March 13, 2013

"Our idea of stress — as a personal, internal problem — is a recent invention."

An interview with Dana Becker (whose new book is "One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble with Stress as an Idea"):
For instance... [t]here's a huge number of articles about working women's stress, and a lot of advice on what we should do. You know, we should eat more kale, we should do yoga, we should exercise, we should make more to-do lists. 
Sounds stressful!
So there's a primarily middle-class kind of solution or these solutions to what we see as the, quote, 'stress' problem today.

But unfortunately, that draws us into thinking more about how stress is going to affect, for instance, our health, or our psychological health, than it does to think about, say, the fact that family and medical leave is still unpaid, that the school day is shorter than the work day is, that we still are a society that essentially devalues care giving, that workplace policies haven't kept pace with dual-career families.
So she's saying the "stress" idea makes people think in terms of personal well-being and responsibility instead of agitating for social and political reforms? Sorry, but I think looking after yourself is less stressful than thinking the whole world needs changing.

But there is a lot of inanity around the idea of "stress" these days, especially when the solutions seem like new doses of the problem. Must scamper over to yoga class and take orders about what positions to put one's body in. Do this. Now, do that. Everything's organized. So many tasks. Whatever happened to leisure and unplanned playtime? These "stress" people seem so dull.

63 comments:

Rich B said...

Am I happy today? Let's try less self-absorption. That's a great stress reliever/eliminator.

Erika said...

Yeah, it's infected everyone's thinking, even non-working moms. I know all kinds of stay-at-home moms with two teenage kids always moaning about how stressed they are. Sorry, but maintaining a household of four with all the mod-cons is not stressful, unless you're making it so by your own attitudes and choices.

And anyway, lots of working moms make it more stressful than it has to be. I wish more working women of my acquaintance would be willing to decline worrying about so many details. Don't run to five stores trying to find the right color of ribbon for your kid's birthday party invitations. Etc.

CarolMR said...

White smoke. New Pope.

Shouting Thomas said...

We devalue "care giving" all right.

This woman wants the corporation and the government to babysit her children, instead of taking care of them herself.

Yes, she devalues "care giving."

Physician, heal thyself.

Feminism is the dumbest bullshit. We care about "care giving" so much we want to delegate it to the proper authorities, instead of doing it ourselves out of love for our own children. Go figure.

What an asshole!

Paddy O said...

As a "personal, internal problem" it's not new, but it is significantly more pervasive.

It's the sort of stress that has always been with the upper classes, the leisure classes, or the more successful merchant classes. It's the stress of having all one needs, but needing more and more to feel satisfied.

It's the stress of non-physical work, that allows stress to wage war with one's insides. Physicality was, in most contexts of history, synonymous with work, so that stress was there but was also worked out in one's vocation.

Yoga and the rest are ways of adding physicality to one's life, when there's no other demand at all for such physical expression.

The idea of stress, I would argue, can also be seen underlying some of the deadly sins--ways to distract and alleviate stress in very insufficient ways. Indeed, if we add acedia back to the list, the symptoms sound very much like someone who is stressed out.

Erika said...

By the way, I'm jealous as all get out of my friend who is very content living a leisurely life. Her husband makes lots of bucks, her three kids are in school all day and she doesn't volunteer or do housework (has a housekeeper). She spends her time reading, working out, taking naps and planning vacations. I don't want to live that way, but it sounds nice sometimes. At least she's not one of these mad-activity-high-stress people.

edutcher said...

Community Organizing 201.

The post about why aren't more people ticked about inequality was CO 101.

Tim said...

New Pope elected.

No news yet as to who he is.

TA said...

Or, life would be a lot less stressful if other people would pay for a lot of our shit.

Shouting Thomas said...

How did our women adopt such a disgusting, stupid ideology?

Thank God, I know women who don't wallow in the shit of feminism. God bless them, they make life worthwhile.

