woman drinking tea next to window

De-Stress for the Weekend

Have you had a particularly busy and stressful week?

Here are some tried-and-tested ways for you to de-stress for the weekend, so that you can really relax, unwind, and enjoy your time off.

Why is it Important to De-Stress?

Before you try to de-stress, it is important to understand why this is important, as this will give you the extra motivation needed to really make an effort.

Each time you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which helps to trigger the fight or flight response in the human body. In ancient times, this would help humans escape from dangerous predators and other fatal situations.

effects of cortisol

However, in today’s world, stress can be caused by so many different factors, from a traffic jam to a late night at work. Your body cannot differentiate between how serious the stressor is, so will always release cortisol.

While this is not too harmful in the short term, it can really be damaging in the long run.

How?

Here are just a few of the physical and mental health problems that stress can cause:

  • Hypertension and headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Acne and other skin issues
  • Exacerbation of existing conditions, such as asthma, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome

While it may be difficult to control how often you feel stressed, there are, thankfully, a number of ways in which you can de-stress your body quite quickly.

Take a Deep Breath

The very first thing that you should do when you begin to feel stressed is focus on your breathing.

Why?

Because even just taking a few deep breaths will give your body an extra boost of oxygen, which will quickly help to relieve stress and tension.

On the other hand, shallow breathing, which people often do when they are stressed, does the opposite, and stimulates the nervous system, making you feel even worse.

In addition to taking a few deep breaths, you can push this even further and try out a couple of breathing exercises.

While these may seem futile, several clinical studies have proven that breathing exercises can help to do everything from reducing blood pressure to preventing damage caused by stress.

Go For a Walk

One of the best ways to relieve your body of stress is to get it moving.

This can be in the form of any sort of exercise, but walking tends to be the easiest to do when you want to de-stress quickly.

How does it work?

Well, when you take a brisk walk, your body releases several neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA. These then improve your mood, as well as your overall sense of well-being.

In addition to this, exercise also helps to increase blood flow to the brain, which is another way in which it relieves stress.

Don’t have much time for a walk?

All you need is 15 minutes, as this is enough for you to experience some of the immediate benefits that exercise can bring. Of course, if you can spare a bit more time, then that will be even more beneficial.

Do Some Forest-Bathing

There is so much research out there to prove how forest-bathing can significantly reduce stress.

happy woman walking in the forest

No idea what this is?

Forest-bathing simply refers to spending some time in a forested area, and has been a trend in Japan for a while.

Why?

Because studies have shown that spending time in a forest will leave you with lowered cortisol levels, as well as lowered blood pressure. 

Buy a Few House Plants

While you may not be able to spend time in a forest every day, house plants are a great way to ensure that you have some contact with plants on a daily basis.

Just being around them can help to induce your relaxation response, so try incorporating a few around your home.

There are even some house plants that are known for their de-stressing benefits…

Here are a few:

  • Lavender – its scent helps to slow down heart rate, and lower blood pressure and stress levels
  • Jasmine – will help you to feel less anxious and more peaceful, while inducing sleep
  • Rosemary – purifies the air while reducing stress and anxiety
  • Aloe Vera – cleanses the air of certain toxins while treating symptoms of anxiety
  • Snake Plant – improves energy levels while treating stress-induced headaches

A Good Night’s Sleep

There is an increasing number of studies out there that point to the connection between regular, quality sleep and the ability to overcome stress.

A good night’s sleep helps your mind and body to repair and restore itself, resulting in a number of different benefits:

  • Lowered stress levels
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Stronger immune system
  • Decreased risk of many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease

Feeling too stressed to get to sleep? 

Try to create a relaxing environment in your bedroom, with the use of candles, essential oils and soft music. There are also many breathing techniques out there that could have you fast asleep in no time at all.

Have a Laugh

The idea of laughing when you are feeling immensely stressed may seem a little far-fetched, but even faking a few laughs can have an impact, really making you feel so much better.

How?

Laughing has been proven to have the ability to decrease the amount of cortisol in the body, while also reducing inflammation within arteries.

Pucker Up

Don’t feel like laughing?

Try kissing instead.

couple kissing

Studies have shown that this works well for women in particular, as kissing that special someone on the lips triggers the brain to release endorphins.

The kiss does not need to be sexually arousing, but should be a deep and emotional one. Aim for at least one ten-second kiss a day to keep your stress levels to a minimum.

Eat a Meal Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Stress and food are closely connected, which is why many people often reach for junk food to comfort them in times of stress.

However, the excess sugar, salt and other unhealthy ingredients will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Want to know what to eat to make you feel better?

Food containing omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids prevent the body from producing too much cortisol, which will stop you from feeling so stressed. It also triggers the release of a hormone called DHEA, which is known for being able to combat stress, doubling the effects that omega-3 fatty acids can have.

