bluebeard

Down-time and stress

Originally published at PeterCHayward.com/blog. You can comment here or there.

It’s funny what relaxes you.

There was a conversation on /r/AskScience about different body shapes – why some people only gain weight around the mid-section, while for others the weight is evenly distributed around the body.

I’m one of those people who only gain weight on my torso – a personal trainer at my gym once told me that it was the worst kind of body-type to have, because the closer your fat is to the heart, the higher your odds of a heart attack. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it’s handy in inspiring me to attend the gym more often.

(also handy is Gym-Pact, a website that my friend Mike put me onto. Pledge how often you’re going to go to the gym and your credit card details, and it’ll charge you a pre-decided amount every time you fail to go. If you hit your target, you get money from people who didn’t. It’s a clever little site, and I’m planning on signing up later this week.)

My Dad has the same body-shape, and so I had always assumed it was genetic. The comments of the reddit thread I was reading, however, suggested that where you put on weight was determined by hormones, specifically those produced when one was stressed. The more stressed you are, the more the weight focuses around the middle.

Now I haven’t independently verified this, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, for the first time in my life, I stopped and went “Hang on, am I stressed?”

Turns out that I am! It’s not something that normally bothers me, but having attention drawn to it like that was a bit of a downer. Since then I’ve been thinking about it, and realised that I don’t really remember the last time I wasn’t stressed.

Things seem to feed into one another – this week was meant to be a chilled week for me, but yesterday I spent alternating between a rush editing job that I picked up and a Melbourne International Comedy Festival application for We Should Know Better; today has been a bit better, but I’ve had morning appointments almost every day this week and don’t really have any breathing time until Sunday.

Since learning that I’ve stressed, I’ve been feeling it (which sucks) but I’ve also become more aware of what I do to deal with stress.

I’m not good at time off. I can’t imagine not being run off my feet – as soon as I have time off, I fill it with more things to do. So my method of relaxing is to do something productive.

Sometimes it’s sorting files on my hard-drive: I find this to be very soothing. Often it’s working on All-That-Is, which is a nice form of “creativity without deadlines” that I quite enjoy. Very occasionally it’s playing a computer game, but I rarely find a game that doesn’t make me feel like I’m wasting my time. (puzzle games, that’s the trick. It’s so satisfying, finishing a puzzle.)

Recently, and this brings me back to the start of this post, it’s been organising my Kindle library. I’ve downloaded (one could say “pirated”) a bunch of books that I own in physical form (eBook piracy is surprisingly challenging) and I’ve been adding covers, correcting meta-tag fields…you know, all the stuff that one does on their downtime.

It’s funny what relaxes you.