What I’m Really Saying When I Say I Want to Watch TV

What I’m Really Saying When I Say I Want to Watch TV

Self-awareness isn’t my strong suit.

It drives my husband crazy that I’m not so good on picking up on my body’s signals: I’m not the least bit hungry until I’m starving. I’m not at all sleepy until I’m completely exhausted. I don’t have to pee until I’m about to pee in my pants!

But this year, I’ve finally noticed a pattern: If I want to watch tv, it means I’m stressed out.

I have a few shows I watch, and I plan on watching them. On Monday nights, you’ll always find me watching Once Upon a Time on hulu, and there’s no deeper meaning there. But if I’m ever seized with a desperate much-watch-tv feeling, just for the sake of watching something, it’s time to look beneath the surface and see what’s driving that desire.

Thankfully, curling up with a cup of tea and a great show is a pretty harmless stress response. I’ve even found some wonderful shows when I’ve been stressed out and casting about for something to watch. (Hello, Downton Abbey.)

For someone who’s not great at self-awareness, having a reliable indicator like this can be pretty handy.

What’s your sign that you’re getting stressed out?

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  1. Rachel says:


    I like to bake when I’m stressed. If I’m having a rough day, I’ll often find myself brainstorming of things to bake. Eating them isn’t the point (roommates and coworkers take care of that), I just want to *make* something.

    Sometimes just realizing what’s going on (that I’m stressed) is enough to help me find a way and time to chill out.

    • Z Parks says:

      Rachel–interesting point, I had a roommate once tell me that the reason cooking is therapeutic is that you have to destroy something in order to create–like cracking eggs, or grinding pepper. Interesting, no?

  2. sonja lange says:

    I am with you – I watch TV when I am stressed. It used to be ice cream…I had no idea I was doing it until one night the lightbulb in my head went off and I realized that I was eating ice cream after I put the kids down and never any other time – only when I was stressed and wanted a release. I don’t buy ice cream any more. I watch old episodes Psych or Vampire Diaries and take deep breaths. MUCH better for the waistline.

    • Anne says:

      Hmm, you’re right, Sonja! I try to combine my tv with a cup of tea and not with chocolate or ice cream…although the latter definitely happens sometimes!

  3. DFrazzled says:

    I have found that TV is for when I’m already tired but don’t want to officially go to bed. However, sleep is much better for me than watching TV, so I’m learning to listen to my body and hit the sack early when the mood strikes. For stress relief, I find that I go into this crazy must-clean-up mode. The clean space helps me relax, and it’s something I can take immediate action on and have some control over. However, my kids hate it when I go into this mode because no one else can do anything until the space is clean, and I often give them little to no notice.

    • Anne says:

      Wonderful examples! Nice, clean spaces calm me down, too. But I can’t say that I find the cleaning relaxing, unfortunately!

  4. Alia Joy says:

    I start to make lists and clean things when I’m stressed out. If I’m over stressed, I get totally overwhelmed and crawl into bed and can’t get out. Making lists and cleaning things usually keeps me from getting to that point.

    • Anne says:

      This is exactly what my husband does! When I’m stressed out, he always encourages me to put everything on paper. (And honestly, a good “brain dump” always helps me a lot.)

    • Anne says:

      Very true, but I never said that there wasn’t chocolate involved! (Although usually, a cup of tea will do. Usually.)

  5. HopefulLeigh says:

    If I start looking for excuses to cancel plans that I looked forward to previously, if I’m emotional about things that normally don’t bug me, or if my insomnia returns. I try to monitor my stress level daily and practice good self-care because I don’t like dealing with the symptoms of an overstressed me.

    • Anne says:

      Wow, I’m really impressed that you can tick off a quick list of 3 things, Leigh! I told you self-awareness wasn’t my strong suit, so I’m especially inclined to admire other people’s.

  6. My husband’s response is watching TV—sports, specifically. Otherwise I can’t get him to stand still. Mine is leaving the house to be by myself. And sometimes spending money while I’m out, which is weird because I hate shopping. Retail therapy is actually a thing!