So, which foods do you need to eat?

Here are some of the foods that are richest in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Herring
  • Flaxseeds
  • Egg yolk

Chew Some Gum

Can chewing gum really help you to de-stress?

Science says yes, and while it may not help during times of extreme stress, it will definitely make a difference if you are experiencing mild to moderate stress.

Studies have shown that chewing some gum can reduce the amount of cortisol in the body by 16% during mild stress, and 12% during moderate stress.

While this may seem too good to be true, it is definitely a method worth trying!

Listen to Some Music

Music has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so spending some time listening to a few tunes could really help you to de-stress before the weekend.

woman dancing to music

Not sure what to listen to?

Give classical a try for maximum benefits, as this has been shown to slow down the heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and lower blood pressure.

However, just about any sort of music will still trigger your brain to release plenty of neurochemicals, such as dopamine, which will have you feeling great.

Don’t have any music at hand?

Make your own! Even humming to yourself can help to lower stress, so don’t be afraid to sing a few songs aloud.

Unplug

If you are someone that tends to be glued to your smartphone, then you should know that these have been linked to heightened stress levels. There are so many other ways in which the modern world over-stimulates the mind, leading to an increased stress response.

The best way to take some time out from all of this is to unplug. Turn off your phone and your computer, and spend some time in an environment where there are no electronic distractions. Whether you create a small haven at home, or head to the beach to spend the day with the sun, sand and sea, unplugging can really help to re-balance your mind.

Play a Video Game

While electronics do often contribute to an increase in stress levels, they can also help to reduce them.

One example of this is with video games, which decrease stress and improve the mood.

How?

By absorbing your mind in the game that you are playing, which provides the perfect distraction to give your nervous system some time to calm down.

However, the type of game that you choose is key…

Violent games should always be avoided, while the most beneficial games tend to be puzzle games.

Write It Down

There is no denying that journaling is a great way to reduce stress, but there are several different theories as to why this is.

Whatever the reason may be, writing about stressful events or moments will help you to process them so much better. On the other hand, if you choose to ignore what you are feeling, this will only heighten your body’s stress response.

Journaling also enables you to take a look at your stressors from a different perspective, giving you the chance to observe how you can improve things in the future.

You do not need to spend long writing, as just a few minutes may be all you need. Try to do this every day, so that you get into the habit of it and it soon becomes second nature.

Eat a Banana

While eating a banana may not help during times of extreme stress, this is definitely a clever trick to try if you are experiencing mild stress.

How does it work?

Well, during times of stress, blood pressure rises. Bananas are packed with potassium, which can quickly regulate blood pressure.

Bananas also provide the body with the energy needed to rise above a stressful situation, while protecting the body from some of the negative effects that stress, and cortisol, can have, from a stroke to a heart attack to depression.

Learn a Craft

The majority of crafts out there tend to make use of repetitive motions, and these are known to be extremely meditative, relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

Knitting is a great example of this, as it features so many repetitive motions.

knitting red jumper

Not a fan of knitting?

Try cross-stitch instead, or have a go at making your own jewelry.

Spend Time With Friends

There are a few studies out there that show that spending time with a close friend can really help to decrease cortisol levels in the body.

Don’t have any friends nearby?

Give man’s best friend a try instead. Dogs are known for being able to lower stress levels and increase happiness. Even if you do not have a dog of your own, or know anyone that has a dog, you can still head over to your local animal shelter and spend a few hours volunteering with all of the dogs that live there.

De-Clutter

Surrounding yourself with masses of clutter is only going to make you feel stressed so much easier.

De-cluttering can seem like an intimidating task, but, by taking it one small step at a time, you will soon accomplish all you need to.

Begin with a small part of your home, such as a drawer, throwing out what you do not need and then re-organizing what remains.

Each day, or even each week, tackle a new part of your house, until your whole home has been de-cluttered.

 

Woman having a bath

Adult Bath Time Is Good For Stress

“The boss! The baby! The dog! That does it! Calgon! Take me away!” You may remember the classic 1970’s Calgon commercials. A woman comes home, the image of her angry cigar -smoking boss still fresh in her mind, her crying child and barking dog, still taunting her memory. It all melds into a spinning wheel of confusion; the woman throws up her hands in frustration.The scene changes. The same woman in a bath filled with Calgon bath bubbles. The soothing voiceover encouraging her to lose herself in luxury. The stress formerly seen in the woman’s face replaced by a blissful expression. She has found her escape.

For years, bath times have been viewed as a source of stress relief. The warm water, the soothing scent, all calling up a sense of comfort and intense relaxation. Are you more than ready to make your bath time into a tranquil escape from insanity? Here’s all you need to know about perfecting your adult bathing experience.

Set the Mood
You know lighting is a very important part of atmosphere. Ditch those regular wall lights and get experimental. Try some old fashioned candles or tea lights which you can strategically place all around your bathroom; just keep them away from the towels!

