He Ruiming recommends some unusual ways to take the load and anxiety off the weary road warriors. No gyms or massage rooms required.
Rent a Pet
Studies have shown that keeping pets has many advantages, including decreasing one’s blood pressure and cholesterol and stress levels. Known as man’s best friend, dogs are no exception. Because of their therapeutic value, canines have been widely deployed to bring smiles to the faces of patients.
(For those who prefer kitties, Cats Livin’ in Tokyo lets customers play with cats all day for ¥1,200/US$12).
WHO IS IT FOR? The worn-out animal lover-cum-voyager in need of some puppy love.
WHO’S BEHIND IT? American company Flexpetz offers a pooch rental service. The fledging business was founded in 2007 by dog lovers who were dismayed at their inability to be full-time pet owners due to other commitments, such as regular business travels. The company has branches in New York, Los Angeles and London, and plans to open four more in Paris, Boston, Washington and San Francisco by the year-end.
HOW DOES IT WORK? To “rent” a dog, one must apply for a membership that will set you back at least US$279.95 monthly. Spend more than four days in a month with a dog and you will have to pay an additional US$45 each day you do so. Food, water, dog beds and even leashes are provided for each rental free of charge. Delivery, or “shuttle service” as they might call it, generally costs US$25 each trip. Dogs for rent range from the familiar (Jackpot the Lab Retriever) to the exotic (Tango the Afghan Hound).
When one laughs, levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) are reduced. It also lowers your blood pressure, leaving you relaxed. Negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness and anger that can cause bodily harm when kept suppressed are released during a bout of laughter. Surely now more than ever, there are more reasons to laugh.
Laughter, or (more broadly) humour therapy, involves remedies or health benefits through forms of laughter. In recent years, it has seen a surge in popularity in countries such as South Korea, where there are laughing sessions held in public hospitals, one of them being the Seoul National University Hospital. Though guffawing is widely known to reduce stress, it also has other benefits, such as strengthening the immune system and combating depression.
The concept of humour therapy – the link between chuckling and medicine – has to be at least centuries old. The Bible preaches, “a cheerful heart does like a good medicine,” and the well-known cliché goes, “laughter is the best medicine”. Today, humans finally have scientific proof to show that a little giggle goes a long way.
WHO IS IT FOR? The solemn and grim-faced executive.
WHO’S BEHIND IT? Laughter Yoga, an organisation that promotes laughter as a way of life. Today, the laughter movement is a phenomenon with at least 6,000 laughter clubs in 60 countries that are dedicated to giving people a hearty good time.
HOW DOES IT WORK? After several minutes of warm-up, breathing exercises and stretching during a laughter-therapy session, participants will find themselves involved in various types of laughter. According to Indian physician and Laughter Yoga’s founder Dr Madan Kataria, one does not need to be happy or even amused to laugh – it is just an exercise. However, when eye contact is made between people, the laughter becomes real.
Cry Your Heart Out
Though they may seem like polar opposites, crying, like laughing, is also a form of emotional release. As the Jewish proverb goes: “What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.” Science in the 21st century has identified crying as our natural medicine to take on stress. In the UK, crying clubs have been designated as places for weeping souls to call their own – it’s sad but true.
WHO’S IT FOR? Anyone who is heartbroken, sorrowful or frustrated.
WHO’S BEHIND IT? The Last Tuesday Society of the UK organises events christened as “Loss; an Evening of Exquisite Misery” (supposedly London’s saddest night). It was last held this year at Parker McMillan, 47 Chiswell Street.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Don’t let the name of the event deceive you. Loss is essentially a party – except that crying is strongly encouraged. Amid the fancy costumes, music and drinks, onions are cut to help get the bawl rolling. Though the tears might start off as mere responses to eye irritation, it is hoped that eventually they can become emotional tears that aid in the de-stressing process. Certainly, crying at an event like this is going to save you a lot of unwanted attention than, say, sobbing loudly in your office. Lone weepers, however, might prefer to watch the infamously sappy Korean drama, Winter Sonata, in the comfort of their own homes.
Game for Stress
Most video games relieve stress by giving players a fantasy world that is an escape from reality. Others provide mental stimulation and give the mind a break from more pressing issues. Do note though, there is a difference between casual gaming and being an addict.
Often blamed as the cause for myopia, violence and apathy among the youth these days, video games do have a saving grace in the form of relieving stress. Take this as an example: American troops in Iraq spend time pressing the buttons of their Xboxes, Playstations and Gameboys – all in the name of stress relief. Elsewhere in the world, studies are slowly discovering the potential of video games as a form of decreasing stress. Results from a study this year by the East Carolina University in the US revealed that playing a video game (Bejeweled) was able to reduce physical stress activity by 54 percent.
