De-stress, and how!

Scream, break, swear, but find your antidote to the 21st-century inevitable, stress.
Last Updated 23 June 2018, 22:27 IST

Max, Yogi and Zophie. A gang of super-friendly, handsome and nifty boys. They hang out in Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW), Texas. Bump into them and they will cheerily high-five strangers and put their arms around a sulking, stressed soul. No, they are not much for coffee-conversations. But if you are stressed about the long-haul flight, or the thought of a smelly, snoring person on the next seat is giving you the jitters, Max, Yogi and Zophie will listen to your woes. Patiently. Calmly. Quietly. Easing out your stress. Like a shrink on duty.

Call these four-legged furry shrinks the best stress-busters. Part of DFW’s K9 Crew that was launched in October 2016, Max, Yogi and Zophie walk around DFW to help travellers beat stress. Max, the nine-year-old Chow mix, an original member of the K9 Crew, gives handshakes, high-fives, and can ‘speak’ on command. Says Ricky Griffin, DFW Airport Customer Experience Coordinator, “The dogs bring comfort to passengers waiting for flights and this has truly elevated the customer experience.”

Max, Yogi and Zophie are what we need in this age of stress-epidemic. World Health Organisation calls stress the ‘Health Epidemic of the 21st Century’, where anxiety has nudged out happiness, relationships are tearing at the seams, insomnia is relentless, peer pressure is driving people to the cliff and economies are draining with tangible stress-related fall outs. While anthropologists, sociologists, nutritionists and scientists are slugging it out about the stress-factors, the stress-busters are pulling out tricks to beat stress. Max, Yogi and Zophie are part of the New Age stress busting remedies.

Companies worldwide are prioritising de-stress for employees. They had to, for stress stats are frightening. According to the Behavioural Science & Policy Association, work stresses like job insecurity increase the odds of reporting poor health by about 50%, high work-related demands up the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35%, and long work hours have been shown to increase mortality by nearly 20%.

We have all heard of office picnics and parties, holidays on birthdays, group adventures, free rides and meals to minimise stress. Now, companies are doing more. And more. Google offers classes to employees with Zen-centric names like Meditation 101, Search Inside Yourself, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction; Appster has a husky called Howl in its California office; Hong Kong-based Dealogic pays for its dragon boating employees to leave work early on eight Fridays leading up to the competition to train; when PricewaterhouseCoopers employees check their work e-mail over the weekend, a note pops up reminding them that it’s the weekend. In 2003, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline began offering a ‘personal resilience’ seminar to equip employees with skills to ward off stress and thrive in a challenging work environment. In India, HDFC employees struggling with stress do Shambhavi Mahamudra, a 21-minute meditation regimen, while Royal Bank of Scotland has provided its employees in India with introductory yoga courses as part of stress management training.

Of late, nations, companies and individuals are trying to beat stress in innovative ways. French government has imposed a law that gives workers the right to disconnect from emails out of office hours, while around the planet stressed-out souls are screaming, baking, mouthing expletives, hugging animals, hiring consolers, throwing hatchets and sneaking into Cry Rooms.

Here are a few stress-busters:

Swear-away hotline

The Germans have an antidote for stress. Swear. Rave. Rant. Use the f-word. Dial the swearing hotline. Known as Schimpf-los (German for ‘swear away’), callers taunt, jeer, and throw anger at the man/woman at the other end of the optic cable. Poor fella, he is not the cause of stress. When the caller is not creative in cursing, the trained operator goads him/her to swear more. They get paid to get the caller as angry at them as possible! And when you have screamed, shrieked and hollered your gut out over the hotline, the stress-load is less and work/home altercations lesser. Swearing is not free. It costs 1.49 Euros per minute. For, getting stress off your chest, it’s a good deal.

Germany, however, is not the only nation with blow-off-steam hotlines. In Australia, there is Lifeline on 13 11 14; the United States of America has dedicated anger management counselling lines, while the United Kingdom has a Stress Management Society.