Crank Some Tunes
Music is a crucial element when it comes to relaxation, just make sure it’s something you like. You can get sassy with Beyonce or Adele, or go more traditional with some classical movement. If heavy metal is more your thing, just make sure you don’t rock all the water out of your bath!

Snacks
You can’t relax if your hungry and you sure don’t want to leave the bath to search through your kitchen, so make sure to have some of your favorite snacks on hand, just make sure your chips don’t end up floating next to your rubber ducky!

Temperature
The optimal temperature is an absolute must if you want to achieve bath time nirvana. 33.3 degrees celsius is the recommended water temperature; it should not exceed 38.3, which will be too hot and may leave you feeling drowsy.

Woman with red wine in bath

Red Wine
Red, red wine, it makes you feel so fine. Not only might you want to sip while you soak, but you may want to actually mix the wine with the bath water. It will not only smell great, but it will treat your skin to some beneficial antioxidant action.

Don’t Dehydrate
Just because you’re soaking in water, it doesn’t mean you are safe from dehydration. You might be surprised at the amount of perspiration a body can produce in a hot bath. Have a cool glass of water on hand and it may be useful to keep a flannel and jug of water close by so you can make yourself a cold compress if you start to feel sweaty.

Face Mask
While you’re pampering, why not apply a face mask? It will nourish and cleanse the skin on your face while the bath does the same to the skin on your body.

Self Massage
While your muscles are relaxing, you might as well address the problem spots. You can use a water proof ball resting it against a solid surface, while exerting pressure on it evenly. The water will help to control the degree of intensity you apply.

Bath Oils
The type of bath oils you chose may effect the type of benefits your bath can give. Lavender oil is known to encourage sleep and sandalwood oil can help relieve anxiety. Just add about ten drops when the bath is half full to allow even distribution and a sufficient amount of scent.

Support Your Head
The last thing you want is a stiff neck when you’re trying to relax. Fold up a couple of towel for a makeshift pillow.

How do you like your bathing experience? Do you have some anti-stress tips for us? We’d love to know!

Woman relaxing in a suana

The Health Benefits of Hot and Dry Heat

You have just finished working out at the gym and you feel like crawling home.  It must have been somewhere between the 50th and 51st set of squats when your muscles just gave out.  Your legs feel like jello.    You decide that some relief is definitely in order if you have any chance of getting to your car and driving home without  requiring medical attention.  You spot the sauna. “This is just the thing,” you think.  I will sit in here, let my muscles relax  a little and I will feel like a new person!” Then you spot the steam room.  Could this be a better option?  You try and think.  What have you heard about them?  You can’t remember which one is which and think that in your condition it may just be a matter of which one is closer.  Well, just so you are prepared for when this happens to you, here’s the breakdown.

The basic difference between saunas and steam baths is that steam baths use moist heat, while saunas offer dry heat.  Both are hot baths which stimulate blood flow, easing pain and promoting healthy metabolism.

The Heat Factor
Saunas are a good deal hotter than steam rooms with the set temperature at somewhere between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and a humidity level between 5 and 30%  In other words, it’s a dry heat.  Steam rooms measure somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees but the 100% humidity will make it feel much higher.  Heat rises in both saunas and steam rooms, so the higher you sit, the hotter you will be. Wet and dry heat have a sedative effect which can provide relaxation to those suffering emotional disorder and pain relief to those suffering from a muscular injury.

The Bare Bones
Have you ever gotten on a slide in the hot weather as a child? Perhaps, then you understand why saunas are built of wood and not metal.  In addition, wood absorbs moisture, keeping surfaces cooler and pulling humidity from the air.  In steam rooms, high humidity would cause wood to deteriorate and are therefore made of tile or plastic.  They feature sloped ceilings which allow the water to run down the wall rather than drip on your head.

The Relaxation Factor
Both steam rooms and sauna reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation. They improve circulation and cause occupants to perspire, opening the pores and cleansing the skin,  The humidity of the steam rooms may be more comfortable for people suffering from allergies and congestion, whereas those with conditions that may be aggravated by humidity, like arthritis, may opt for the sauna.

The Expectoration Factor
One advantage that a steam room may have over a sauna is the expectorant effect.  Wet heat opens the sinuses throat and lungs and can loosen and clear the mucus in your nose, chest, and throat.  However, it can also aggravate asthma, which would make a sauna a better choice for asthmatics.

The Myth
You may have heard that both of these baths may remove toxins from the body and help you lose weight.  There is no evidence to support that either removes any toxic chemicals from your body and any weight loss will be temporary, resulting from water weight lost from sweating, so hanging out in the sauna or steam room will not make you svelte, which is why you still have the gym.

So which way do you stagger?  To the dry or to the wet?  The choice is yours, just pick one soon!