Everyone needs a stress ball

homemade-stress-ballsBy Lisa Sugarman

We live in a chaotic world, that’s the reality. There’s poverty. There’s war. There’s corruption. There’s terrorism. There’s coupons expiring before we remember to use them. The endless list of negative things out there can take our breath away and leave us paralyzed.

The point is, life can be stressful. It can be ugly and annoying and inconveniently overwhelming. That’s because, the older we get and the more rooted we become in our lives—with families and jobs and commitments—the harder it becomes to cope with the challenges they bring with them.

Now don’t get me wrong, things like being married or raising a family or having a career also have a beautiful side to them. And it’s that beautiful side that makes taking them on so worthwhile. But at the very same time, life is also challenging. Plain and simple. And everyone deals with those challenges in very different ways.

Some people practice yoga to cope with the chaos of life. Some run. Some paint. Some meditate. Some write. Some cook. The bottom line is that everyone needs a way of managing stress. And not everyone has their own version of a stress ball that sufficiently does the job.

That’s why I’ve decided to tell you what I do to relieve stress. Because we all need something reliable we can turn to when life becomes too wrinkled with chaos.

Now I know you probably assume, based on what I said two paragraphs ago, that I’m one of those people who writes to relieve stress. Good assumption, but you’re totally wrong. You feel silly now, don’t you?

Actually, when the going gets tough in my little world, I whip out my ironing board and have at it. Yep, just me and my baby-blue Rowenta and a big-ass pile of wrinkly button downs. Because nothing resets my compass in quite the same way that ironing does.

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Why ironing, as opposed to Bikram yoga where I can sweat the stress right out of me? Well, first of all, almost everyone in the modern world owns an iron. And if you own an iron then you automatically own an ironing board, meaning that my form of stress relief is accessible twenty-four hours a day. You don’t even have to leave your house. Hell, you don’t even need to get dressed. Not to mention that there’s no fee involved. In fact, you’re actually saving yourself money by pressing your clothes in-house. Plus, you’re being environmentally kind to them by not exposing your delicates to harmful dry cleaning chemicals like perchloroethylene. In other words, you’re doing a mitzvah, also known as a good deed.

But the most significant reason why ironing is so cathartic, at least for me, is because every ironing job starts in complete chaos and ends in perfect order. You start with crinkled, creased and rumpled clothes and ultimately return them to their original state of pristineness. With a little forearm pressure and a good steamer, an otherwise ugly pile of clothes can be reborn. Ironing allows me to singlehandedly take an otherwise stressful situation and make it calm again. Ok, so while a wrinkled laundry pile may not constitute actual stress, it symbolizes chaos just vaguely enough to make my point.

I know, my ideas are farfetched; but I bet you’re thinking of ironing in a whole new way right now. Whether you’re a guy or a girl, a housewife or a Wall Street moneyman, you’ve got stress. And I’ve just enlightened you to perhaps the greatest undervalued stress reliever you never knew you had right there in your laundry room.

Now I know there are those of you out there who despise ironing. One of my best friends hasn’t ironed in probably twenty years because she hates the tediousness of it so much. (Jenny!) So I get it. But I think that she, and others like her, are misunderstanding ironing’s true stress-relieving capacity. I mean, not everybody likes to lift weights or get up at five in the morning to run in the dark. But we do it. And we do it as much for our physical health as our mental wellbeing. And that’s precisely why I iron, for mental health.

See, to me, ironing is a naturally purgative exercise. It’s both productive and cleansing at the same time. I mean, how else can you transcend to an almost Zen-like place of calm, make order out of chaos and check off chores simultaneously? And what doesn’t feel better than being productive and rejuvenated at the same time? Right?

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Things of beauty, right there. I get the shivers just lookin’ at em…

So before you poo-poo it, fill up that water chamber and give it a whirl. It might be slightly unconventional as far as stress balls go, but it more than gets the job done. And you’ll be the sharpest-looking cat in the grocery line.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

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