Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stress relief, China-style

BY DAY, they are young white-collar workers toiling to meet harsh deadlines set by demanding bosses.

By night, they form packs and prowl supermarkets, swiping biscuits, defizzing soft drinks and crushing noodle packets.

These nie nie zu, or 'pinch brigades', have spread like wildfire across major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai over the past few months, leaving a trail of destruction behind them in their quest to 'de-stress'.

They are among a growing number of young office workers who are adopting unorthodox stress relief fads to help them cope with the pressure they face at work.

Recently, hundreds of insomnia-stricken white-collar workers circulated on the Internet an addictive lullaby, which claims to not only help induce sleep in stressed listeners but also give them visions of their previous lives.

One 28-year-old professional surnamed Wu told the Chongqing Daily that after listening to the lullaby, she got her first sleep in months - and a dream that she had once lived as a Qing Dynasty princess married to a Manchurian nobleman.

Other white-collar workers turn to stress eating. On June 30, some 50 such workers in their 20s and 30s took part in a contest called 'Let's Go Crazy' organised by netizens in south-western Chongqing municipality. They wolfed down biscuits larger than their faces while yelling out their grievances about work.

'Because of the stress I face at work, I wake up earlier than a rooster and sleep later than a dog - making me zhu gou bu ru (lowlier than a pig or dog),' a 30-year-old professional told local media as he gobbled up biscuits.

Other mass de-stressing activities include public pillow fights (above) and an immensely popular online game where young adults wake up in the middle of the night to 'steal vegetables' from virtual gardens.

Such unusual pursuits reflect the collective craving of hundreds of millions of young office workers for outlets that can deflect some of the stress they face at work, brought about by factors ranging from unreasonable superiors to fears of retrenchment amid the downturn.

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