What in the fuck is wrong with feminist women? How did they con themselves into buying into this bullshit? Are they really just too fucking lazy to take care of their own children?

Paddy O said...

Did you know that there still is no word for "stress" in the English language?

traditionalguy said...

Stress, thy name is computer networks! I recall the days that Blooger crashed the Professor's blog memory. Now that was stressful.

The first Computer experts blame you and then they punt with an attitude. The secret is persistence until you find one that knows the answer.

And how is Windows 8 doing today?

Seriously blaming Stress as a cause for whatever is bad is a new trend, but IMO Stress is a real thing in the spiritual sense.

A driving spirit is the first one Jesus would cast out people if he came back today.

Julie C said...

I'm with Erika. I know women with money, free time, and nice comfortable lives who manage to find time to bitch and moan about every little slight, usually on behalf of their teenage children. "Some girl looked at my daughter and smirked! Oh no! She's being bullied! I need to discuss this for the next two days!"

It's very tiring. I purposely remove myself from the gossip queens. Less stressful that way!

edutcher said...

You can count one stress relieved:

White smoke at the Vatican.

Larry J said...

Different people have different levels of stress. My maternal grandfather was a sharecropper who raised 5 kids during the Great Depression. I'm sure that was stressful.

My daugher-in-law is coping with the stress of her job as a corporate lawyer while raising two young boys (8 and 4) while her husband is deployed to Afghanistan, all without government assistance, housekeepers or anything else. She's tough.

For some people, not getting their way on every issue of life is stressful. They're whiners.

Nonapod said...

I guess it's true in our advanced first world society that happiness is very much a choice.

traditionalguy said...

Defining stress as frustration is not right. Stress is always there whether all is going well that day or not...what if things go bad???

Shouting Thomas said...

Yoga is great for old farts.

Myrna and I took classes for 3 years at Chelsea Piers in NYC.

Learned enough there that I've constructed my own practice and I feel comfortable doing it at home.

No need to hurry anywhere.

Shouting Thomas said...

Women really need to stop reading so many horseshit worthless books.

TosaGuy said...

Just another tactic to gin up the people with some moral outrage.

However in this case, folks will soon find that perpetual moral outrage is very stressful.

TosaGuy said...
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roesch/voltaire said...

Well it is nice to know that stress is not a factor in why the average man will die well before the average women, and it must be great to have the income of a lawyer and have to rush home from the job to meet the kids when school lets out.

virgil xenophon said...

Stress? "This is no social crisis; just another tricky-day for you.

-----The Who

bagoh20 said...

"... workplace policies haven't kept pace with dual-career families."

So you want more and more stuff, most of which you don't really need, you vote for those who raise your taxes and thus waste a large portion of your output, you want more free time, and you don't want to have to raise your own kids, and of course all this requires more money while asking for less of your time. Therefore, your employer should figure out how to make that work for you? Oh yea, and we should tax him up the ass too and require him to manage and pay for your heath insurance.

Is your name Julia by any chance?

Shanna said...

Don't run to five stores trying to find the right color of ribbon for your kid's birthday party invitations.

My coworker got personalized stationary thank you cards from a one year old.

I agree with you, much of this is self imposed.

Alex said...

All these whiny babies. Let them work on an oil rig, in a coal mine or at a construction site. Now those are real stressful jobs where you could get seriously injured and/or die.

bagoh20 said...

"Don't run to five stores trying to find the right color of ribbon for your kid's birthday party invitations."

Of course this is not my particular flavor of this problem, but yes that kind of fanatical perfectionism is a real problem, and I fall for it over and over. It's nearly always a stupid waste of time and effort. Sometimes the extra work actually makes it worse. Choose your battles carefully.

Alex said...

fanatical perfectionism applies when you're a Steve Jobs trying to change the world, not planning dinner.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

This might help.

Stress is close to anxiety, and anxiety is "failure, experienced in advance."