  7. Aubry Smith says:

    This is awesome. I had an INFP suitemate in college, and she had hilarious stories about when she was a child: how she wouldn’t know she had to pee until it was too late to make it, or how she lost her shoes all the time and drove her parents crazy. I thought the stories were so funny because I was never like that, and it was a little bizarre to think about.

    As an ISTJ, I have the opposite problem – I’m far too self-aware. I kind of panic if I get hungry,so I make sure to carry a snack with me all the time (or eat the kids’ snacks…). I gained 40 and 50 lbs with my pregnancies, worried the babies weren’t getting enough nutrients. I know exactly the moment my hormones started going crazy and knew I was pregnant several days before I could take the 5-day-before pregnancy tests. I’m a bear if I don’t get enough sleep. I know when I’m stressed because I’ve been internally snow-balling and imagining worst-case scenarios. I lash out with impatience, and maybe reach for a little ice cream too 🙂 Since I know exactly when I get stressed, I have to focus on prevention – making lists helps me so I don’t forget anything, and taking breaks from my kids to recharge my battery (I’ve been known to hide under the bed…especially this week with a virus ripping through my family!)

    • Anne says:

      Aubry, it makes total sense for that to be a personality characteristic, but I had NEVER thought of it like that before! New levels of self-awareness dawning…

      I’m marveling at your ISTJness! I hope your family gets well soon and you can get out from under the bed 🙂

  8. Z Parks says:

    Netflix. I think the most Netflix gets used in my house is the two weeks surrounding the end of a semester and finals week–I KNOW I should be doing my homework/studying for that exam, but all I’m capable of doing is pushing “next episode” on whatever show I happened to turn to for stress support.

  9. Tim says:

    Like Aubry, I’m an ISTJ. Stress makes me hibernate/nest. Get me away from people and I will be better a lot more quickly!


  10. Stress makes me eat, especially chocolate or other sweets. And it also makes me chew my fingernails, a habit I finally broke after doing it throughout my childhood. If I get stressed enough though, I find myself trying to bite them all off. I hate it because it’s such a gross thing to do, and I end up with yucky looking nails.

    I’ve always been a bit jealous of people who clean when stressed, because from where I’m looking it seems like at least then something productive and beneficial is happening.

    • Anne says:

      You and me both, Sheila! Sadly, cleaning is just not a stress-reliever for me. (Although I do know that clutter is a big stressor. Ironic, huh?)

  11. Leanne Penny says:

    I am totally in agreement with this. I absolutely use TV to destress I usually watch the food network and screw around on my phone. Although when I reach for a good book and lay in bed I find myself more at peace, more content…

    Signs that I am getting stressed out are snapping at people, finding menial tasks overwhelming and feeling a deep craving for a glass of red wine.

    My best stress reliever is taking a bath, a decent tub is sort of a must have in any house we considering living in. I live in the tub in the winter and or anytime my children decide to push me over the edge.

  12. deborah says:

    ha! ha! I love your description of not picking up on your body’s signals!

    I drive my husband crazy by not knowing what I want to order when we go out to eat-especially when we pull up at a drive thru! It just takes this girl a little when there’s a whole menu to choose from!!

  13. Jasi says:

    I clean (more and focused) when I’m mad and I watch tv when I’m ruminating. TV is so blah it breaks my thought cycle and I zone out completely. I don’t watch much TV.

  14. Sarah says:

    I also watch TV, although if I’m watching because I’m stressed, I usually watch something I’ve already seen before. I have a few “comfort” shows (Life, Sherlock, Firefly) and a desire to watch them tells me I need a brain turn-off. It also can mean I need to think about something in the back of my brain, so to speak, so I distract myself enough to think. Does that make sense? I usually do something mundane as well, like clean the kitchen or fold laundry. I also cook when I’m stressed – things like spaghetti, chili, or soup.

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