Just Relax

    by -


    Did you get more frustrated than usual with your lazy co-workers, flip out at a loved one for calling at a bad time or breakdown when the mail was late today? If you can relate, the stress in your life might be starting to take a toll. It's okay; it happens to the best of us. Just take it as a sign that you need to do something about that stress. Giving yourself time to relax, just a few minutes a day, can actually help reduce those negative responses to stress.


    Wash Away Your Worries
    One great way to destress is mindless time alone. If you're lucky enough to have a bathtub and silence at home, commit to a nightly bubble bath without distractions (i.e., Blackberry, phone, laptop, day planner). This routine helps to calm restless thoughts before sleep. Put some lavender scent into your water to welcome aromatherapy's calming powers.


    Bird's Eye View of the Corporate World
    If you have a little more going on at home that doesn't afford for that kind of peace and quiet, take a detour on your way home. If there's one thing Cincinnati has a lot of, it's beautiful city skyline overlooks. Watching the busy city below from a serene bird's eye view can help you differentiate your personal life from the hectic corporate world you see in the distance.


    If you're on the West Side, Mt. Echo offers a panoramic look of Cincinnati and the winding Ohio River. On the East Side, you'll have to trek up to Mt. Adams for a good city view. But Kentucky offers numerous skyline views, such as DeVou Park in Covington, General James Taylor Park in Newport… heck, even the Barnes and Noble in Newport on the Levee has a great city and river view.


    Put Pressures Away with Pottery
    Are you the type that needs to feel productive while you're relaxing? Maybe a pottery class would be the thing for you. Hey, get in your relaxation time – with the concentration and diligence pottery making requires – while hand-making all your holiday gifts. Sounds like a plan! Out towards Amelia is a beautiful pottery studio called Scarborough Fair Pottery, located on 2288 Berry Rd. This group has a lot of fun with their pottery hobby as they host cookouts, visit other potters' studios and hold occasional all-night pottering parties.


    Taking up a pottery class is great way to unwind right through your fingertips. Funke Fired Arts in Hyde Park offers a variety of classes from beginner to the more advanced student.


    Classes are offered year around by knowledgeable instructors eager to relieve your tension through the art of clay. Interactive workshops are an extra bonus that Funk Fired Arts offers as well. Gifted artists from all over the country are regularly featured at these workshops to teach you the latest techniques.


    In addition to treating yourself to a touch of relaxation, just imagine the sense of accomplishment you'll feel by creating a beautiful piece of art. Check out Funke Fired Arts by visiting their Web site, www.anniesmudpieshop.com/index.htm.


    Fun with Friends
    There's nothing better than pampering yourself with friends. Whether it's a group trip to the spa, makeovers at a local salon or your own private wine tasting party at home spending time with friends can be the perfect escape.


    How many times have you said, "We need to get together!" Stop putting it off and plan a relaxing outing today. And don't just stop there; make it a point to plan restful events regularly to help you remain stress free.


    Friends are an excellent source to help you work through stress and rejuvenate yourself. Visit these Web sites to organize your next girl's day or night out:


    Shall We Dance?
    When's the last time you put on your dancing shoes? Dancing can help you relax by making you focus on something other than your to-do list, all while meeting new people. Not to mention great exercise! Belly dancing for just one hour burns 400 calories.


    If you're not quite ready to bare your midriff, ballroom or salsa dancing may be more your speed. No partner? No problem. Several dance companies provide private lessons to get you on your toes.


    The Best of Ballroom Dance Studio in Kenwood offers great rates and a free introductory lesson; visit them at www.thebestofballroom.com. For the latest in salsa dancing try Kama Salsa at www.kamasalsa.com. Relax and dance your stress away!


    Yogis Unite
    Yoga is a great way to relax mentally, while physically exercising. With its breathing exercises, meditation and visualizations, it leaves your thoughts quieted; and with its stretches and poses, it leaves your body flexible and strong. Visit the
    Cincinnati Yoga School, which offers yoga classes for all levels of students, or your local gym, as most mainstream gyms have incorporated some type of yoga into their offerings.


    If a salon spells relaxation in your book, check out this week's Cincy Chic social department to see which Cincy salons will help you kick back and relax in style. If you'd rather relax on a budget, read this week's Cincy Chic beauty department to learn how to destress on a shoestring. And believe it or not, the best relaxation can actually take place at home, at no cost.


    The Mayo Clinic suggests several relaxation techniques that help to reduce the long term wear and tear of life's challenges. "Although health professionals such as complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, doctors and psychotherapists can teach relaxation techniques, you can also learn some on your own," according to MayoClinic.com. "Relaxation techniques usually involve refocusing your attention to something calming and increasing awareness of your body. It doesn't matter which technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation regularly."


    There are several main types of relaxation techniques, including:


    • Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to help you relax and reduce muscle tension. You may imagine a peaceful place and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
    • Progressive muscle relaxation. In this technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation, and you become more aware of physical sensations. You may choose to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
    • Visualization. In this technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. Try to use as many senses as you can, including smells, sights, sounds and textures. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the warmth of the sun, the sound of crashing waves, the feel of the grains of sand and the smell of salt water. You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot and loosen any tight clothing.


    So, now, when someone tells you to "just relax," you'll actually know how!