Stress, Age or Something Else

The week began stressful here at Our Little House, no doubt.

On Tuesday, after a couple of hours sleep  – thanks to Molly having a bad night and Chloe fighting the E-collar (those big cone head collars dogs have to wear to keep them from chewing stitches or pulling out drains) – I made a pot of coffee and headed to The Belle Writer’s Studio.

At noon, I put my computer to sleep, headed home for lunch and while there, popped a roast in the crockpot for dinner.

I could almost taste the tender pork that we could also have the following night in burritos.

When I came dragging home after completing an assignment at about 6:30, all the while believing all I needed to do for a delicious meal was pop some rolls in the oven, Dale said, “You know, the lid wasn’t on the crockpot when I came home.”

That meant the roast had not been cooking on schedule for most of the day.

I’d like to blame the stress and lack of sleep on this “Duh” moment, but the truth is that I’ve been having these types of moments with more frequency.

As I told a friend and Living Large community member on Facebook yesterday, I used to pride myself on multi-tasking through 12-14 hour days and there were times as a journalist I juggled multiple assignments in one day that included crime scenes that took me out in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t have me returning home until after city council meeting coverage late at night.

Now, I’m good if I last 10 hours and sometimes I just feel like a real flake.

Like the day I forgot to actually put coffee in the coffee maker and it took me a couple of seconds to process why my morning java looked so weak. Or the hot morning I put Dale’s can of pop in the freezer so it would be cold for him at lunch, only to hear it explode all over the inside of the freezer a few hours later.

I even had to get one of those pill cases to keep Molly’s medications straight or I would forget if I gave her all of her evening meds.

Add in Dakota’s thyroid pills, her eye drops and medication for allergies; Sade’s antibiotics for the ear infection and her drops and Chloe’s antibiotics and pain meds this week and my head is about to explode!

I was blaming this on age and that magical time called peri-menopause, but my friend who has also downsized and moved to the country thinks it might have a little to do with the slower pace of life we’ve chosen.

The good news is that while I bungled dinner the other night, my work apparently didn’t suffer. I received notes from my editors yesterday about how great of a read they thought the story was that I turned in on Monday.

What do you think, does slowing down the pace of life make it harder when we’re forced to juggle and multi-task again, especially under stressful conditions?

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39 Responses

  1. sarah henry says:

    Stress can do a number on our minds and bodies. Like, right now, my left eye won’t stop twitching, a sure sign that I’m overtaxed and underrested — which is also when I’m also more likely to make mistakes, lose stuff, and forget things.

    • Kerri says:

      My eye twitches when I’m under stress as well, Sarah. I wish I could quit forgetting things though and just have the twitching eye, it is less annoying!

  2. Mat says:

    Stress has a way of really screwing with memory. When I was 25, I was finishing college, renovating a house, and working VERY stressful 9-10 hour days. Then one day, it’s like a switch got flipped in my mind and I couldn’t remember more than 2 tasks at any given time. Still can’t, 6 years later. I joke that I’m good for 2-1/2, so you might not get what you wanted out of the 1/2.
    I have no idea what happened, though I suspect that due to my high levels of stress, there was a chemical change that occurred in my brain and I never really “recovered”. These days, I am simply forced to write everything down. Remembering one task while I perform a series of others is a major victory for me and it doesn’t happen very often.

    • Kerri says:

      Now that is a very interesting theory, Mat. Stress permanently damaging the brain! 🙂 I’ll go with that. It does make me feel better, as young as you are, to know this happens to the best of us, even the young ones. 😉

  3. Well, I’ve definitely found that simplifying and eliminating a lot of rush, rush deadlines means that I don’t get as much done. And I’m certainly more forgetful. Perhaps it IS because it’s just not so crucial to keep all of those tasks at the fore front of my brain. That’s all fine and good – until I turn on the wrong stove burner and catch a towel on fire…

  4. Cathy says:

    a combination: age, the stuff in the food we eat and water we drink no matter how careful we try to be: think of what it would be if we were NOT being careful, and the pace at which we try to live. When I have a day or days, when I know I must multi task, I have to have a list to keep me on track and it really helps. I am 62 and without a list, I can really be like the joke of the old person who is exhausted at the end of the day and has no idea what they got done, because it appears nothing IS done.

