Culture

12 Ways To Stay Calm

If one of your New Year抯 resolutions is to de-stress and relax in 2014, we抮e here to help. From the hot beverage to caffeinate with each morning, to what you listen to on the radio, to the deep calming breaths you take in your office, and which you scents you inhale before you go to sleep at night, there are lots of small ways to incorporate a little calm into your life. We talked to wellness and spa experts around the country to get their best tips for keeping you happy, healthy and as stress-free as possible at any given moment. Here are their 12 tips to put into practice, starting today:

1. Breathe easy.
When you have a scent you like, one that brings you joy, happiness and pleasant memories, take a deep breath of it to make everything slow down, says Mindy Green, an herbalist, aroma therapist, coauthor of Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, founder of Greenscentsations.com. Green likes to put essential oils in a mist bottle to spray the room or use them in a candle diffuser. If you抮e making a room spray, use 10 drops of essential oil with two ounces of water to mist a room. If you抮e using essential oil on your body for a massage, apply no more then 10 drops of oil to one ounce of a dilutant, usually a vegetable oil, like almond oil, apricot oil or coconut oil. To make sure you抮e buying pure essential oil, look for a plant name on the bottle, usually with the Latin name.

2. Make your office smell like a spa.
If you抎 like to introduce aromatherapy to your office environment, put the oil(s) you enjoy on a handkerchief and sniff it throughout the day. Or you could use a personal inhaler, an empty container you can find at the drug store. Put a cotton pad inside of it and add a few drops of oil, suggests Green. Another idea is to keep a small jar with a lid on your desk and add cotton balls with essential oils on them. Simply open up the jar and take a few whiffs when you need to calm down a bit. Green tells us that research says lavender, citrus oils and frankincense are supposed to be the most calming scents, but she advises you to buy and enjoy the scents that you love the most.

3. Practice yoga to unwind.
Take a cue from restorative yoga and explore supported poses, suggests Jessica Matthews, MS, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College; ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach. She says the 搇egs up the wall pose helps to release tension from the lower extremities and reduce swelling in the legs and feet while also calming the mind and decreasing feelings of anxiety and stress. With your back and head on the floor and your legs extended up the wall, use folded blankets to help support the lower back and allow yourself to come to stillness for five minutes. This is a great pose to enjoy after a long day behind the chair to help you truly relax and unwind, says Matthews (Click here to see how to do this move).

4. Sip soothing teas.

Lisa Boalt Richardson, tea specialist, and founder of Lisaknowstea.com, says it抯 important to sip what you love. She breaks teas into two categories: 搕rue teas (from the Camellia sinensis plant, classified as white, green, oolong or black teas) or 揾erbal teas. 揟rue teas contain L-theanine, which is actually an amino acid compound only found in tea. 揑t acts with the caffeine to make the caffeine do things in your body differently than caffeine from coffee would, says Boalt Richardson. L-theanine and caffeine produce a soothing, calming reaction and can increase your serotonin level, she says. 揑 tell people to drink tea throughout the day because it doesn抰 give you a hard crash that coffee sometimes can. Tea has a nice gentle release of caffeine. Boalt Richardson says her favorite herbal tea to help relax is a mint lavender flavor. She encourages you to sit with a cup for five or 10 minutes, sip it slowly, inhale the aroma and relax while you take this mini break.

5. Take a hot shower and let go.
Make time for a nice, hot shower or bath with some lavender soap or essential oils, suggests Sara Trapani, Development Senior Associate Institutional Gifts, the Omega Institute. 揟hink of something to let go of on your to-do list that is not a priority for that day. She also suggests taking this time to forgive yourself and be kind to yourself.

6. Sing along to your favorite song.
揂ctivating your vocal cords through song creates a soothing vibrational effect throughout your body, and helps soften tension in face, neck, and shoulders, says Trapani. 揝o find your favorite music and sing like no one's listening!

7. Up your C intake.
A study found that vitamin C helps reduce stress levels and return blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol to normal levels after a stressful situation, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of The Flat Belly Cookbook For Dummies. Try adding vitamin C-rich foods, like oranges, kiwis and green and red peppers, to your meals and snacks.

8. Have a turkey sandwich for lunch.
You probably feel relaxed and even a bit sleepy after your big Thanksgiving meal each year. Sure, you probably overdid it on the food portions, but you can blame that sleepy feeling on the bird. Turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which triggers the release of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Eating small amounts of turkey may help you to feel relaxed, as it has a documented calming effect, says Palinski-Wade.

9. Nosh walnuts.
Have a habit of stress eating? Snack on walnuts or order meals that contain salmon. According to a recent study Palinski-Wade read, these foods contain omega-3s, which keep the hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking, helping to prevent damage to our body from chronic stress.

10. Reconnect with who you are.
揋rounding and centering is a great technique to reduce stress, says Arielle Sutton, Spa Director at Rancho Valencia Resort Spa. 揧ou can envision tree roots coming from the feet and planting into to the earth for the grounding aspect. When you feel solid in that, move your attention to your solar plexus area and softly remind yourself of all the things that make you who you are. Say 慖 am loving, I am a woman, I have blue eyes, I love my family, et cetera.挃

11. Practice deep breathing daily.
"A tip for staying calm is to stop for a moment and breathe deep, says Makiko Braxton, Spa Director at The MODERN Honolulu. 揃reathing deeply has so many physical and emotional benefits; it only takes a few minutes and can be done any time, anywhere. This is my everyday simple solution to calm myself down when I am burdened with too many tasks. Breathing enhances oxygen flow to my body and mind and gives me clarity.

12. Treat yourself to a massage.
Stress takes as much of a physical toll as it does a mental toll, and getting a massage can help stave off the wear and tear on your brain as well as your body, says Suzanne Owen, founder of Relax & Rejuvenate Hotel Spa Solutions. If you don抰 want to spend the money, or need some stress-relieving effects right now, Owen suggests trying these self-massage techniques, focusing on reflex points in the body:

  • Squeeze the web of your thumb with your other thumb and pointer finger to help relieve headaches.
  • Press the center of your palm to your solar plexus point for overall wellbeing.
  • Tap the crown of the head (crown chakra) for mental clarity and fostering contentment followed by a circular thumb movement at the same point.
  • Use a circular thumb movement on 搕he third eye (the space in between your brows) for intuition.
  • Squeeze the brow in between your thumb and pointer finger and vibrate to help drain the sinuses.
  • Press above the lip with your pointer finger to alleviate nausea and to maintain balance.

  • - DIANA KELLY

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