Friday, July 16, 2010


I made what I thought was a witty comment on a blog the other day, and the blogger took it seriously. I do that sometimes. Unfortunately, I think the blogger was a little offended or irritated.

Usually, people get what little humor I have in person, but on the internets, no one knows your a dog.

My students sometimes don't get my sense of humor. I think it's a regional thing with that. Only partly, though, because sometimes I'm just not as funny as I wish I were (because if I were that funny, I'd make a whole lot more money and live in Fantasy City).

So, I went to the doctor's the other day for my well-woman check thing. I'm healthy, mostly, but I need to lose weight. I'm a stress eater. When I get stressy, I eat sugary stuff, in excess. And I feel better. And I gain weight. And blah blah. And this past year has been extra stressful.

It's a lot less scary than shooting up, though, because no one runs around aiming guns at me because I've got an oatmeal raisin cookie.

And it's less scary than drinking lots of alcohol and then trying to drive home, because I'm way more functional after a double ice cream cone than after even one drink.

So, anyway, the doctor suggested maybe counseling would help with stress. Maybe.

But here's the thing: Counseling me is not going to change the economy. It's not going to reduce my class sizes, or zap the furlough pay cut and produce a raise so I can keep up with the cost of living. Counseling me isn't going to end patriarchy or sexism or racism. And if counseling leads me to accept those things calmly and not care, then counseling is the wrong thing. I would do better to get a gun. (But I'm sure prison is way more stressful than my current life, so... See, that's supposed to be humor, but around here, people would just look nervous, knowing they have an arsenal in their basement, and thinking that I probably do, too.)

I AM thinking of trying yoga, though. I have a couple friends who do yoga, and they seem to find it helpful for stress (and core strength, which is good for all sorts of stuffs).

I need to find something that will help me do something other than eat sugar when I get stressed out. And I'm open to other ideas.


  1. I think there's a big difference between learning how to cope with something so it's not so stressful/handle stress, and not caring.

    But I do the exact same thing with sugar. It kills an anxiety attack like nothing else.

  2. If you try yoga, let me know if it helps, esp. w/weight loss. I've been contemplating it for some time.

  3. I have done peer counseling (called re-evaluation counseling) for many years and have found it very useful, not in calming me down, but in channeling my righteous anger about classism, sexism, racism, heterosexism, etc etc etc. I often feel less isolated and come up with better solutions to combat these things in my life, and figure out how to have a lighter approach so that I can confront issues, while not having them sit so heavy on my shoulders all the time. So I really don't think counseling is about being calm or accepting things... though peer counseling is of course different from therapist counseling in some ways.

    This summer I started my yoga practice back up too, and it is remarkable what it does to my mood and my sense of myself. I doubt I've lost a pound from it (I only practice once a week) but I am more proud of my body and more comfortable in it. I feel that when I am taking good care of myself I feel a lot more relaxed and empowered to effect social change... and being a stress eater of sugar and chocolate I can totally sympathize.

    Anyway, that's my approximately thirty cents :).

  4. I tried meditation years ago at a very stressful juncture and it helped. But not as much as a chocolate bar. Im overweight, too. I spent some money on more attractive clothes for my weight and that has done the trick. LOL

  5. I've really found yoga to be helpful in making me aware of my body (just in general) and in where I hide tension and stress. It helps me open up and relax my back muscles and put my shoulders down where they belong instead of up by my ears. When it works (and you don't necessarily get "good feelings" off it the first few times because you don't know what the hell you're doing and are all lost and confused in the class), you can feel much lighter and relaxed all day.

    For me it has no effect on when or how I eat, but it's like getting a massage and realizing afterward how tense you were --- it may be really beneficial even if you *don't think* you are tensing up!

  6. I hear you on the stress eating.

    Massage has helped me a LOT this year. I tend to carry my tension in my back/neck/forearms. A strong, deep tissue massage runs about $50 (which doesn't help with the stress about money, of course) and keeps me feeling MUCH better. Just a thought.

    Oddly enough, throwing potluck parties has really helped, too. An evening of socializing and laughing with good friends is great therapy for me!

  7. P.S. Regarding parties and get-togethers, I'm NOT a person for whom socializing comes naturally. It took a LOT of courage for me to invite people to my home the first few times, but I found that everyone had fun and looked forward to coming over, which made subsequent invites easier for me. :)

  8. As New Kid and Kate noted, there is a difference between learning to manage stress, and not noticing injustice in the world. It's more about gaining control over how you respond to it than not seeing things. From my experience of yoga, I don't think it would help directly, but the mindfulness it cultivates may be helpful.

    And on food generally, like other bad habits, you need to want to change it. Somehow a time just comes...

  9. I hear that yoga is good; your bike riding would help, too.

    Nothing has helped me so much, though, as trying to ignore the news. That may make me a bad citizen, but it's made me a happier person.

