All Entries For relaxation
Be amazed by what's happening during your snooze sessions
Sleep—such a peaceful word, isn't? It evokes images of closed eyes, slow breathing, dreams and relaxation. But while you're dozing, your body's systems are doing lots of crazy things that will blow your mind. Don't worry: They're all normal. Still, you may never think of hitting the hay the same way after reading this. Read More ›
Your son can't find his backpack (again) and your husband still hasn't fixed the leaky toilet (three weeks later). Stress is everywhere—and though you may not be able to control what causes it, you do have power over how you react to it. And keeping your cool is a key to safeguarding your heart.
"Stress sets off a surge of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, in your body," explains WD heart health expert Michelle Albert, MD. "Elevated levels of these hormones can harm your heart because they raise your blood pressure and cause inflammation." So it's important to develop ways to cope when life becomes tense. Keep clicking for six speedy strategies that'll calm you down. Read More ›
From relationship troubles to overwhelming workloads, lots of things can stress you out. Thankfully, there are a slew of strategies that promise to help you feel better fast. But do all of them really work? We challenged real women to try out 10 of the most recommended stress busters.
Peel an Orange and Eat It
Why It’s Supposed to Work: Peeling releases a satisfying scent and triggers you to anticipate the refreshment of the fruit, says Coral Arvon, PhD, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Aventura, FL. Once you eat it, your blood vessels relax and blood pressure lowers, adds Nieca Goldberg, MD, Medical Director of the Joan H. Tisch NYU Langone Center for Women’s Health in New York City. Read More ›
It's been a long, long day. You skipped lunch, ran 50 errands, and now you realize that your whole head is aching, you are seriously cranky, and every muscle in your body is sore. Your life, as they say, is out of control. But that doesn't mean you have to suffer. "There's a lot you can do to relieve stress, even in a single moment, if you prepare yourself," says Herbert Benson, M.D., director emeritus, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Next time you're feeling frenzied, frustrated, and fed up, try one of our instant serenity tips. Read More ›
In an attempt to do more laundry or squeeze in another episode of The Good Wife, almost all of us skimp on sleep. And that includes the Lehmans and Avaglianos. So we used data from their Fitbit Ultra activity and sleep trackers as well as their interviews with Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri, to create personalized goals that would get them the rest they need. "Just like going to work and the gym, you have to make a commitment to quality rest," says Dr. Oexman. "Once you stop cheating the clock, you’ll look, feel and function better." Here’s how our families put zzz’s at the top of their list—and how you can snooze better too.
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Whether your tension is small-time or big-league, unwind with our smartest stress-less advice from the past 75 years.
Instant Tension Zappers
1 | Take three deep breaths—5 seconds in, 5 seconds out—to slow your heart rate and the pace of your stress hormones. April 2010
2 | Copy a cat: Stretch and then shake it out. February 1963
3 | Sing a favorite song. You'll breathe more fully and the increased oxygen will do your body good. May 2000
4 | Hang your head forward as if it were a heavy ball, then move it slowly to the side, back, side and front. Repeat. Circle around twice in the opposite direction. July 1975
5 | Sit up straight. When your shoulders are back, you open up your chest and breathe more freely. April 2010
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One of my favorite combo words to use is chillax – a combination of chill and relax.
From time to time, my husband and I will use the phrase "chill out, Holmes." I’m not sure how we came up with that or why we say Holmes, but the intent is certain: take a big breath and calm down. If you feel like you’re standing at the base of an overwhelming mountain trying to figure out how to get to the fit and healthy summit, then this message is for you.
I know that the information overload can sometimes seem insurmountable. I follow quite a few fit bloggers and professional fitness sites and see it every day. Try this diet, no this diet, no wait this exercise format, but wait this one is the latest and greatest. All are trying to tell you how to journey up that mountain in as few, easy steps as possible. My experience with traveling to the summit is that it takes one step at a time and no journey is the same. Allow yourself some space, breath, and peace to know that despite all the swirling piles of information, you can make this work.
I like to use me and my best friend as an example. Combined we’ve lost more than 170 pounds, or as I like to refer to it, one or two Hollywood actresses. We have met up on the mountain many times, but we both certainly travel our own path on a day-to-day basis. Together last year we ran 5Ks and from time to time rode our bikes around a large lake, but other than that we varied in how we accomplished our goals. Both of us included different weight routines, different forms of cardio/sports, different diets, etc. The end result though was the same – working to maintain weight loss and improve physical fitness, all the while having fun and supporting each other wholeheartedly.
Susie shares on her SparkPage that she struggles with compulsive eating and started her journey with surgery. I accomplished my weight loss without surgery and needed to learn portion control. One is not better than the other – we needed different starting points to help us in our journey. Susie pitched in a softball league this year and her team won the championship. I can’t pitch or catch to save my life! I ran my first half marathon, and that wasn’t on her agenda. But like the supportive trouper that she is, she got up early to drive me to my race and took pictures. I like yoga and Zumba, and she likes running on the treadmill and basketball. You get my drift, I’m sure. We are different, our bodies respond differently, and our tastes are different.
Here are a few things we both know to be true in order to reach that summit: Read More ›
New to yoga? Try these basic yoga poses to get stronger and more flexible.
- Stand tall with feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, arms at sides.
- Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.
The other day I arrived at yoga about 20 minutes before class. I didn't want to head in the studio just yet, as it was a lovely, sunny day. Instead, I spent 10 minutes hiking to the top of a super-steep street that's next to the studio.
