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Rediscover Relaxation

By Katie Sloan
In Center Block
Jan 8th, 2018

Article by Vanelis Rivera

The wear and tear of our hyperactive lives knocks an important pillar of our wellbeing to the bottom of our overstacked to-do list. Re-learn how to re-lax and powerhouse in 2018 through these positive lifestyle changes.

Art of Hygge 

As you navigate through your home, how do you feel? Have you fashioned a cocoon of comfort or a cave of chaos?

If the latter, consider hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”), the Danish cultural tradition of keeping a cozy home. While sometimes defined as a feeling or mood rather than a physical state, what you feed your eye is what you feed your mind, so begin evaluating your associations with a cozy, charming or special place in order to begin the hygge journey. You don’t have to turn your entire home into a hygge-like maelstrom. All that’s needed is a nook that can be transformed into a good-vibes-only soulful nest.

Fill your nook with visuals that make you feel like cuddling into the space. Add texture by adding a variety of fluffy throw pillows, chunky blankets, and woolly rugs or floor cushions. Mood-lift the space with personal trinkets or cherished memories in the form of family photos, antiques or books.

What you do in your hygge nook ‘stays in your nook!’ But it’s important that you treat this space as a sanctuary, a place to refocus the mind. Switch off your electronics and open a book, nurture a new hobby, be crafty, invite loved ones and play cards or board games.  Let the space be about the activities you thought you had no time for, and be sure to top off your hygge experiences by wearing the most comfortable, escape-from-reality lounge wear that you can.

Essentially Aromatic

We can’t always keep a tidy home, but we sure can keep it smelling fresh.  And for that it seems that candles are a girl’s best friend. However, Keda Sims, sole proprietor of Natural Oil Momma, registered nurse and doula warns that “most candles are full of toxins” that contain carcinogenic ingredients. Sims, who has used essential oils for 25 years, encourages switching to oils because aside from fragrancing your home, they also cleanse and purify the air.

Essential oils are simply aromatic compounds that are extracted from a variety of plants, flowers, leaves and stems. When diffused in an aromatherapy oil diffuser, these oils affect the brain center, with the potential to mood shift. Scents best used before bed or during high stress moments are lavender, sage and roaming chamomile. Hard-core snoozers or constantly lethargic persons would benefit from citrusy scents, such as wild orange, lemon or peppermint. Venture into more obscure scents like vetiver, a woody smell that has been recommended for hyper children. Or browse the many oil fusions that focus on your relaxation goals, such as stress management, anxiety diffusing and/or balancing blends.

These oils can also be used topically or as supplements. But not all oils are “created equal,” Sims warns. Some could cause sickness, if you are unfamiliar with the product, so it’s imperative that first time users choose oils transparent about their production process. Sims highly recommends the brand dōTERRA, because the company stringently tests their oils from start to finish, keeping the product pure and potent. The company is also ethically responsible. They focus on sustainability and longevity of resources from the countries where they export. Venture using oils as supplements, but Sims encourages only purchasing bottles that have supplement facts available. Essential oils are not FDA approved, so bottles claiming 100% purity cannot be trusted. Seek recommended brands or attend an essential oil workshop. Sims provides classes every Monday at 6:30 PM at the Ageless Skin Laser Center.

Tasty Transitions

The all too familiar phrase ‘you are what you eat’ may make you think of how you can shed the winter pounds, but food has a far more significant effect on the body than just carbs and fat.

“People think they are having anxiety, but they are having vitamin deficiency,” informed Andi Holyfield, registered dietitian and owner of Eat to Lose, Inc. For instance, lack of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and cobalamin) can cause shortness of breath, which is why Holyfield highly recommends investing in multi-vitamins.

Most of us find ourselves on the go, prioritizing external tasks instead of the internal ones. Holyfield believes in a “grab and go” program that focuses on “dry finger foods,” such as almonds, walnuts and/or Brazil nuts, which are known high-energy inducers. She also recommends starting a meal preparation practice she calls a “freezer system,”  where meals are prepared beforehand then stored.

Rushing can also result in skipping meals, the most common skipped meal being breakfast. But the most important meal of the day should be prioritized as much as brushing your teeth. Holyfield recommends eating breakfast at least an hour after waking up. Many of us who opt out of morning grub tend to overeat either by lunch or dinner. Skipping meals is also a recipe for disaster, contributing to low metabolism.