  10. I was neither offended nor irritated. I just thought you were serious. Now I;m worried I've offended you.

    Ah, the perils of non face to face communication!

    Am totally a stress eater myself, and have found good info reading Judith Beck's books on cognitive therapy for overeating. I eat also when I am bored, and all it takes is about 5 minutes of not juggling 50 things at once for me to be bored. Trick is finding something else to substitute or the eating.

    Have a great weekend, a looking forward to some biking myself....


  11. New Kid, Anxiety, stress, sugar cures it all!

    Ianqui, I don't think it will help with weight loss, but hopefully with stress and core strength. But I'll let you know.

    Kate, That sounds hopeful, thank you.

    LenapeGirl, Chocolate. Mmm. I hate clothes. If I could comfortably go naked (or just wear sweats and a t-shirt) all the time, I'd be happy. Winter makes that very unlikely, though, as does our whole culture.

    Sisyphus, Oh, thank you. That sounds good!

    Terminal, A massage sounds good, too. I do socialize a lot, but it often involves food. My friends tend to be good cooks, and I do try to be cooperative and helpful. :)

    Susan, That's a good distinction. Thanks.

    Undine, There's a thought. But it's really hard to ignore the sexist, patriarchal stuff at work.

    Peggy, Thanks :) We'll agree not to be offended, and I'll try to be funnier in future. I was just a little serious, too. :/

  12. I told you we were long-lost sisters; I do the same thing (I.e. Eating during stressful times). Aerobic exercise is my salvation - when was the last time you were on your bike? It'll help. - really.

  13. Artemis, Hi LongLost Sister! You're right, exercise DOES help. I rode 16 miles yesterday. Today I kayaked for ~2 hours. But I still have a bad sugar habit. Good to hear froom you :)

  14. I can't speak well of therapy, I'm afraid, since I haven't had a really good therapy experience so far, but I do think that learning better ways to cope is different from learning not to care. But I hear you: I'm skeptical of therapy because I'm not so sure I want to be normalized! I may be stressed, but at least I'm me!

    I'm also a super-stress eater. I love ice cream, chocolate, sweets of all kinds, the works. And as much as I know the wonderful cure of sweets, I can say say pretty authoritatively that yoga helps one's stress level. In purely physical terms, stress causes muscle tension; yoga reduces it. Aerobic exercise is, of course, great -- being the equivalent of 50 mg of Prozac and all, but when you lie the floor in corpse pose and just breathe -- there is nothing like it.

  15. I just went to my first yoga class today! (I found a studio advertising 20 days of as many classes as you want to attend for $20 total).

    It was fun and relaxing (for my brain, and hard work for my body), but I don't know that I'll keep going after the 20 days.

    Sugar is what I turn to when stressed too. I've been trying to reach for a sweet hot drink (sweet tea, flavoured coffee, hot chocolate) instead of sugary food, though, because it's just as comforting, but doesn't contain quite as much sugar for its volume as most foods. Sometimes a hot bath has a similar effect. (Although I'm not beyond taking my chocolate INTO the hot bath and doubling the goodness...)

    I've been to a counselor fairly often these past months, and she never once suggested that I shouldn't be mad or stressed about the things I am mad and stressed about. Rather it helped just to feel heard: to complain about the academic world and have someone commiserate and listen. And not to have to worry that they might hold what I say against me, or pass it on to people I'd rather not have hear it, etc.

    We are often cautious in complaining around colleagues (or they don't listen because they are too busy trying to one-up us about how hard they have it), and family and outside friends just don't understand. For me, that's what the counselor has been good for. (It helps that she's based at the university and deals exclusively with faculty and staff, so she knows what it's like).

  16. I've been drinking too much rum to help with the stress (I'm stressed about the same list of things you are, plus my kid's crap school!). Not only does this not help any better than eating lots of cookies, you get just as much sugar *and* the hangover. So I don't recommend my solution.

    My father explains to me that exercise (he runs marathons) will do the trick. However you already exercise.

    I think a people's revolution is the answer. I'll get the pitchfork if you bring the torches.

  17. I'm with you on the sugar = stress relief cycle, which has been my unhealthy habit for years. But, I've been on a sugar-free diet for the last month, going cold turkey on all sugar or sugary goodies. It was rough for about 3 days and ever since it's been not such a big deal. I compensate with lots of fruit -- which has sugar too, of course, but the better kind.

    As for yoga: I've been doing yoga for 10 years and it has saved my life. I don't do yoga for weight-loss, though I think it helps in that regard, but it cultivates a peaceful state of mind that is *priceless*. I could go on and on (and I've written about this some on my blog) about the benefits of yoga -- which are much deeper, more profound than just the effects on the body. I am not a fan of "power yoga" or "hot yoga" because they only emphasize the aerobic/physical aspects of yoga (which you've already got plenty of from your active life); I recommend you try something more focused on the mental/spiritual aspects like Iyengar or Anusaura yoga.