Austinites still feeling the effects of South-by-Southwest – and those dreading the impending tax deadline – will be happy to hear relief is around the corner as April marks National Stress Awareness Month. To help usher in the om, Mary Kate Piotrowski, spa director at Four Seasons Hotel Austin, provides her top five tips for relieving seasonal stress:
Common Scents – Aromatherapy massage incorporates essential oils that are believed to trigger the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions and helps make a person feel calm, relaxed or even stimulated. While massage in combination with essential oils is especially effective, Piotrowski notes that the oils’ scent alone can also produce a positive effect.
“It’s easy to incorporate essential oils into your everyday routine,” says Piotrowski, who recommends filling your bathtub with two cups of Epsom salts along with a few drops of essential oils to help you relax first thing in the morning. Or, create your own linen spray by mixing distilled water and a few essential oil drops into a spritz bottle. Store it in your nightstand, where it will be easy to grab as you make your bed or before going to sleep.
Which scents provide the most stress-busting benefits? “Lavender is always popular, but some lesser-known options are neroli, bergamot and jasmine. All three are nice springtime aromas that stimulate the senses, but they also have qualities that provoke positive thinking and a calming effect,” says Piotrowski.
Chill Out…Literally – Maintaining a comfortable body temperature is also key to overall peace of mind. This is even truer in the summer, when high temperatures lead to discomfort that prevents your body from feeling fully relaxed. In The Spa, Piotrowski combats the Texas heat with chilled towels infused with lavender-lemongrass essential oil.
To make your own chilled towels at home, Piotrowski suggests filling a sink with water and a few drops of your favourite essential oil. Once mixed, add a stack of clean white washcloths. Squeeze out excess water, roll them up and then store them in a plastic container in the refrigerator. “Then, when it’s hot or you’re feeling stressed, pull one out and place it over your eyes or run it over your body for a refreshing, cool lift,” says Piotrowski.
Turn to Tea – Besides boosting antioxidants, which help increase energy and improve the immune system, herbal teas are also effective at calming anxiety. Piotrowski suggests picking a caffeine-free variety such as the verbena mint green tea available to Spa guests. “The mint aids with digestion and soothes stomach anxiety, plus the warmth of the tea just envelops people in a state of calm,” says Piotrowski.
That said, she’s also a fan of iced versions. “People always think of hot tea to relax, but as it gets hotter during the summer, don’t be afraid to make your favourite flavour chilled. It’ll still contain many of the same benefits, but the cold will help you feel rejuvenated.”
Mind over Meditation – If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Piotrowski is a fan of the “stop, drop and relax” rule. Her personal meditation routine includes sitting down in a quiet place, closing her eyes and focusing completely on her breathing. “If you have trouble clearing your mind or tuning out surrounding sounds, another effective relaxation technique is to focus on a mantra, such as ‘think positive’ or ‘I am
Simply Smile – Last but not least, Piotrowski suggests the simple act of smiling. “When you smile, your facial muscles contract and send nerve impulses to your brain, which then releases feel-good neuro-chemicals to help you feel calm,” says Piotrowski. So go ahead and grin.
There now, don’t you feel better already?