I left my phone in the car but wore the watch from my heart-rate monitor to track time. I didn't take music. I just walked and breathed.
That night, my practice was spot-on. I felt so strong and focused, and as I lay in Savasana (corpse pose) for our final relaxation, I felt my body relax more deeply than it had in a few weeks. (I've been B-U-S-Y!) Those 10 minutes of "me" time were just what I needed to center my mind, warm up my body and leave the day behind before unrolling my mat.
At SparkPeople, we frequently talk about the importance of starting small, especially when it comes to exercise. But this reminded me that the same tactic can be applied to stress, relaxation, and general well-being.
10 minutes is enough time to...
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I believe that things happen in life for a reason. The people we meet, the experiences we have, the books we read, they all teach us something, if we're willing to pause and take notice.
While on vacation, I finished reading a book that had a tremendous effect on me: "Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears," by Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun and spiritual teacher.
Each of the 10 chapters was a poignant lesson for me, and I can and will write more about how these simple yet profound words affected me. This book was exactly what I needed to read at exactly the appropriate time. Today, I want to share with you a quick lesson that has been infinitely useful to me even in the few days since I read it.
Citing Jill Bolte Taylor's "My Stroke of Insight" (another excellent read), Chodron says:
"A person does something that brings up unwanted feelings, and what happens? Do we open or close? Usually we involuntarily shut down, yet without a storyline to escalate our discomfort we still have easy access to our genuine heart. Right at this point we can recognize that we are closing, allow a gap, and leave room for change to happen. In Jill Bolte Taylor's book 'My Stroke of Insight,' she points to scientific evidence showing that the life span of any particular emotion is only one and a half minutes. After that we have to revive the emotions and get it going again.
Our usual process is that we automatically do revive it by feeding it with an internal conversation about how another person is the source of our discomfort. Maybe we strike out at them or at someone else--all because we don't want to go near the unpleasantness of what we're feeling."
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We know that we deserve and are meant to live an inspired life that rises above mere existence, but how? In A Life Worth Breathing, yoga teacher and spiritual philosopher Max Strom shows us the way. This is an excerpt from that book:
These techniques are to be done in tandem, and results should begin in two weeks or less. But this is more than a two-week experiment, these are new habits to aid you in staying relaxed as a new way of life. Becoming more relaxed will not disempower you or cause you to be less mentally sharp, conversely, living in a more relaxed state will empower you, and help you to not only focus, but know what is important to focus on.
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One of the top one hit wonder songs of the 1980's was Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The key words to the song were relax and don't do it. Those words also apply to the new line of beverages called relaxation drinks.
A new Wall Street Journal article outlines some scary truths about these new drinks that have not been clinically tested but have been touted to lower stress, anxiety and aid sleep. Since key ingredients range from plant extracts to natural human hormones, I thought it would be important to explain a little more about them before you decide if they are right for you.
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I remember the first time we went on vacation as a family with my (then) 9-month old daughter. As a tired new mom, I was looking forward to a relaxing week at the beach with my family. But the week didn't go exactly as I'd planned. We had great weather, good food and lively conversation, but it was stressful. For some reason I thought "vacation" meant that my daughter would require less work and I could relax. But she still needed to be fed, changed, played with, etc. And that was even more challenging in a new place when she wasn't sleeping in her own bed and I had to constantly watch her in a condo that was far from baby-proofed. I ended up coming back from the trip more tired than when we left. Ever since then, I've revised my expectations about vacations. Now new research is measuring how vacations affect overall happiness and how long it lasts. Read More ›
Your boss just dropped another project on your desk. Your co-worker spends more time at the water cooler than at his desk. The phone won't stop ringing, your email inbox is so full it's about to burst, and you've got a meeting with a client in an hour.
Yep, you're stressed.
So how can you present your most cool, calm and collected self and accomplish all the tasks you have to do today?
Take a breather, and try a few minutes of yoga.
Most of us can't unroll a yoga mat and drop into down dog at the office, but that doesn't mean we can't take time for a bit of relaxing and energizing stretches. (Note: These poses are also appropriate for people with mobility issues.)
The next time you need to chill out, try some or all of these poses: Read More ›
I don't relax very easily. I am naturally a nervous, anxious, fidgety person. (Just ask my boyfriend how distracting it can be to watch a movie with me--I'm up every 30 minutes or so and constantly readjust on the couch.)
When I started practicing yoga a couple of years ago, I dreaded the final pose--savasana, or corpse pose. It's meant to help you rejuvenate your body and reduce stress and tension. Well, this pose caused anxiety and tension in me! Lying on the floor for who knows how long, just breathing and letting go! That's hard!
Eventually, as I practiced, I grew more comfortable in savasana. I actually like it now--most of the time. And in addition, I've embraced some of the other relaxation techniques my yoga teachers have taught me, which I hope to share with you.
The first one I want to share with you is a breathing exercise that helps me feel more balanced.
Wednesday was one of those days.
There was an error on one of my bills, and I spent 30 minutes on the phone trying to straighten it out. I forgot to mail an important letter and had to turn around to get it. It was rainy, and the sun was nowhere to be seen. I was tired and overall just didn't feel my best.
By noon, I was ready for a break but had too much to do to get away to the gym just then. Instead, I closed my eyes and practiced a balanced breathing exercise. Two minutes later, I opened my eyes and felt instantly more relaxed.
It's about 3 o'clock right now, which means you're probably scrambling to finish all the tasks you need to accomplish today, the afternoon munchies are setting in, and you're wondering how you'll keep your cool.
So what is this two-minute wonder, and how does it work? Read More ›