Throw the hatchet

Not bury the hatchet for peace. Throw it. In New Jersey, there’s a Stumpy’s Hatchet House where stressed adults are taught to hurl sharp, blunt weaponry through the air with great force. Arranged like a bowling alley, complete with beer and artery-clogging food on hand, Stumpy’s has visitors throw hatchets at large wooden targets. That’s the new favourite thing: throw the hatchet for stress relief. And when hatchet is no longer enough as a stress-beater, throw the axe. Axe stress.

Anger rooms

When stress is unbearable, you want to smash the head of the person who chants ‘take a chill pill’. Do not pop a chill pill. Smash things. Anything around. Destroy them. Destroying and then repairing or replacing things at home can bring back stress. Step into the alternative Anger Room, a facility where, for a fee, one can wreak as much havoc as one wants. Pick your weapon — a baseball bat, a crowbar, or a sledgehammer, and smash. In the Dallas Anger Room, throwing comes with three session options: I Need a Break, Lash Out and Total Demolition, which run for 25 minutes, for a fee of $75.

Bake in a Korean sauna

No, you will not step out of this sauna crisp as a biscotti, but Koreans are thronging to spas to bake away their stress. Special clothing is provided for the clay room, where, hopefully, stress sweats itself out. If clay rooms are not innovative enough, those stressed out are soaking in bathtubs full of red wine, having leeches suck out their worries. The weirdest is a nightingale poo facial for stress relief. Poo on the face! I’d rather keep the stress in the heart.

Hire men to wipe away tears

In Japan, where work culture is at an extreme, a new stress-relieving practice has emerged — hire a man to wipe away your worries. Started by a company named Ikemeso Danshi, Japanese women can hire men (referred to as Ikemeso) to come into their office where together they watch a slideshow of emotional/sentimental videos and photos. During the session, the Ikemeso prompts the woman to share her feelings and cry. He then wipes her tears away. Happily ever after? No. The Ikemeso is a just a stress-buster.

Programmer motivators in China

Wanted at Chinese Start-Ups: Attractive Women to Ease Coders’ Stress. Qualification: Must be attractive, know how to charm socially awkward programmers, and give relaxing massages. An ad like this smells of misogyny, but in China these programmer motivators are much in demand. Part psychologist, part cheerleader, the women are hired to chat up and calm stressed-out coders.

Worry Stones

A worry stone is an ordinary stone with extraordinary abilities to relax troubled minds and help cease worries. Said to have originated in Greece, worry stones are used by holding the stone between the index finger and thumb and gently moving one's thumb back and forth across the stone.

Cry Closet

The stress of examination finals can drive even the brainy nuts. So, the University of Utah has closeted stress. It has installed a Cry Closet that features a narrow door with a dark lining, a plush floor and stuffed animals inside. To calm finals-nerves, students can now lock themselves in the school’s Cry Closet for a 10-minute break.

Nap pods

A stressed, sleepless employee is not only bad at work, he is a drain to the coffers. Lack of sleep costs most developed nations 2% of their GDP. In the US alone, it adds up to $63 billion a year. Google, Zappos, Cisco and Procter & Gamble have woken up to the sleepless fact and are encouraging their employees to take power naps. Not on the desk, but in swank nap pods. Procter & Gamble has lighting systems in its offices that regulate melatonin, the sleep hormone, to help employees switch off in the evenings.

So many methods, so many tricks, so many ways to beat stress. In this age of stress-epidemic, can we wish away stress? Can we? In his later years, when Selye was asked to define stress, he said, “Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.” Nobody really knows stress, but everyone is trying to be stress-free.

Yes, these bust stress!

* Eternal Poppety Pop: Keep popping the bubbles on bubble wrap eternally because it will never run out.
* Adult Milk: Japanese workaholics are drinking adult milk to de-stress — milk is collected at dawn because cows release large amounts of the stress-relieving hormone melatonin overnight.
* Girlfriend Knee Pillow: After a long day at work, rest your head on this headless, knee-only woman made of foam.
* Sound-proof vase: There’s a sound-proof vase that one can yell into.
* Squeeze an alien: Think of E.T. Clench E.T. so hard in the fist that gooey maggots burst out of his eye sockets. Instant relief.
* Blow-up Smack Him Doll: Put a photo of your ex and, well, yell, punch, slap the one who broke your heart.

(Published 23 June 2018, 19:30 IST)

Follow us on