7 Cheap Ways to Relieve Stress

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A new survey finds 77 percent of Americans are more or as stressed now compared to a year ago. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix – bubble wrap, the survey says.

“Just over one minute of popping Bubble Wrap provides stress relief equivalent to a 33-minute massage,” it says. And who had the idea to do this fascinating research? Shocker: Sealed Air Corporation, the company that owns the Bubble Wrap brand!

Yes, the folks who produce the mail padding are now promoting it as a stress reliever. (They even have a Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day with a website that includes a bubble wrap popping game – which I’m guessing doesn’t offer the stress-relief benefits.)

But why not? People are shipping fewer packages these days, and a 30-minute massage can run $50 or more. So Money Talks News has compiled its own list of cheap (and even free) stress relief…

  1. Plastic popping. Bubble Wrap and its generic imitators start at about $8 on Amazon, although that’s considered 80 percent off. Still, assuming the average person can pop about 72 square inches of tiny bubbles in a minute, this particular roll offers 350 sessions of stress relief for a cost of less than 4 cents each – including shipping.
  2. Squeeze ball. The traditional stress-relief toy of choice is still a good one, and there arecheap squeeze balls online starting at around $6. Just make sure you check the reviews and get one with some resistance – the cheapest ones are soft foam, and that’s no fun to squish.
  3. Pillow beating. You could fork out $40 for one of ThinkGeek’s neat-sounding beating heart stress relief pillows, which lists this as a selling point: “If monks needed meditation pillows, they’d have these.” But pummeling the ordinary variety until you’re satisfied is a much cheaper way to vent some stress. And don’t forget pillow fights. In China, it’s now a Christmas tradition to blow off some steam by having an all-out pillow war among hundreds at a rock concert. (Check out the video for some instant stress relief.)
  4. Dancing. Raise your hand if you remember the Footloose warehouse scene. Music + exercise = stress relief, and there’s no numbers in the equation. Being a dancing fool is completely free, as long as you don’t put yourself in the hospital. What about the tunes, you ask? That’s what the Internet’s for: Check out 8 Ways to Get Your Favorite Music Free.
  5. Laughter. There’s a reason your family and co-workers forward you silly pictures and animations, and that seemingly half of YouTube is cat videos. They’re free, they’re funny, and even the Mayo Clinic will tell you laughter is no joke: It brings extra oxygen into your body and makes you feel lighthearted, with additional long-term benefits.
  6. Sex. According to WebMD, the health benefits of sexual activity include better heart health, stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and yes, lower stress levels. Assuming you aren’t paying for your encounters, the cost factor here is capped at the price of a condom. Let’s call it $1, although you can get them for free at many college, government, and nonprofit health centers.
  7. Meditation. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, as of 2007 nearly 20 million Americans practiced some form of meditation for stress relief or other issues. It doesn’t have to be a spiritual thing: Just find somewhere quiet, get comfortable, and stop thinking about problems. Focus on just about anything else – a pretty mental image, your sense of touch or hearing, repetition of a word or idea – whatever works for you.

Sometimes day-to-day stress just comes from not looking at the big picture. If that sounds familiar, you might want to check out The 10 Commandments of Wealth and Happiness.

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