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Monday, April 07, 2008

Blogging to Death?

My first reaction to this New York Times article— “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop—was to laugh. None of the Quaker or mother bloggers I know are making money cruising the web at all hours. For me blogging is often just a chance to express myself without worrying if my article length will fit an editor’s preference. But even if the problems the article describes are far removed from the lives of most bloggers, it still raises two serious issues that I can relate to—writers being underpaid and many people being over stressed.

Stress has been a theme here lately, and I have to bring it up again to plug an excellent PBS series Unnatural Causes…is inequality making us sick?. The first episode examined the effects of stress on the body and how understanding stress helps to explain why our life-expectancy correlates so closely to our incomes. The argument is that while the hospital CEO experiences a lot of what we think of as stress, the CEO also has a lot of control over how to handle things, as compared to the janitor, who just has to do what other people tell him to and sometimes has the stress of different people telling him to do different things at the same time. The experience of feeling powerless, the series argues, has profound health effects that also show up in monkeys who get bossed around by other monkeys. I found the monkey studies particularly interesting because all the monkeys had the same diet and environment, so the health problems of the low-ranking monkeys couldn’t just be blamed on eating French fries.

It’s got me thinking about stress and control in my own life. Although I often feel too busy, I realize I have it pretty good in the control department. I can blog today instead of later in the week because I know I will be grading papers after tomorrow. If I finish blogging early, I can go take a walk before picking the kids up from school. Actually, I could go walk without finishing—it’s just my own work ethic that is pushing me, not someone else’s demands, which makes me very lucky compared to the vast majority of working people in the world. Even my teaching job includes a lot of flexibility. For example, I could schedule the paper I’m collecting until after my children’s spring break when I knew I wouldn’t have time to grade. At the moment the thing that feels least in my control is the kids' schedules, though even that I could change if I really wanted to. Megan’s play practice gets out at exactly the same time Luke’s baseball practice starts, in a different neighborhood. If this is my biggest problem, I guess I’m doing OK.

Still, whether my stress is self-created or circumstance created, I need to work on managing it better. My only complaint about the PBS special was that it didn’t tell us how to do that. Some of the statistics it presented were pretty shocking, especially around the health effects of racism, but they were a little light on solutions. So when in doubt, I blog and breathe.


Blogger Chris M. said...

I just wanted to say I liked this post. When I have a lot of other things to do, reading blogs tends to fall by the wayside. It's nice to catch up, though, and I'm blessed to have the ability and access to do it.

Which makes me think the first step toward a solution to overstress and overconsumption really is to express gratitude: Thank you, God, for the opportunity to have a busy and fulfilling life! I think gratitude involves both acknowledging the blessings in one's life AND creates space for the Spirit to flow in.

11:35 PM  

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