Today’s games, armed with vivid and almost realistic-looking graphics, have come a long way since Tennis for Two (the predecessor of Pong and one of the earliest video games) was conceived in 1958. Since then, there have been numerous anecdotal accounts of the use of video games as a stress-buster.
WHO’S IT FOR? Everyone’s inner child.
WHO’S BEHIND IT? While there are plenty of internet cafés hosting gamers and their needs, they are often filled with loud, hot-blooded young men who are die-hard addicts. We would propose you check out any of the many game consoles that are available out there so that you are not restricted to where you can play and also whom you can play with. The seventh generation of members of these consoles include Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s Playstation 3.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Once you find the power button, everything should come along pretty fine. Some games have a harder learning curve than others and may take more time to master. Don’t give up, it’ll be fun.
CONTACT: www.microsoft.com; www.nintendo.com; www.playstation.com
In line with its humble nature, bubble wrap’s origins are equally modest: it was accidentally invented in a garage-size room back in 1957 by the founders of Sealed Air, known for fresh food packaging. Today, the company makes enough of it annually to wrap round the equator 10 times. Who would have thought that the humble and resilient bubble wrap actually serves to alleviate stress?
No formal research has been undertaken to find out why bubble wrap is effective in relieving stress, but that does not stop its fans. Perhaps, one explanation is because it is so simple, almost anyone can do it.
WHO’S IT FOR? Swivel chair-bound professionals.
WHO’S BEHIND IT? Mugen Puti Puti (roughly translated into “infinite pop pop”), manufactured by Japanese toy company Bandai, is essentially regular bubble wrap that can be popped over and over again. For every 100th pop, it makes a random sound to “reward” the user. On cyberspace, many sites have sprung up trying to replicate the sensation of bursting these small air bubbles. There is even a bubble-wrap appreciation day on the last Monday of January.
If you are interested in the Mugen Puti Puti, you can order one. Prices start from US$7.99 on eBay.com. For the online versions, google “virtual bubblewrap” and click away. Alternatively, just grab some from the shops.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Press and pop – it doesn’t get easier than this.
CONTACT: www.ebay.com; www.google.com
Blogs have been talked about so much these days that you’ve probably heard enough about them. There are blogs about technology, medicine and politics. Then there are those that revolve around the blogger’s personal life and contain many of his or her emotions. Mundane as their content might be, they actually serve a purpose. Blogging does relieve stress by helping one vent his feelings – think of it as a new form of expressive writing.
The Scientific American reported on the therapeutic effects of blogging to be similar to expressive writing. Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, offers her viewpoint: “As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviours, such as complaining, which acts as a ‘placebo for getting satisfied’. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.”
WHO’S IT FOR? Check your company’s blogging policy!
WHO’S BEHIND IT? Blogosphere, The Web 2.0.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Though getting an account from services such as Blogger, Wordpress or Livejournal is easy as a few clicks of a mouse, blogging itself, however, is not that simple. As opposed to a hardcover diary, having a blog exposes one to the dangers of the internet. Some companies have strict policies about blogging to prevent unwanted attention or negative employee branding, and violation of these terms can result in serious consequences. Although the number of lawsuits against bloggers is relatively small, keep in mind that defamation laws can be enforced on the internet. If these intimidate you, there is always the handy diary to cry your heart out onto.
CONTACT: www.blogger.com; www.wordpress.com; www.livejournal.com
Art, the last resort
Elizabeth Scott, who has a Master of Science degree in Counselling and is a stress management expert for About.com, states three ways that art therapy helps to cope with stress. Firstly, it distracts you from the source of stress. Secondly, being busy in creating a piece of art gives similar benefits to meditation. Finally, just treating art as a pastime can make your life feel more balanced.
Dealing with stress sometimes takes more than words. When writing and speaking about life’s problems fail, one still can turn to art as a last resort to reduce stress levels. In the early 20th century, the link between art and health became a new subject for exploration. By the 1950s, patients in hospitals had already begun painting pictures as part of their rehabilitation. Today, art therapy is used to ease the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cancer.
WHO’S IT FOR? Moulders Of Enterprises.
WHO’S BEHIND IT? There are many professional art therapists around, but if your stress levels aren’t that detrimental (we pray that it isn’t), there are several DIY alternatives. Still, if you want to seek more qualified help or learn more about art therapy, here are some numbers you might find useful: The Hong Kong Association of Art Therapists, tel 852 2504 5625; Singapore’s LASELLE College of the Arts, tel 65 6496 5000; and the Taiwan Art Therapy Association, tel 886 4 2218 3365.
HOW DOES IT WORK? DIY art therapy comes easy. One may find relaxation simply from sketching on a pad, painting a picture or attending handmade pottery lessons.