Stress is a terrible thing. It really messes you up in ways you can’t imagine.
Too much stress can lead to all manner of ailments from heart attacks to poor bedroom performance. Stress can make you fat, skinny, lazy, hyperactive, weak, strong, forgetful, highly aware, stupid, smart, clumsy, and agile.
You can’t touch stress, but sometimes touching can make you stressful. You can’t see stress, but you can see its results. About the only thing you can do is feel stressful, but in reality what you feel is likely the result of one of our most basic animal instincts and quandary; to run away or stay and fight.
When I was a kid I used to rely on stress to heighten my memory during tests. My extremely poor study habits consisted of flipping through the text the night before a test in hopes that I would recall something if I ran across a key word, phrase, or picture. It worked out OK and I got through grade school, but I didn’t learn how to properly study, so I paid the price in the higher grades, which only made me more stressful.
Adrenaline junkies thrive on stressful situations. They push themselves to extreme physical limits or put themselves in real danger in order, through stress, to get that next adrenaline fix. The rest of us, however, try to find ways to avoid stressful situations, and when they are unavoidable, we want escape hatches, stress relievers that will channel the components of stress into productive actions, or at least benign activities.
Enter the item that is as common in corporate America as Dilbert cartoon clippings taped to a cube wall; I speak, of course, of the squeezy stress relief balls. This item comes in a vast array of colors, sizes, and shapes (the ball shape is most common, so “ball” still applies). The idea here is to have something handy so that when you feel stressful you grab it (instead of, say, a coworker) and squeeze the hell out of it. This action is suppose to take the edge of the flight or fight response.
Stress balls have never worked for me. I want something that puts up a fight. Most stress balls are so soft a frustrated newborn would have not trouble squishing them. If I’m stressed out the last thing I want to do is scrunch a wimpy ball. Heck, that’s liable to stress me out further. I think many office inhabitants feel the same way I do since I seldom see these balls get a workout. Yet stress balls seem to multiply like rabbits. New ones appear unannounced and in the oddest places as if deposited by some misguided alien Easter Bunny.
Someone once said that necessity is the mother of invention, and I guess that means that you’ll find a way to relieve stress even if you look pretty stupid doing it.
A good example of this juggling. Many IT workers juggle. There are two reasons for this and both are deceptively simple: First, juggling requires physical as well and mental activity, both of which are known stress relievers. Second, there are always a bunch of those stress relief balls around to juggle with.
The thing with juggling is that while it does a great job reducing stress only seasoned jugglers look cool doing it. Everyone else pretty much looks silly as they spastically throw and catch whatever is being juggled. So, unless you are good at it, juggling can lead to more stress.
So, we are all stressed out. There few socially acceptable avenues of public stress relief. Stress balls are no good for either squeezing or juggling, so we can’t go there. What are we to do?
Well, I find that occupying myself with something mindless, but fun, is a good way to relieve stress. Stupid movies, silly games, dumb jokes all can distract us enough to help us forget what got us all worked up in the first place.
Maybe that’s why there are so many fart apps in the iTunes Store.
I won’t be pointing you to farts apps, but I will point you to three equally inane apps and podcasts that will, hopefully give you an outlet whenever you feel stressed.
Watching sports is a good way to forget a stressful situation. Watching someone beat the crap out of someone else is not only a good stress relief, but it should reduce your urge to beat the crap out of someone in real life. This is especially true if your target is someone a lot bigger than you, in which case you might get the crap beat out of you and then you are not only stressed, but also in traction and being fed through a tube.
The point here is to WATCH fights, not participate, and the best way to have access to a good knock-down, drag-out is to download a few episodes of HDNet’s HDNet Fights.
These video podcasts gives you the best of the best fights featured on HDNet. This is not civilized ring boxing, these are no-holds-barred ultimate fights in cages. Two guys go in, one comes out victorious, and all of it looks painful. They are done in high definition so you won’t miss even the smallest trickle of blood.
There are also interviews with the fighters, which is kind of cool because you can see that these are just regular Joes.
Watch a few episodes and either you’ll be completely turned off or you’ll be a fan. In either case, I doubt you’ll be stressed.
There are a ga-zillion episodes of HDNet Fights so grab a bunch.
If you prefer something with a little less impact and a little more participatory then you might try Elsie’s Yoga Class: Live and Unplugged Podcast.
Yoga has long been known to be a great stress reliever and a good way to keep yourself in shape. Almost anyone can do yoga to some degree. You don’t have twist yourself into a human pretzel to get benefit, just the basic stretching exercises can do you a world of good.
Elsie’s Yoga Class is fun because Elsie Escobar is a down-to-earth, girl-next-door who is fun to watch and easy to listen to. She explains positions so that even novices can understand and many episodes include entire routines which you can make part of your daily ritual.
There are well over 70 episodes available at the iTunes Store and most are over an hour long, but there are several shorter routines you can do during the day available as well.
Elsie’s Yoga Class is a good way to chill, even if you just watch Elsie exercise.
Maybe yoga and cage fighting is a bit too physical for you and you want mental stress relief. You want something mindless, something humorous, something free.
How about Cows in Space?
A freebie from Donut Games, Cows in Space is kind of like bumper pool where you try to hit the bubble containing cows with the bubble containing stars. (Who thinks up these game scenarios?) You have a limited number of shots so you have to plan your rescue attempts carefully.
As levels progress obstacles make the game more challenging and power-ups keep the action interesting.
Silly concept. Fun game.
It’s mindless. It’s addicting. It’s fun. It’s free.
Cows in Space. It’s utterly cool. (I know, bad pun. I felt compelled to do it.)
That’s a wrap for this week. I’ll be back next week with more Free on iTunes.
More free stuff below with direct links.