Stress blog

Tidings of stress and frustration

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. December 12, 2009

Most of us know what we need to do to preserve our health, wellness and serenity. We know that we must take care of ourselves. We know that we need adequate rest and nutrition. We know that we need to manage our time and stress. Yet despite this knowledge, we often stumble and lose our way, as I did recently.

Before departing on a professional trip for several days, my wife and I decided that, for once, we would send out holiday cards before the end of December. We poured through several hundred photographs and selected a dozen to use for our cards. I created a folder on the desktop of my computer and put the pictures in it. This isn't rocket science you're thinking, but let me tell you the rest of the story.

After a few minutes, the doorbell rang for a delivery. It was an important package that required photo identification and signing multiple forms. It was 15 minutes before I went back to the computer. And then the phone rang. It was a telemarketer asking if I would participate in a quick survey. I respectfully declined, but there went another five minutes. I hastily completed the work on the photos and hurried off to prepare for the trip.

Upon returning, I couldn't remember how I'd labeled the folder. Nor could I remember where I'd put it — was it on one of the three laptops or one of several jump drives. After much time and irritation, I was able to find the folder and finish the cards. What should've taken a stress-free and pleasant 25 minutes evolved into 90 minutes of frustration that probably eroded the lining of my stomach and raised my blood pressure.

Although I often warn others about the pitfalls of multitasking and the tyranny of the urgent, I didn't heed my own advice. It was a good reminder that if we don't eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand, even a simple job can come to feel like a burden.

With

Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Dec. 12, 2009