The ultimate treat; an affordable luxury; one of the best ways I know of to relax.
What is this miraculous therapy? Nothing more than a nice, hot bath.
When life gets stressful, peace is no further than the bathtub.
In our house, showers are for washing away dirt from our bodies but baths are for washing away stress from our minds and our souls.
Bath time recipe
A good stress bath starts with scented candles or a diffuser, just to set the mood. Now just a word of warning here about the candles you buy: many of the cheaper candles (especially those from China) may have a lot of nasties in them including lead that can cause or contribute to a multitude of health problems so make sure you buy good-quality candles. An aromatherapy candle can last for months so the overall cost will be low when you consider the number of times you will be using it.
To accentuate the relaxing effect of scented candles/diffusers, a few drops of essential oils added to the bathwater can help via both inhalation and absorption through your skin.
Feel free to add some Epsom salts as well. Epsom salts are very high in magnesium which is an element our bodies need but which many of us are deficient in. Magnesium is most easily absorbed through the skin so adding it to your bath is one of the best ways to make the mineral bioavailable. In addition, Epsom salts can help to draw out toxins, improve nerve function, improve the body’s ability to use insulin and reduce inflammation in joints as well as helping with muscle cramps or spasms and menstrual pain.
Lastly, music makes your relaxation bath complete. Choose something lovely and soft. Heavy metal or dance music are definitely out! I like some strings or a nice piano piece but you can choose whatever makes you feel peaceful. A guided meditation might work for you but be sure you don’t fall asleep!
Some people add flowers to the water as well and, though they do look really lovely, I tend to steer clear of those for relaxation baths simply because they make a huge mess and just thinking about cleaning up afterwards adds to my stress!
Choosing your oils
Your choice of essential oils and scented candles will be guided by personal preference. An earlier blog, On the road to relaxation and stress relief, described the effects of several essential oils that can be used to alleviate stress.
Here are a few more to consider. The first one is my absolute favourite for both the bath and in oil burners, but they are all good choices.
Vanilla – A sweet scent that is naturally warming and soothing. Vanilla is known to help in relaxation and is a comfort scent – reminding us of favourite foods, nurturing and home.
Jasmine – A rich, sensual scent, jasmine blends beautifully with vanilla. It is thought to be a natural anti-depressant as well as stimulating the release of hormones such as serotonin that is known to result in both increased energy and uplifted mood.
Rose – Who doesn’t love roses? And in the bath or in a candle or diffuser, rose essential oil has many benefits. Rose oil is wonderful for the skin, but it is also considered to be capable of reducing inflammation, calming nerves and helping with both gall bladder and liver function. A word of warning – using rose oil on your skin during pregnancy is not recommended.
Though some people don’t believe that scents and oils can be used therapeutically, aromatherapy has a history that goes back for more than 5,000 years and has truly stood the test of time.
In modern times, the use of certain scents to modulate behaviour or alleviate stress is accepted in many societies. In Japan, for example, some companies are now using scents to improve productivity. One company uses citrus fragrance in the morning to invigorate employees and help them stay alert. At midday, the scent changes to roses which helps to alleviate stress and in the afternoon, cypress scents will provide a quick pick-me-up for flagging energy.
The Tokyo stock exchange pipes the scents of peppermint through their ventilation system to keep brokers alert (a side benefit is that peppermint has antibacterial properties which may help to reduce the risk of Legionella and other illness that can be spread by air-conditioning).
So the next time you feel like tension is taking over your life, get your supplies together and soak that stress out of your skin and send it down the drain.
By Wynn Grossman
For the Stress to Strength team