Why Multitasking Can Lead to Stress Overload

I’ve often been one to juggle many tasks. I am a mother, a student, a blogger and everything else in between. So having many responsibilities in different areas of my life is apart of my routine. However, I’m starting to realize how multitasking, although often commendable, can be very stressful and overwhelming. With multitasking, prioritizing your tasks is the best way to get things done efficiently. But when new tasks continue to get piled onto your to-do list, things begin to get burdensome and hard to complete to its entirety. Why is that?

An overly-productive society

Our society tells us that working hard is praise-worthy, and that any type of downtime means you’re ‘slacking.’ Productiveness is valued more than rest, and doing the best you can is not enough to achieve society’s overly high standards. According to data gathered by, approximately 79% of Americans feel stress while completing their day-to-day activities. In fact, about 41% of Americans admit that they lack the time needed to complete all of their tasks. To me, this means that we are taking on too many responsibilities at the expense of our overall wellbeing. With this, in a world where we must achieve great things in order receive a ‘job well done,’ many of us are feeling pressured to do more than our bodies will allow.

The workplace

Multitasking is encouraged in the workplace, so naturally we accumulate more tasks outside of our existing duties at home. If you are a parent and you work a traditional 9-5 corporate job, you have probably mastered being the ‘jack of all trades.’ At home, you are expected to be mommy or daddy, a chef, a doctor, a teacher, and maybe even a playmate for your children. But at work, your boss may require that you complete your typical job duties as well as additional tasks due to quick deadlines, a short staff or an ill coworker. According to The American Institute of Stress, the number one cause of stress in Americans comes from job-related factors, such as co-worker tension, bosses and work overload. In fact, 76% of Americans believe that much of their stress results from worrying about their paychecks and maintaining job security. Indeed, we are so consumed with how to get all of these things done that our stress levels continue to rise in ways that can negatively impact our health. Multitasking through trying to manage workplace pressures alongside household duties can create a great deal of stress overload that can push the average person over the edge.

Social status

Stress overload can also be the result of high consumerism and the ideal of climbing the social ladder. Many of us are striving for perfection by constantly needing to buy new things to feel accepted by others. Especially in today’s era of social media, people are chasing after the latest brands, fashion styles, houses, cars and luxurious vacations to appear wealthy and gain popularity. As of today, U.S. consumer goods market is worth $635 billion, along with the U.S. fashion retail industry at $368 billion. So as you can see, many of us are kicking out loads of money to maintain a certain lifestyle. But keeping up with appearances can force us to pay a hefty price mentally, physically, and spiritually. Juggling your reality while promoting an altering ‘persona’ can lead to a great deal of stress that not only affects your overall health but also your self-worth.

Symptoms of stress overload

As we struggle to manage multitasking, we may begin to experience symptoms of stress overload that can reveal itself in many ways. Stress overload can be a short or long-term problem that lasts based upon the many circumstances that may arise in our daily lives. According to WebMd, stress overload can lead to some of the following emotional, mental and physical symptoms:

  • Emotional – frustration, moodiness and agitation, low self-esteem
  • Mental – fogginess, disorganization, forgetfulness, poor judgment, negative thinking
  • Physical – low energy, chest pain, insomnia, upset stomach, nervousness, low-functioning immune system

These symptoms vary depending upon the person and the level of stressful tasks that he or she engages in on a daily basis. Symptoms can reach a severe level when a person is constantly adding on more stressful tasks to his or her routine. This can lead to long-term effects of stress overload, such as:

  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Skin problems; and more

If one is experiencing stress overload, it is important that he or she take notice of these symptoms to combat any signs of emotional, mental and physical distress.

Ways to manage stress overload

Although multitasking is hard to avoid, whether you are a parent/caregiver or not, there are several ways you can manage stress overload. The most important way to manage stress is to simply say NO. Sometimes, there are tasks that we unnecessarily take on to prove that we are capable of completing them. For instance, if someone offers to help clean the dishes and you refuse the offer to prove that you can handle the task, you are putting yourself in a situation that can lead to unnecessary stress. Saying ‘no’ or allowing someone else to help you manage certain tasks can significantly decrease stress overload.

Other ways to combat stress overload can be through:

  • Time management and completing tasks on a schedule
  • Committing to one project at a time ( i.e. choosing a day to complete your chores and saving that DIY project for another day)
  • Taking time for self-care (i.e. treating yourself to a massage, exercising, taking a warm bath, planning a mini vacation, etc.)
  • Prioritizing relaxation (i.e. try to get 7-8 hours of sleep)

In all…

Tackling stress overload is not always an easy task. Some of us wear several hats that require us to do so many different with little time. But by taking the necessary steps to make positive changes to our daily routine, we can see a major difference in our ability to manage stress overload.

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