I went to the gym yesterday. I ate no sweets. #2 son said it was fine with him if I gave up sweets for Lent, as long as I provided sweets for the family anyway. I stopped working a couple of times during the day, once to make a healthy lunch and sit down and eat it, and once to walk outside for the mail and refocus my eyes. I stopped working for the day at a reasonable time, made a proper dinner, and walked to church.

The next question in Life@Work is, “How is stress affecting your health?” I don’t actually think I’m experiencing any particular degree of stress. But I do think that “the health effects of the geek lifestyle,” as internet articles put it, are an issue for me.

Partygirl and I were talking about this recently. Both of us are placid people, or serene if placid sounds too dull. But we also both get our first inkling that we have too much stress in our lives from physical symptoms. She gets a painful, tight jaw, and grinds her teeth, and stuff like that. I wake up in the middle of the night.

Right now, I’m waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day, which feels like the middle of the night, but it’s not stress. it’s my husband’s alarm clock.

Anyway, for both Partygirl and me, we first have these signals and that causes us to think, “Oh, I must be feeling stressed,” where I think most people first feel stressed and then have symptoms from it.

That might be because for both of us, stress is often the result of too much good stuff, or change, or some other element of our lives that isn’t distressing. We learned that in school — the difference between distress and eustress — positive events that are nonetheless stressful because they involve change or problem-solving or something like that.

But there is also the cumulative effect of stress. In doctor’s offices, you can see a chart with points for various events and how stressful they are. You add them up for the past year as you wait for the doctor, so you can see how stressed you might be. Back when I was in doctors’ offices a lot because I was having babies, I always did this while waiting for the doctor, and the numbers were always very high. So last year,when I lost my job and developed a new one (or two, actually — I always forget that teaching is a job) and family members moved in and out and my husband was laid off and my daughter divorced and whatnot, well that might have added up to a high stress number. There was actual distress involved in some of that, too.

On the other hand, I also have the benefits of very satisfying work, lots of interesting new friends and colleagues, less financial stress, and the mental elasticity that comes from learning new things.

And the health effects of the geek lifestyle have something to do with stress, too: physical stress. It’s bad for our eyes, because we’re asking our eyes to do things they aren’t adapted for. It leads to “really poor sleep hygiene,” as one article quaintly put it, because we’re ignoring the physical demands of our physical bodies for sleep, as though we were part of the software for our computers rather than animals. We get back troubles from sitting at a computer for ten hours a day instead of moving around. I think living on delivery pizza and Pop-Tarts is also probably stressful for the body.

Not that I eat Pop-Tarts. But I read that they became much more popular when people started eating in front of their computers instead of having proper meals. They don’t leave crumbs on the keyboard, they can be kept in a box next to the computer, and there is some pretense of their being nutritious — more so than a candy bar, say.

So the health effects for me? Weight gain, and stern words from my optometrist. Are stern words a health effect? I guess the point is that, while I am not currently experiencing any health problems, I see myself going in a direction that clearly isn’t good for me. Balance, for me, needs to include better care of my physical health.

Today I am determined to go to the gym again. I have an encyclopedia deadline, papers to grade, and a couple of websites to work on. I have a meeting with the pastor to set an agenda for Sunday’s worship ministry meeting. And one of my Brit IT clients wrote me last night to say he would be sending over “a load of work” this morning. Except of course that’s this morning his time so I don’t know when that will be.

I also need to get music ready for tonight’s rehearsal. Last night’s rehearsal involved a bunch of ’80s Easter music. I don’t dislike everything that was composed in the ’80s. I don’t even dislike all ’80s pop music. My boys were teasing me for this, after I admitted that I quite like Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.” But much of the music written for churches in the ’80s, including the stuff we’re doing, makes me feel that we need bouffant hair, lip gloss, and that just-about-to-snap-the-fingers move singers took up during that time period. You know, the arms are bent at the elbows and the fingers are curved together and the singer sort of turns from side to side… no? You missed that? You can see Steve Winwood doing it if you click the link above.

On the up side, I do have all these great pieces from Brian over at BrassMusicOnline. I sang through his “The Holy City” last night, and I’m excited about it. It’s dramatic, with a Bach-like accompaniment. I was asked last year to sing this song for Palm Sunday, and I wasn’t excited about it at all. It’s an 1892 sappy thing, one of those Irish Tenor bits. Brian’s arrangement is more like singing Mendelssohn.