12/19/2013 06:15 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2014

Children Warn: Christmas Multi-Tasking Is Dangerous

They're a bit burned, Mummy.

Yes, sorry, I was busy doing something else...

You're always doing something else, Mummy.



It's funny how in times of stress or "busyness," old habits can resurface and I find myself on autopilot again. I forget that I can't get away with it. Doing more than one thing at a time, that is.

The truth is multi-tasking is one of the least mindful habits I have developed in my life and one of the hardest for me to shift. I'm not alone, with most people being distracted over 47 percent of the time. I have come a long way, but my children notice what's happening right now, not what I did well a few weeks ago. And this is what they can see:

  • A distracted mother
  • A wound up mother
  • A grumpy mother
  • A mother who is not really listening
  • A mother who burns their gingerbread

A bit of a negative spiral, really. But I can do something to put the brakes on and reverse the direction, because once I set the wheels in motion, a positive spiral is almost as easy to generate as a negative one. I say almost because the brain has a negativity bias and a little more effort is required to kickstart the positive spiral. But not much.

My Top 6 Multi-Tasking Stress Busters:

1: The first thing I remember is to pause. Simply pause. Disengage. Disrupt the habitual behavior.

2: And breathe. Deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing, twice as slow on the way out. For just one minute.

3: Then I send myself compassion. With my hand on my heart, I say: This is stress. Other people feel this too. May I be kind to myself.

4: If that isn't working, although it usually does, I change the channel and just do something completely different. Play tickle-tag with the children, have a big stretch, look at the horizon, do a completely different task.

5: I smile. Even laugh. Either one lifts my mood.

6: Lastly, it helps me to remember to have gratitude for www: what went well today.

Once I have regained my equilibrium and my calm mode is back online, I check if I am 100 percent present in this moment and ask myself: what do I most need to do now? Then I choose one priority.

These are all things I have learned from the expert mindfulness teachers I have been fortunate enough to work with.

What works for you?

I would love to know what you do to reset your "busyness" autopilot and regain mindful presence, re-connecting to who you are with and what is important. Please list your ideas in the comment section below and have a happy holiday.