    • kerri says:

      I know what you mean about the to-do list, Cathy! It is a must for me, too!

    • Mat says:

      Cathy, I’m half your age and have been using task lists for 5 years now. I don’t see them going away anytime soon….

  5. bob says:

    I don’t believe the slower pace or downsizing has to do with it. We’ve been noticing that same thing. We moved some things around to make room for guests and now cannot find them. We put things somewhere and cannot remember what we did with them. We cannot remember if we did some task we need to do or if we took that pill this morning or if we still need to for today. I think it’s the combination of stress and age (being over 55 now). And we cannot handle stress as well as before due to the age factor. I’ve been really getting interested in downsizing our stuff and also interested in Tiny houses. My wife is not so interested but this forgetting things is starting to drive her nuts (and me too) and she may soon be deciding that downsizing stuff and space may not be such a bad idea. Having less, and having it in a smaller space may result in things being easier to find at least. Less stuff to hide and fewer places to loose things in. I would thing a slower pace would be really nice, lower stress. and less stuff would be nice too. Getting there.

    • Kerri says:

      It really could be just an age thing, I guess. Good luck with your downsizing, Bob! Tell your wife that the biggest benefit is not having as much maintenance or housecleaning. This leaves more time for what you actually want to do!

  6. Jane Boursaw says:

    I think it’s probably a combination of things, but I’ve definitely noticed an inability to remember things since I passed the 50 mark. And I think it’s harder to juggle things than it once was – not good, since I still juggle a lot of things, though in different ways.

  7. I know there have been studies saying multitasking makes use less efficient. Then I read a study this week saying that video games help you to be a better multitasker and quick thinker. I suppose there’s a study for just about everything. My thought–some days I’m a dang good multitasker, and others, not so much. I’ve been there, done that with the crockpot. Not fun

    • Kerri says:

      Ha! You foodies are making me feel a little better about the crockpot incident! Maybe I need to start taking some Ginko. Isn’t that supposed to improve memory and thinking?

  8. Kerry Dexter says:

    actually, I think slowing down gives us — if we will but take a breath and tap into it — a deeper well of strength and perspective to draw on when faced with situations which cause stress — including forgetting to do things such as put the lid on the crockpot. and age? that brings wisdom.

    saying that because the part of your story that resonates with me the most is turning out all those stories over long and longer days. I used to do that too, and do a good joh of it. it was fine then — now, I want more time to think.

    maybe your priorities in some areas have changed a bit while you weren’t looking, Kerri. interesting questions you’ve raised.

    • Kerri says:

      I think you’re right, Kerry. My priorities have definitely changed as have my goals. I no longer have anything to prove in my career and would rather spend more time on reading and actually, just sitting and thinking. Good point!

  9. Heather L. says:

    You’ve got a lot on your plate and need a way to keep track of it. I had a writing assignment last year with so many components that I had to make a two-page checklist to remember it all. Whatever works for you is best.

    • Kerri says:

      Yikes. I’m glad I typically don’t get assignments that involved. But I do find now that I have to make a list of all my sources and everything I need to do to complete an assignment, or I will forget parts of it now.

  10. Merr says:

    I was just saying to a friend (and to myself) that the best I can do is focus on just the next step I need to take. Anything else and the spinning starts!

  11. Oh, Kerri, I can totally relate – I just made a whole batch of pretzels and not only did I forget to put salt on top of them before baking, I forgot to put salt IN THE DOUGH as well! I don’t know where my mind went. It happens to the best of us!

  12. Sheryl says:

    Multi-tasking is rarely successful. I usually end up screwing something up, or forgetting something I did during my rush to do a hundred other things. But at least your work got some good recognition, so that part didn’t suffer..

