Chances are, if you searched your office building, you’d find a dusty, old stress ball.
These round little numbers are ubiquitous among corporate “freebies,” almost taunting the drained office worker who’d rather chuck one at the boss than use it to de-compress. But before you launch yours at the corner window office, consider its original use: There are actually some real stress-relieving properties to the ball. And there are other, old-fashioned remedies that might be worth reviving, too.
We asked Dr. David Posen, stress expert and author of “Is Work Killing You?: A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress,” and Dr. Kathleen Hall, stress expert and CEO and founder of both The Stress Institute and the Mindful Living Network, to help decipher which of these tactics really work — and which don’t.
But first, a little : Our stress reaction is mediated by hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol — all of which provide us with immediate energy to fight or run away from danger. “This goes back to caveman days,” Posen says, and the fight-or-flight response is encoded within us.
But these days, most of our stressors are psychological rather than physical — think a narcissistic boss instead of a wild animal. “You’ve got all this stress energy — your body is in a state of high alert, but there’s nowhere for it to go,” Posen says. “When you’re stressed, your body tightens up — so a physical release helps to let go of some of that energy,” Hall adds.
So, stress balls, swinging pendulums and a good old-fashioned cry — could these be solutions? Here are the verdicts:
“Play is so stress-reducing because you become child-like again,” Hall adds. What’s more, she says, dancing typically involves music. And that means you’ll profit from the mood-boosting and stress-relieving properties of that as well.
And you might consider adding Mom to your speed-dial if she isn’t there already: Research shows that hearing mom’s voice can soothe you just as it did when you were a kid.
Posen says he often quotes Eli Bay, who said: “If you breathe as if you are relaxed, your body will become relaxed.” Once you learn a few exercises that work for you, you can revisit them time and again when you’re feeling the stress (start with a few of these if you’ve never tried breath work before).