The Stress of Living Online

Living On The NetIT’S AN OLD ARTICLE, but still very relevant. On April 6, 2008, the New York Times posted an article called In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.

It tells of the stress – to the point of death, in one case – of blogging.

Blogging can take a toll – but so can programming, designing web sites, administrating a corporate network, running an ecommerce site – the list goes on and on.

If you spend hours upon hours in front of a computer, because of your job, your business, your blog, Twitter, or just because you’re “hooked”, there seems to be a price to pay.

  • Weight Gain – even though the brain neurons may be firing at 100mph, you aren’t burning very many calories sitting there. Plus, since you do need fuel for all that brain activity, lots of computerphiles have all kinds of plates, glasses, pop cans, and empty snack wrappers cluttering up their desks. And we all know we are notorious for, well, not the greatest nutrition.
  • Out-of-Shapedness – as if the weigh gain isn’t bad enough, now you get out of breath easy, and simple tasks get harder to do. It’s because you’re not moving. Like use it or lose it, baby.  Also, some of us begin to get a sort of permanent bend at the hips, especially when first standing up. Sort of a plantar fasciitis of the mid-section – stiff at first, but it loosens up as you move it.
  • Sleepless nights – if not from all that is going on in your head, then from all the Jolt cola or all the cappuccinos you consumed in front of the monitor.
  • Permanently Hunched Shoulders, Stiff Necks – and along with these come headaches and low backaches.
  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome – from too much constant wrist action at the keyboard.
  • Vitamin D deficiency – when was the last time you spent some time in the sun? Skin cancer aside, we all need a little sunshine to get Vitamin D, which we need to help us avoid 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, depression, diabetes, chronic pain, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, and periodontal disease.  Not to mention just getting some fresh air!
  • Eye Strain – feels just like a headache to me.
  • Lack of sleep – time flies when you’re on the computer, that’s for sure. Before you know it, it’s 2 AM and you’ve got to get up at 6.
  • Messy Desk Stress – it’s all too easy to let the stuff pile up – the headphones from the iPod, while the iPod is recharging, piles of papers with notes on them, PDF print-outs, mail (that you’re going to read just as soon as you get a chance), coffee cups, a CD spindle pack, several pens, the phone, speakers, your web cam….
  • Uncomfortable, Non-ergonomic Chairs – I remember an old, old book that said something like this – Why do people spend only $2 for a chair to sit on in front of their $2000 computer? Of course, today you can get a computer for a lot less than $2000, and even a garage-sale chair will probably cost you more than $2, but still many people will sit in a very uncomfortable chair for hours on end in front of the computer.
  • Headaches – from eyestrain, screen glare, poor posture, tight muscles, lack of sleep, or just concentrating too hard.
  • No TCB – We’ve been talking physical problems, but there are others too. Did you forget to put the trash out last night – again? Not paying much attention to the spouse and kids? Forget to get that bill payment mailed off, and now you’ve got a late charge?

As time goes on, these problems can take a huge toll on our health. But there is plenty we can do about them. You’ve got to take care of yourself. Try some or all of the following:

  • Move away from the Computer! – sounds like Knight Rider’s KITT, huh? My son sets a timer for one hour and then bugs me unmercifully until I get up and do something else for a while, or at least until I move around for a few minutes.
  • Stretch – or do some Desk Exercises. Open and close your hands, and then twirl your wrists. Stretch your arms up and up, like you are climbing a rope. Do neck rolls. Shoulder rolls. Suck your stomach in, and then push it out. Straighten your legs out. Raise up and down on your toes, under the desk. There are a multitude of little movements that you can do at your desk. There have even been books written about desk exercise. OR you could even GET UP and do a few exercise moves. How about some hip rolls to loosen up that permanent hip bend?
  • Choose healthier food and drinks – Think about it when you are at the grocery store, so you’ll be prepared when you go to the fridge. Go caffeine-free, or even try water! Baby carrots are crunchy like chips. There are several varieties of low-fat snack crackers. Every little bit helps. And you probably won’t even notice the difference, since most of that eating and drinking is unconscious anyway. Cuz like your head is really in the computer, and not on the food, right?
  • Drink Less Caffeine – if you just gotta have it, drink it early. As it gets near your bedtime, switch to decaffeinated, or to water.
  • Go outside for a few minutes – sit and relax. Or run. Or walk around the yard. Take out the trash? Most of us make about 20,000 units of vitamin D after about 20 minutes of summer sun. This is about 100 times more vitamin D than the government says you need every day. So you are killing several birds with 1 stone – you’re getting your Vitamin D, and you’re either getting some exercise or some relaxation, and you’re letting your eyes rest by not focusing on the computer screen, and you might be taking care of some business – like taking the trash out.
  • Clean your desk – a cluttered desk may be a sign of a genius at work, or it may just be a huge frustration when you go to look for something. Just take a few minutes to clean it up and organize it a little. It just takes a few little minutes, and you will feel so much better!
  • Get a comfortable, supportive chair – or get a small pillow to place in the lower curve of your back to support your lumbar spine. Sit up straight – not like a board, but try to uncurl the shoulder slouch at the very least.
  • Look out over the horizon – ok, maybe the wall is directly behind your monitor, and you can only look 2 feet away. So pretend. Or look out a window. Then put your hand up real close to your face and look at the lines on your palm. Close your eyes and put your hands over them for 15 seconds. Do some eye exercises. Roll them to the left, and then roll them to the right. Look up, look down, look all around. You’re a clown. Just kidding! Focusing your eyes at different distances, and moving them all around will help to reduce eyestrain.
  • Take a break – Take a day off from the computer. Or even just a half-day. You might have some initial withdrawal symtoms, but soon you will be feeling chipper, enjoying the things that are going on around you.

Doing any, or all, of these things will help to relieve the stress of living on the net. Plus, taking a break from the computer – a few minutes, an hour, or even an entire day, will help to clear your mind, and give you a fresh start when you return to the computer.

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See Stretches for when you get sore and stiff at your computer.
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