.

Still, none of us are super human, so how can you calm your stress when you want to use up every minute of time? One way to start: sit and focus solely on your breath. That may seem like a tortuous request—a list of the things you could (and “should”) be doing may race through your head.

COLUMN: How to Really Breathe

But clearing these thoughts, sitting still and taking long, deep breaths is multitasking—making you look and feel younger. It keeps your skin and brain clear, boosts energy and takes down stress. (How’s that for a to-do list?) Let’s take a deeper dive at how you’ll be more productive after you get a breathing boost.

Deep breathing: a health-and-beauty multitasker

Inhaling deeply brings nitric oxide from the back of your sinuses into your lungs. This dilates your air passages and the blood vessels around them, so you can take more oxygen in. Nitric oxide also acts as a neurotransmitter to help your brain function. Translation: you’ll be able to think more clearly for all those tasks, after a great breathing session.

And, you’ll have the energy to do it. The oxygen you take in helps make ATP, which transports energy in your body. Your skin cells crave this energy for their best functioning. In the short-term, a boost in circulation will send a healthy glow to your face.

COLUMN: Simple (Free!) Habits for Great Skin

Last but not least, deep breathing prompts lymph to rush through your lymphatic vessels, so your immune cells can move about to deliver nutrients and battle those ugly, aging pathogens.

Ahhh, you look and feel better, right? Now back to work!

 

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