April is National Stress Awareness Month. I think of shopping as an endeavor that does everything from take me away from the irritations of daily life to make me smile while I’m searching for a gift for someone.
But, people unwind in a variety of ways. I spent part of a day this week hunting down ways to help you lower those tight shoulders, get away from it all (without really going anywhere) and try to make life just a teensy bit better by loosening the grip on the steering wheel. Here are some stress-relievers I found.
Lowe’s in Belleville has more than flowers in the garden area to lure you in this time of year. Check out the selection of fire pits available for outdoor entertaining while the evenings are still cool. I spied a big Garden Treasures antiqued-steel fire pit for $99. Compared to some of the others on display, this one has a very deep bowl and can burn fire logs and real wood. It also comes with a domed screen lid, a poker and a PVC cover for when it’s not in use. Now, go get the graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate.
Something’s fishy ...
Experts have long said that watching the soothing motion of fish in water can lower the heart rate and help you forget your cares for a while. You can buy really expensive fish if you like tropicals for your aquarium, or really cheap fish if you’re a beginner at creating a fishbowl for your desk or a backyard pond. My advice: If you have a small pond or water features outdoors, buy inexpensive gold fish or minnows to start a Zen-like spot in your yard. At Petsmart in O’Fallon, Rosy Red Minnows and Comet Goldfish are 14 cents each. They’re bright and zippy. Think of it this way: If some of them get sacrificed to local wildlife (I’m talking to you, Mr. Raccoon), you won’t break the bank buying more.
Finding your way
Planning a vacation can be stressful. Go figure. So, do something about the trip that will take you away from here. Buy a traveler’s guide book or a tourist map at Barnes & Noble in Fairview Heights, sit down and start dreaming. Googlemaps and the GPS on your phone can’t do that. I really like the pocket-size Popoutmaps ($6.95) of cities like New York, Rome and Paris. Or, try travel expert Rick Steve’s maps ($8.99). Map Easy’s Guidemap to London is water- and tear-proof ($7.95). And, even if you aren’t going to St. Petersburg, Russia, I bet the Borch map for the city ($7.95) is fascinating.
Hit me with your best shot
Exercise is a great stress-reliever. So is walloping a punching bag. More fun is socking it to B.O.B. (body opponent bag) with a sharp foot strike. He looks like the upper body of a man and is made of durable plastisol with innards filled with high-density urethane foam, says the company. He costs $269.99 at Sports Authority in Fairview Heights, but you also have to put him on what is called a Wavemaster Base, which is priced at $139.99. For that sale price, the base also comes with its own removable punching bag. B.O.B. has seven height adjustments that range from 60 to 78 inches.
Indoor garden retreat
Sometimes locking the bathroom door is the only way to escape. HomeGoods in Fairview Heights has a nice assortment of skin products that will have you relaxed and glowing: Fill up the tub and sprinkle in some bath salts with essential oils or the scent of roses. Try a relaxing bath soak with a hint of orchids. Put a pretty bottle of anjou pear and jasmine-scented hand wash by the sink. And, when you do have to leave home, take a little survival kit with a trio of aromatherapy roller balls that will help with travel, sleep and energy. Prices range from $4.99 to $12.99.
Nighty night sounds
Tossing and turning at night? Repetitive soft sounds often help lull humans to sleep and mask annoying noise such as traffic. HoMedics SoundSpa Sound Machine ($19.99) at Bed, Bath & Beyond offers six sounds, including rain, white noise and summer night, plus a volume adjuster, 15/30/60-minute timer and battery backup.
Got the world on your shoulders? One way to feel better right away is with another HoMedics product called the Shiatsu and Vibration Neck Massager ($39.99). Order it through Target.com and get it delivered free to your nearest store within seven to 10 days. It has a terrycloth cover, three massage options for the neck, soothing heat and flex handles that let you adjust it on your neck and shoulders. It plugs in to the wall, so no need for batteries.
4 ways to zap stress fast
- Breathe deeply — Take a five-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
- Decompress — Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension.
- Laugh out loud — A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.
- Get moving — You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.
WebMD.com/Dr. Hansa D. Bhargava