Peter said...

"..."our psychological health" ... family and medical leave is still unpaid, "

By the time you mandate "medical leave" and define that as including "psychological health" you'll find a good deal of employment has gone underground and off the books.

Who (other than perhaps government) can afford to hire employees who expect paid time off for (expansively defined) "psychological health"?

"OoooOh I'm sooo unhappy. I can find a psych who will certify that I need some (paid) time off"!

Seeing Red said...

You want to ease stress?

People need jobs. Jobs means money, bills paid.

This decline is stressful.

Working 2 part-time jobs will really be stressful, Thanks, Obama!

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

This might help.

Stress is similar to anxiety, and anxiety is "failure experienced in advance."

Alex said...

Seeing Red - maybe you should have become an engineer instead of goofing off in high school.

Seeing Red said...

Uncle got the photographic memory & math brains, he's the engineer.

A damn good one in his field, was 1 of the top in the country.

Seeing Red said...

A box of rocks, however, could be smarter than he is in other areas of life.

Freeman Hunt said...

"especially now in a world where uncertainty is really king or queen, you know, that we want to control what we can control."

"king or queen"

LOL!

Freeman Hunt said...

What do we want? Gender equity in metaphor! When do we want it? Now!

Seeing Red said...

What they want is the rich life, raising kids by nanny and servants doing the grunt work while they swan around doing or to be seen what they perceive to be "important work."

Pettifogger said...

"the fact that family and medical leave is still unpaid, that the school day is shorter than the work day is, that we still are a society that essentially devalues care giving, that workplace policies haven't kept pace with dual-career families"

Indeed. I find it extremely stressful that other people won't give me enough money to solve all my financial problems. Ain't life a bitch.

kentuckyliz said...

I teach a stress management class online. Universally, the favorite technique is breathing.

While you breathe, on this earth, you will have stress.

(The only stress free people are in the cemetery.)

To fight stress, breathe.

MayBee said...

I like yoga, but not for stress relief. Or at least, I don't find it. Ore stress relieving than other forms of excessive. I do like group exercise classes because they spare me the decicisions of where to go, how long to go, how much to push, etc. I can just let go.

Stress for me is frustration. So in excercise, I would stress out if, say, I'd biked too far away from a bathroom, got caught far from home if the weather changes, or got hurt in an area where I don't know anyone ( which is most of this city). I don't need that!

The rest of it is prey dopey.

phx said...

What do we want? Gender equity in metaphor! When do we want it? Now!

Funny :D

wyo sis said...

KLiz
It really sounds like the cure for stress is quit breathing.

Pogo said...
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jr565 said...

I hate going on trips and then having to see everything. I just want to vegetate in a hammock. No need to see the world. Then again, why spend the money going Rome if you're not going to see Rome.

I see the point, but I tire pretty easily when on the vacation tours and am done after day 2 or 3. Then it becomes work.

Really want to find someplace tropical and just park myself down.

jr565 said...

Point being, even when trying to reduce stress, most people (myself included) turn the excercise of relaxation into a stress inducing job.

Which is why so many guys like the idea of a man cave in the house. Just existing with your significant other is often stress enough. There needs to be a place where dudes can just be.

Alex said...

jr - amen. My entire condo is a man cave.

Dante said...

Perhaps the reason is that stress used to be "externally" driven, by the needs of filling the belly.

Now, the belly is full, and so we seek out stress. It's good to seek out stress, as women tend to have less kids. At least, that is what I see.

Pettifogger said...

Kentuckyliz said: "(The only stress free people are in the cemetery.)"

Zorba the Greek said: "Life is trouble. Only death is not."

Freeman Hunt said...

What are these people stressed about? Errands? Small tasks? Those aren't stressful. There's no chance of failure. They're irritating.

Or they're stressed because they've created lives around an alternate reality in which they do not live? Maybe that was a mistake. Probably fixable though.

Howard said...

