June 22, 2024


Technological development

Does Stress Eating Alleviate the Discomfort of No Internet?


“It was the worse day of my life.” This text message from a friend made me wonder if her husband and/or dog, both having been ill lately, had worsened or worse…had died.

But thankfully, no, it was her internet, not her husband or dog, that was in failing health. For reasons too complicated for her to explain or me to understand, her computer, phone, and television stopped working. She told me later that it took hours for her to get her service back, even after a tech guy had come to her house.

“I was in tears, and all I could think to do was to eat. I must have gone through a bag of cookies and a pint of ice cream before everything was fixed,” she told me.

One of the side effects of being dependent on the internet to connect us to our world is the frustration and anxiety that occurs when it stops working. Our professional and personal lives seem to be put on hold when we cannot use the internet to communicate, do our work, pay bills, talk to our health providers, listen to music, and a myriad other tasks and functions. Indeed a feeling of helplessness, of feeling we cannot manage our lives, descends upon us. As my friend told me, “I felt as if I were holding my breath. What if they couldn’t fix it? What then?”

When I shared her plight with a mutual friend, I learned that someone we both knew had never used the internet, relying instead on the telephone and mail for all her interactions. Although this mutual friend never had to suffer the frustration of having her internet system malfunction, we both agreed that it was like deciding not to use electricity to light a room because a light bulb might need to be replaced.

The likelihood that something will go wrong at some time with our devices or the internet that serves them is probably pretty high. There is no way of preparing for this; no weatherperson will tell us that something will fail three days from now. But if problems have occurred in the past, we should try to use our responses to help us get through a potential future problem without experiencing a complete ‘melt-down’ and/or weight gain.

Perhaps the first thing to remember is that usually, the problem is fixable and will be fixed, although it is hard to hold onto that thought when the computer doesn’t turn on or no emails show up on your cell phone. You must remind yourself that your life will go on, even when your computer won’t.

Getting angry or crying doesn’t help either, although sometimes it is difficult to refrain from indulging in one or both responses.

If you know, you will be engaged in the repair process for a long time, prepare before making the call. Sometimes a tech will, with your permission, take over your computer to figure out the problem. Find something to do while this is happening so you won’t have to listen to the person talk to him/herself while trying to figure out a solution to the problem.

Often doing something with your hands can release some stress. While you might not be able to knit an entire scarf while on hold, seeing some progress on your end (a longer scarf) while waiting for any progress on the repair end may be somewhat soothing. I find that straightening my desk drawers is distracting, and their pristine condition reflects the amount of time I am on hold. However, it is important to be prepared to stop whatever you are doing without warning when you are asked, by the tech helpline staff, to plug, unplug, enter, delete, etc., something on your device. Don’t plan on kneading bread while waiting; you will never get the dough off in time to return to your keyboard.

You can cope by moving your body. It is easy to become immobilized during the internet crisis and its resolution. Tension may increase muscle stiffness and even cause shallow breathing. If possible, walk around, stretch, do knee bends, jog in place, stretch your back and arms, and try not to bend your back over your computer or cell phone. Take deep breaths.

Complain. Almost everyone understands what you are going through and will be sympathetic to your plight. If there is someone in your office or home to whom you can complain while waiting for the problem to be fixed, you will feel less isolated. Of course, you may have to listen to other internet catastrophe stories that surpass yours, but it is still worthwhile to complain.

Try not to eat your way through the resolution of the internet issue. It is tempting to nibble…especially when frustration, impatience, or even a sense of helplessness increases. And to be sure, eating carbohydrates should increase your patience and turn down the intensity of your frustration. But mindless snacking can also rapidly increase your calorie intake, especially if you are consuming foods containing substantial fat, sugar, and/or starch.

Before making that dreaded phone call to your internet provider, proactive carbohydrate consumption might help stop subsequent munching. If a small amount of a carbohydrate-rich food is eaten, such as a toasted English muffin or rice crackers (25-30 g carb, fat-free & minimal protein), approximately thirty minutes later, new serotonin is made in your brain. Serotonin will make you feel calmer, able to bear whatever stress you may encounter with your internet problem, and will shut down your need to eat more food. A little-noticed effect of serotonin, conferring a sense of fullness and satisfaction, is responsible for this effect.

Unfortunately, even serotonin will not be able to stop you from continuously putting food in your mouth as a diversion or distraction. Some of us chew on the end of a pen or pencil. Others need their mouths to be chewing on something they can swallow. It is too bad no one has come up with an adult version of a pacifier, something we can chew on that has no calories and removes our nervous energy. Crushed ice often works, or sucking on a lollipop, along with the carbohydrate you ate earlier, may be calming.

As you go through the internet crisis, think of something nice you can do for yourself when it is all over. Something that does not require the internet.


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