  13. Carmen says:

    I definitely can relate to this. I moved from Los Angeles working for a worldwide corporation to a small town in New Zealand four years ago (this month). I moved to change my life and have a more simple life. And I’ve noticed over the past four years that my multi-tasking skills are not as sharp as they used to be. Sometimes I think it’s because I got off the hamster wheel of life. Sometimes I think it has something to do with getting older. (I turned 49 this month.) But I know the most important thing is that I no longer ‘beat myself up’ for not doing everything perfectly. (Apparently, no one does, so why do I hold myself to different standards?) And although I still have big stress (family crisis, relationship ending, constantly trying to make a living), I seem to be a bit more at peace.
    Thanks for sharing your ‘duh’ moments. It helps to know I’m not on my own on this. 🙂

  14. laura says:

    I can relate and it could be a combination of things. With simple living, our list of priorities may differ from the fast paced life we knew.. My day may include a bike ride to run erands walk dog, water plants, etc yet outside of getting children to school or the family to appts it is all in my timing. That shift in just not having ‘urgency’ I may forget a few things here and there when faced with an unusually hectic week..

    • Kerri says:

      Good point, Laura. While we still may be “busy” in our new lives, it doesn’t compare to the life in the city. I keep myself more than busy with 6 dogs and work, but it just isn’t the same. The whole atmosphere is different than it was in the more “traditional” life we led in the burbs.

  15. Kelly says:

    I definitely think that it is pace of life related.

    I am only 26 and already starting to have those d’uh moments. I use a pill minder for myself and draw charts on the kid’s antibiotic bottles for me to check off to make sure that I am not mixing up yesterday’s memory of giving it, with today.

    I find having a routine helps, because I quickly fall into a rhythm and do things naturally. Otherwise, I am staying up late trying to wash that outfit that is needed tomorrow morning, and cleaning up dog mess because I forgot to let the dog out, while try to keep the baby occupied and the 3 yr old in his own bed. (I’m a homeschooling mom of four ranging from 8-6 months)

    • Kerri says:

      Kelly, your pace of life as a stay at home mother of 4 and home schooling too, cannot be very slow! 😉 I agree with the routine. We stay on a pretty strict routine throughout the week and weekends really throw me off, as does any stressor that takes me out of my “norm” anymore.

  16. I read somewhere that it’s normal to forget where you put your keys, but if you forget what keys are for, then there is a problem. So I try not to beat myself up when I can’t remember things. Which seems to happen more than it should. I do think stress contributes for me, but I also think it’s part of not being a spring chicken anymore. And congrats on your work being praised – that should make you feel good!

  17. Tony says:

    I have had those moments all my life and don’t suspect they have anything to do with simplicity. My experience is that exercise is key!!! The couch and office chair will melt the brain power. This I have observered from the older people I know and my own life. Those who have retired to spend their days watching television have all sorts of issues. Those who keep busy with something as simple as walking are doing well. They usually have plenty of social contacts as well. One real social contact will never be replaced by 1000 facebook “friends”. A dog could be nice too, however due to the expense and the fact they could be an excuse to go anyplace far away, I would not recommend for everyone. Best advice get up and walk, visit, walk, enjoy the company of others, and walk. This will work wonders for the body, mind, and soul.

    • Kerri says:

      Well, I’m living proof that dogs do not help you keep your sanity! 🙂 LOL. Walking and keeping active is very good advice. Pets are also good for elderly people. They keep them active and provide company as well as giving them “purpose,” at least that’s what I witnessed with my mother.

  18. Liz says:

    I think its all related to how many things you are conditioned to keeping track of at once. Its like you can only seem to keep track of x% more than your average amount of things before your brain starts having issues.

  19. Kerri says:

    Bahahaha, Kathleen. I’m glad I’m not the only person under 75 who has a pill minder sitting on the cabinet! 🙂 Thanks for the ego prop on my work! 🙂

  20. It’s hard to say whether it’s pace of life or aging but I certainly relate to D’uh moments having increased for me over time. I try as much as possible to avoid putting myself in the position of multi-tasking, but as your essay points out, there will always be those days when everything seems to need attention at the same time!

    By the way, there is no shame in relying on a pill minder to keep medication straight. I would probably end up taking a multivitamin ten times in one day if I didn’t use one! So glad that things seem to have settled down for the time being and congratulations on the success of your articles. I am not surprised that even at a time of exhaustion and stress you turned out quality work!