Home relaxation techniques
Courtesy of Women`s Day
Whether it’s a rocky relationship, pressure at work or any other stressor that’s got you on edge, Mother Nature offers all sorts of cures to help you unwind. From a piece of chocolate, which can decrease stress hormones, to the scent of lavender, which can soothe your sleep-deprived body, here are 10 organic remedies for relaxation.
Does your fast-paced job leave you tossing and turning at night? Try lavender aromatherapy to help your mind turn off. Recognized for aiding stress-related sleep disorders, lavender, which is native to the Mediterranean basin, has been shown to treat mild insomnia. Made from the dried flowers and essential oils of the plant, lavender products are available in many forms, including potpourri, body lotions, teas and candles.
Next time you’re overcome with the urge to eat away your anxiety, keep this in mind: Sweet potatoes work as a powerful stress-busting food because of their sweet flavor and high concentration of carbohydrates—two common stress-related cravings. To boot, sweet potatoes are high in fiber, which helps you digest food in a slow and steady manner, keeping you physically—and emotionally—satisfied longer, according to Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet (available spring 2011).
Some nights, it’s our minds we can’t turn off; other nights, it’s our bodies. When it’s the latter, chamomile can help. According to research from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the herb, native to Europe and Asia and most commonly consumed as tea, has been shown in animal studies to suppress muscle spasms, effectively calming the body. Note: Pregnant women and those who are allergic to hay or ragweed should consult their physician before using chamomile.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Here’s yet another excuse to eat the beloved treat on a regular basis (as if you even needed a reason). A recent study published in the Journal of Proteome Research found that eating just 1.4 oz of dark chocolate can lower the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines in the body, which helps reduce anxiety. Plus, the pure joy of eating your favorite treat triggers the release of endorphins in your brain, which offers an immediate happiness boost, according to Gans. That’s two hormone helpers in one sweet treat!
St. John’s Wort
We’ll go ahead and dub St. John’s wort, a perennial herb that grows wild around the world, the unofficial breakup remedy, as it’s prized for treating mild and temporary depression, according to Mark Blumenthal, founder of the American Botanical Council. It’s most often consumed either as tea or as an herbal supplement, and studies have found it significantly improves mood and increases interest in activities in mildly depressed patients. To this day, however, it is not accepted as a treatment for major depression. Because of possible negative interactions with food and medications, just be sure to talk to your doctor before using.
You’ve heard that people get sleepy after a big turkey dinner because of tryptophan, a drowse-inducing amino acid that can be found in milk as well. But the jury is still out on the veracity of this theory. “Warm milk may help you sleep, but it’s not because it contains tryptophan,” says Gans. In fact, research suggests that tryptophan only affects one phase of sleeping—the falling-asleep part—but doesn’t encourage, and may even discourage, deep REM sleep. But don’t pour your carton down the drain just yet. If it works for you, use it. “People who claim they can fall asleep more quickly after consuming milk are likely associating it with calming childhood memories,” Gans says.
Is a pending date or deadline leaving you a little on edge? Reach for passionflower, a creeping vine native to the southern United States. The British Herbal Compendium recognizes its use to treat nervous stress and anxiety, and you can find it in teas that promise to calm you, as well as in the form of an herbal supplement. According to Blumenthal, passionflower was actually an approved over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid until 1978.
Feeling irritable or unfocused from lack of sleep? According to Gans, both are signs your body needs fuel, and eating peanut butter might help. “Peanuts are high in vitamin B6, which helps regulate blood sugar and stabilize mood,” says Gans. Choose natural peanut butter to avoid excess sugar, which could negate the positive effects of the B6, and spread it on a hard-to-break-down carbohydrate, like whole-wheat toast, to stay satisfied longer.
With the help of valerian, cultivated in Europe, Japan and the United States, people have been resting easier for ages. Going at least as far back as ancient Greece—valerian’s first use was documented by Hippocrates—the herb has been empirically recognized as having a sedative-like effect on humans, although the ingredients responsible for this effect remain unknown. Often used in a medicinal tea infusion and tincture, it can be found in approximately 60 different forms, including tablets, juices, tea and drops. Just be sure to talk to a doctor before using, in case of possible negative reactions with food or medications.
Need a happiness boost? Try snacking on a healthy portion of complex carbohydrates, thought to trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known as the “feel-good hormone,” which can help you feel calm, relaxed and happy all at once, says Gans. The ideal carbs include whole grains and cereals (whole-grain breads, oats, quinoa and brown rice) as well as legumes (peas, beans and lentils).