Right now, how many things are you doing? Are you talking on the phone and reading email at the same time? Do you drive and eat? Do you drive and eat and talk on the phone? How many tasks can you juggle at once? Many of us pride ourselves on multitasking well. I do. There is a time and place for it, and if it is a constant undertaking, it takes a toll on our health.

Our brains do multiple things very well. Right now, as you read this article, you are breathing, digesting, pumping blood, building new tissue, processing waste and accomplishing a million other organic processes without your having to give them any attention whatsoever. If we couldn’t multitask, we couldn’t live. Here is a challenge, stand up and walk across the room. Try to name everything you have to do to walk: pick up foot, propel from standing foot , shift weight forward, flex ankle, etc., etc. If you had to think to do each action of walking, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish the task. These processes happen in what I refer to as the ‘undermind:’ that part of our mind that works without our conscious attention.

When we multitask we shift processes that usually occur in the conscious brain into the ‘undermind.’ For example, if you are having a phone conversation while you drive, you shift the process of driving into your ‘undermind.’ If you are an experienced driver and know where you’re going, you’ll more than likely get there safely. But you probably won’t remember the journey. And if something unexpected happens you will not be able to react quickly and you are therefore more likely to get in an accident. That is why driving and talking on the phone at the same time is dangerous.

We have taken to living lives of perpetual multitasking. It takes a physical and emotional toll on our bodies. It puts us into a state of perpetual stress. Our adrenal glands, designed for intermittent emergency use, become permanently activated. Many of our common physical ailments are caused or exacerbated by the resulting state of perpetual hyper-vigilance.

Meditation and Yoga are two of the best tools for calming the mind and body, relaxing adrenal overload, and learning to ‘monotask.’ Short daily periods of monotasking, allow the body to return to it’s natural resting state. The entry point to the mind shift is through the breath. The breath is usually controlled in the undermind. We can bring the breath into the conscious mind. It takes mental effort to watch the breath. We begin watching the ‘natural’ breath, there is no need to manipulate it. We watch its rise and fall, its rhythm, its touch, its sound, its smell and its flavor. Our heart rate will decrease from this exercise. Our adrenal glands and other stress markers will ease and slow. Our bodies begin to recover from multitasking. With time, we advance to more challenging breathing exercises (pranayama). A regular Pranayama practices is the way to cultivating Yoda-like calm in the midst of any storm.