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How to cope with an overscheduled life

Updated: January 29, 2013 1:01PM

Q: I’m 38, a wife and a working mom with three kids. My days are jammed. I’m worried about taxes; my boss wants me to take on more responsibility at work; the cellphone is always ringing. Sometimes I can’t remember what I am supposed to be doing! It’s scary to think I might have Alzheimer’s disease already!

A: Breathe — deep and slow. Exhale. Now, let’s talk. Forgetfulness is a predictable result of a frantic daily schedule and a lack of down time.

It sounds like your brain fog is coming from two sources: The first source is the nagging stress of super-juggling — trying to fit all of your everyday responsibilities into an overcrowded schedule. You’re dealing with kids, work, the house, yourself, your spouse, friends and family. Whew!

Your second source is information overload — what Alvin Toffler called “infobesity” in his 1970 book “Future Shock.” It’s well recognized that just like overeating damages your health, overconsuming information causes chronic stress.

And all that stress can decrease neural connections in your brain. Studies have shown multitasking takes longer and causes more errors. The brain fog is real; fortunately, so is your ability to stop the problem.

Here are our suggestions to help you reorganize your schedule, which might help you feel mentally sharper and keep your brain young.

Write out a short weekly list of to-do priorities. Additional tasks need to get done? Ask for help.

Reduce info input. Turn off the TV; answer your phone only when you want, not when it rings; check your personal email once a day. Control the flow of information.

Put “you time” back into your schedule. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and meditate 10 minutes daily. Yes, physical activity and meditation take time, but they minimize the aging that chronic stress causes.

Q: I read an article that said a new study found having an annual physical doesn’t improve my chances of staying healthy or beating a life-threatening disease. Should I keep getting an annual checkup or not?

A: Prevention and early diagnosis of problems are the keys to a longer, healthier life. If you get regular checkups, you’ll know when you need to reduce your LDL cholesterol, to cut your risk of cardiovascular problems. Your doctor can encourage you to shed 10 percent of your body weight and if you have a rise in your PSA levels, that signals the need for a biopsy, so you can have early treatment for prostate cancer. A skin check every year can ID skin cancer — and early treatment of melanoma is essential for a good outcome. There’s a benefit of having a long-term track record with your primary-care physician — continuity builds better, more individualized care.

King Features Syndicate

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