Stress was the mantra of the 30-something older boomer Yuppies of the 80's. Then they got stressed out about TQM mantra of stressing over working smarter, not harder. Then they passed it down to their kids who are now 30-something.

Stress is ego stroking prideful hysterical feign of humility and commitment.

Narcissism

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Oh really!

Is cortisol also an "invention"?

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Yes, she devalues "care giving."

She didn't say that she devalues caregiving. She said the society does - of which you, unfortunately, would be a member.

Go take care of her kids, Tommy Tuneless. I think babysitting would make a great addition to your schedule, seeing how much free time you have to wank off on your guitar.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Indeed. I find it extremely stressful that other people won't give me enough money to solve all my financial problems.

Oh, so they're "your" problems? You brought them on?

Then pay for them, bitch! Lol.

Sam L. said...

One of those terrible, life-threatening, first-world problems.

MayBee said...

Or they're stressed because they've created lives around an alternate reality in which they do not live? Maybe that was a mistake. Probably fixable though.

That's what is so dopey about her list of stress-creators.

To me, a sudden change in circumstances creates justifiable stress. But being stressed because the school day isn't as long as the work day? It never has been. How can that add stress to your life, unless you imagined society was going to change to your liking as soon as you got to that stage?
( Besides, a school day as long as the work day would be unbearable! She wants to do that to kids so adults don't have that stress?)

Dante said...

I wonder if there were a clear direction for the country, whether stress might be less. Something that made sense. It used to be external: the Soviet Union and Communism.

Now it seems to be within. The press, and self destructive actions of the left, tearing down society, but having no clear replacement.

Kit said...

Stress is in the eye of the beholder - to judge the stress triggers of another by your own measure, by your own experiences, is a very limiting view of the world.

traditionalguy said...

Stress would be an erection that lasts longer than the promised four hours. Women don't understand real strrrress.

gbarto said...

Freeman Hunt said: What are these people stressed about? Errands? Small tasks? Those aren't stressful. There's no chance of failure. They're irritating.

Or they're stressed because they've created lives around an alternate reality in which they do not live? Maybe that was a mistake. Probably fixable though.


We all live in an alternative reality. If you're an animal, your two big worries are starving or being killed and eaten. All animals are wired to be ever on the alert to deal with these two problems. We were built to sit still for 20 minutes till a predator moved on, not 8 hours till the boss went home. Eating is getting to a source of food and consuming it, not sitting in traffic for half an hour to get to the restaurant, then waiting at the table with the smells around you for another half hour till your orders are brought. If you're an animal and want something and see it, you need to take it now, not contemplate how you can delay gratification to get it in six months by foregoing other things.

In every way, we live in an alternative reality that we've had the good fortune to create for ourselves. And yet, our bodies aren't exactly wired for this. Dante had it right.

SOJO said...

There's stress you can't do anything about - usually money related. You have to do things you don't want to do. Then there's manmade stress. From what I've seen it's hyperactive types who are afraid they'll miss something.

madeleine said...

I moved to Norway in 1994. Before I got there I was a stressed out stay-at-home mom. Everyone I met said, "Relax! You're in Norway now." I've never been the same since I came back--can't abide the American "I'm so busy and stressed out" game. It's really just a ridiculous competition to see who can be the most miserable. What a waste of time. I'm so glad I got diverted from that path...

LHogan said...

Years ago a husband and wife might purchase a plot of land, maybe in Wisconsin. Begin farming and raising children. Maybe their first child died young. Their second seemed healthy and the 3rd. The forth died in childbirth. Every year they relied on their hard work and labor to raise enough food to feed themselves and their children and may be make a little money as well. But ultimately a late freeze, a flood, a drought would dictate their success or failure. Oh, and their second child. He may have just reached the age of helping to plow, broke his leg and was crippled the rest of his life.
And we call a 7% loss in our 401K 'Stressful'.
Perspective!