Saturday, February 19, 2011

"On stress."

Groupon had a timely coupon today for a $30.00 60-minute massage which got me thinking (for the millionth time this week) about stress and anxiety and our culture. What boggles my mind is this fact: that generally Americans know we work too hard during the year, take too little time off and that other cultures seem to be much happier with their daily "siestas" their "entire month of August" vacations, their "three hour suppers" and their "relaxing, religious and reflective" Sundays. In America: Sundays are just "another day to get ahead," a part of the weekend where in the restaurant and retail world is one of the busiest days of the week. So how can we as a culture, a society, take a page from the successes of foreign happiness, in the face of the now decades-old Progressive Era 40-hour work week? By sharing with each other all of the different ways to DE-STRESS.

Beating the Winter Blues

I would like to welcome my readers from the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Canada, and my New England compatriots who are fighting dry skin, hair and lips up in the bitterly cold, dry winter air: but posted this article today with some cheap and quick fixes. You can also read "The top 10 ways to Beat the Winter Blues" article from, mainly to summarize: (1) exercise, (2) eat healthy, (3) get some sun, (4) act on your resoutions, (5) aviod binge drinking, (6) treat yourself, (7) relax, (8) embrace the season, (9) get some support and (10) get some Zzz's!

OR, you can check out my suggestions:

1. Create a space for yourself to relax (desk area, closet, cafe, couch, tree house, bench, lunchroom, etc...) and put things that make you happy there: photos, posters, electronics, etc...use this space to relax and work on your special projects (See number 2). Keep it de-cluttered and organized or you'll never use it (like mine). Check out my blog post on secret lairs/abodes...

2. Start a project. (Find something to distract you that you are passionate about: start a blog or a webpage, plan a trip or event, make a movie or slideshow: animoto does all the work for you for free and is another great one), paint, play a new book on an instrument, etc...

3. Commit to a sporting event: a new sports team, a 5k, (check out the App from 'Couch to 5k') a half-marathon, a marathon, a triathlon (no, this isn't just for the Iron Man- read about the mini-triathlon, the shorter sprint triathlon and the Olympic triathlons, too) or walk for a good cause: such as the Susan G. Komen 3-day, 60-mile walk that Rachel and I did last year, which raised money and awareness about breast cancer, and provided us with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, meeting people while we trained and during the walk. (Watch our story here). Committing to a sporting event motivates you months out to begin and undertake a pretty physical plan of action and gives you a date to work towards. There's a lot of support out there too, from apps, friends, colleagues and experts to help you reach your goal.

4. Calm your body, calm your mind:
STRETCH: When Tom became injured from overexerting at the gym this week, I began to realize that boys don't stretch as much as girls do. That it's apparently a cultural norm for girls to do yoga, pilates and resistance stretching, but for boys this is not the case. My advice is this, then: if you're not stretching twice a day, then you're not stretching enough. ESPECIALLY if you sit down for more than four hours a day. The most useful help I've found are the $1.99 quick videos on iTunes, Meaghan Townsend's 10- minute wake-up and bedtime stretching videos that have a count down so you know how many more minutes are left. You can also check out this list of the "ten best stretches for Office Workers".

RELAX: Water has always been a tried and true muscle relaxant. From a hot, steamy bath to a cool dip in the pool. Floating or soaking in water can restore your body to a calm, relaxing state.

HYDRATE: Are you hydrated? Check out the chart to the right. Also, if you care to, read this funny list of "interesting facts about urine"!) 

EAT: But eat healthy. Check out my previous post about "The Top 10 Detox foods" here... Remember: sugar coverts to fat when not used.

SLEEP: 8 hours+. (Which means earlier bedtimes, groan).Take naps on weekends when you have time. Chronic sleep deprivation can have a drastic impact on your health.

5. Get a pet or a significant other: and snuggle. Snuggling is key to a relaxation plan. 

6. Go outside: Check out my post on some cool places and things to do in New England in the winter. Florida's post is coming soon! :) But remember: get your Vitamin D!

7. Listen to calming music: Here's my Relaxation playlist.

 1. "Clair de Lune," by Claude Debussy. (Piano)
2. "Dawn," by Jean Yves Thibaudet. (Piano)
3. "Liz on top of the World," Jean Yves Thibaudet. (Piano)
4. "Notturno," -by Franz Schubert. (Classical Trio)

5. "A Few Honest Words" Ben Sollee. (Cello/vocal)
6. "Babbling Brook," by John Grout. (Nature sounds)
7. "Pacific Ocean," by John Grout. (Nature sounds)
8. "Panning for Gold," Ben Sollee. (Cello/vocal)
9. "Pas de Deux (Act 2)" from The Nutcracker -Tchaikovsky
10. (My mother's favorite) "Meditation," from Thais, by Itzhak Perlman (violin)

8. Give yourself a hot stone massage: buy a kit for $10-$20.00 and heat them up in a pot of water on the stove. The best part about this is you can do it over and over once you own your own!

9. Use scents to calm you! Aromatherapy is a great way to relax. My favorite scents to relax are: lavender, balsam or pine (from my Maine scent 'bean bags') and eucalyptus. Whole Foods offers a complete 'Natural Body Care' section- which has many oils and soap scents as well as other natural body care products.

10. Check Out: Spend sometime by yourself to recharge. Then, when you're human again, you can be a better friend, child, parent, spouse, worker, etc... go away from people, go away from electronics, go away from noise and go into quiet...on that note, there's a sunny lounge chair with my name on it down at the pool. :)