Feeling Stressed? MSN Games and Work-Life Balance Expert Say, “Pause to Play”

REDMOND, Wash. — April 13, 2006 — Have you noticed that everyone seems stressed out these days? From simultaneous cell phone use and driving to road rage, manic family meals and the effects of “PDA thumb,” Americans are multitasking themselves into tension-produced oblivion. In fact, as many as 90 percent of primary care physician visits in the U.S. are stress-related,* which means that many Americans need to make relaxation a priority. Because, for most of us, regular spa vacations are out of the question, MSN® Games has teamed up with Dr. Kathleen Hall, a renowned stress expert and authority on work-life balance, to create the Pause to Play initiative. Being launched today in conjunction with Stress Awareness Month, Pause to Play (http://www.pause2play.com) is a month-long program to raise awareness about the simple solution of taking periodic mental breaks to achieve a better work-life balance.

“I often counsel my patients on simple steps they can take to reduce stress in their lives, and one of those is giving your brain a breather every now and then,” said Hall, founder of The Stress Institute Inc. “Taking 20 minutes or your lunch hour to solve an engaging puzzle or take on a fun vocabulary challenge with any of the hundreds of games on MSN Games is a perfect way to clear your mind of the clutter and stress that can pile up during the day.”

MSN Games worked with Hall to develop tips that provide users with quick and easy ways to help reduce stress:

  • Just breathe. Repeat a short phrase or affirmation combined with slowed breathing to release healing hormones and help increase productivity.

  • Laugh a lot. Encourage humor as a way to release endorphins, lower blood pressure and boost immune function.

  • Feed your brain. Embrace online casual “brain food” games, such as “Hexic®” and “Mah Jong Tiles,” which can be found on MSN Games (http://games.msn.com), as a quick mental escape and fun new way to exercise your brain.

“Our users have many reasons for playing casual games, but we’ve learned through recent focus groups just how important gaming timeouts are for some people,” said Lisa Sikora, group marketing manager for Casual Games at Microsoft Corp. “Mothers, especially, savor the quick ‘me time’ a game like ‘Bejeweled’ can provide. With Dr. Hall’s help, we’re encouraging more Pause to Play moments, gaming and otherwise, to help balance everyday life.”

In addition to tips from Hall, visitors to the Pause to Play Web site are invited to access a host of stress-relief resources, including topical articles and tips from various MSN® channels. Pause to Play also includes an instant-win sweepstakes, which encourages users to take mental breaks for casual games by rewarding them with relaxation-themed prizes, such as autographed copies of Dr. Hall’s new book, “A Life in Balance: Nourishing the Four Roots of True Happiness”; spa gift certificates worth $150; and MSN Games-branded eye masks. More information and official rules are available online at http://www.pause2play.com.

About Microsoft Casual Games

The Microsoft Casual Games group, home to MSN Games, Messenger Games, Microsoft® Mobile Games, Windows® Games and Xbox Live® Arcade, is dedicated to providing the ultimate playing experience to every user. By offering a variety of casual single-player and multiplayer games, the Microsoft Casual Games group is able to provide a thrilling play experience across multiple platforms. As casual, online gaming reaches new heights of popularity, Microsoft Casual Games prides itself on its loyal community of active users and remains committed to offering innovative content and exciting around-the-game experiences.

About Dr. Kathleen Hall

Dr. Kathleen Hall is a renowned stress and work-life balance expert, founder of The Stress Institute and the founder and CEO of Alter Your Life. Author of “A Life in Balance: Nourishing the Four Roots of True Happiness” and “Alter Your Life: Overbooked? Overworked? Overwhelmed?” she offers simple methods for reducing stress and living a balanced life of true happiness. Dr. Hall’s advice has been featured on major national media outlets, including NBC’s “The Today Show,” CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” the Associated Press, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. For more information, visit www.DrKathleenHall.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* American Institute of Stress

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