Overeating can become a rough pattern to unwind, but Holyfield has some nifty Jedi tricks to keep it at bay. First, using small black plates tends to make food “pop,” creating the illusion that you are eating more. Over-snacking during work hours or late night snacking can be a habit based more on “hand to mouth satisfaction” than hunger. Holyfield has made patients “puff” on cinnamon sticks when they get cravings. This can also be successful with smokers.

High-stress living can be further aggravated by your diet. Avoid foods that cause acid reflux, such as greasy, spicy and lardy foods, like butter and bacon. Adversely, foods rich in magnesium, B vitamins, zinc and antioxidants can battle stress. But the number one stress relieving, metabolism boosting and detoxifying edible to add to your diet is not one that can be ingested from a plate. It’s our ‘best friend forever’ H2O. Opting out of the suggested 65-85 oz. of pure water a day leads to dehydration, which lowers metabolism by 3%, adding 13 lb of fat to your body in a year. Healing yourself with food and drink is in reach, and it can begin with a BPA-free water bottle.

Engaging in vigorous exercise can be the maximum battlefield to sweating away your worries!

Jeananne Morris McGregor, group exercise director and personal trainer at the Monroe Athletic Club asserts that “not finding the time” is not an acceptable excuse to opt from an exercise practice. She advises to ascribe to the mantra, “I’m making this time for myself today.” For additional support, have a workout partner or trainer. Make a friend an accountability buddy, even if they don’t workout with you. Ease into the workout life by starting a walking routine. “Anything is better than nothing. Just move. Put yourself in opportunities where you can feel accomplished,” encourages McGregor.

Any time of day can be a workout slot. A simple routine can be 10-15 minute workouts 3 days a week. If you’re still not ready for the gym-rat life, McGregor promotes the workout app, Aaptiv, which makes elevated workout experiences accessible anytime and anywhere. The app delivers by synchronizing the guidance of a trainer to an energetic playlist. Workouts range from 5k training to yoga flows that can last 10-15 minutes.

Intention can make or break your workouts and fitness journey. McGregor has noticed that members who get into fitness with negative perceptions of their body tend to have a tougher time engaging in their routines, so lead with love!

Holistic Alternative

Needles digging into your skin does not sound very relaxing, but acupuncture promotes blood flow needed for healing and maintaining health, as well as releasing pressure on joint structures and nerves. Dr. David Thomason has been practicing psychology since 1985, but takes a holistic approach in helping his patients. You don’t have to ‘dive off the deep end’ and get your body covered in needles. Dr. Thomason suggests starting with an AcuDetox treatment that involves placing five small sterilized, disposable, stainless steel needles in specific sites in each ear. Stimulating these points can help reduce stress and anxiety, lessen depression and insomnia, and alleviate substance cravings, such as food, alcohol, drugs or pharmaceuticals.

Because health insurance does not cover acupuncture in the area, an hour session can cost about $95. For those tight on cash, Dr. Thomason proposes the alternative practice of acupressure, a self-massage method that relaxes muscles via specific points in the body. Stimulate points by using firm pressure on a tender area, find your threshold without making the area more sore, and hold for about 30 seconds to a minute. Once you release, you should note a relaxation response.

Don’t let images of ‘pretzled,’  tight wearing, modelesque yogis make you think that yoga is not for you. Yoga begins and ends with the breath. Poses in yoga are opportunities to deepen breathing and self-awareness, not to put your leg behind your head or stand on your head. Sure, there are researched anatomical and physiological benefits to a consistent and safely-conducted yoga practice, but complex postures is not the goal of yoga.

Classes that are titled “vinyasa,” “power,” or “hot yoga” may still focus on breath and movement, but if you seek a calming and soothing practice, classes designated “yin” or “restorative” will be your jam. These classes are suitable for all levels and instructors focus on the breath, gentle movements and calming postures. If you’re not ready to roll out your yoga mat in a group setting, online yoga classes are quite popular and feature established and certified teachers, such as YogaGlo and oneOeight.

Liberating the breath can ease your mind, body, and spirit and yoga is the practice that yolks these three aspects of ourselves.