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Refresh Your Spirit: Strong Cures for Stress

We don't have to tell you that planning a wedding can make a person tense. Check out these great ways to get some serious stress relief.

It's no secret that planning a wedding is stressful -- you're dealing with constant tension (good and bad!) almost from the moment you slip that engagement ring on your finger. If you're a suffering stress-case and you've already tried upping your exercise routine, and deep breathing exercises with no relief, stay calm. We've got alternative measures for you!

What is Stress?

From time to time, everyone feels stressed out: that feeling you get when your mother-in-law calls 16 times in one hour to talk about the rehearsal dinner, or when you find out that five turquoise bridesmaids' dresses have arrived, only you ordered seven -- in navy blue! Your heart races, your muscles tense, and your blood pressure climbs. Your body reacts by releasing adrenaline into your system. It's a survival response that gives you strength and a heightened sense of awareness so you'll recognize danger (your future mother-in-law) and respond (run!).

What Should You Do?

While this physiological response may give you the energy to complete all the wedding preparations, it also taxes your immune system -- leaving you more prone to illness. Stress is also bad for your skin and sex drive. But don't worry, there's help. Try one of these de-stressing techniques.

Massage Therapy

Most people feel better immediately after having a massage. When your muscles are relaxed, your body perceives the stressful situation to be over. Massage mechanically forces you to wind down because as muscles ease, the body produces fewer stress hormones and the sympathetic nervous system calms down. More good news: Your body doesn't care who is doing the work. Whether you pay a pro $75 an hour or your fiance does the job, you'll enjoy the same result: less stress. The next time your sweetie asks what he can do to help with the wedding headaches, hand him a bottle of massage oil!

Jin Shin Do (a.k.a. Acupressure)

When Western methods of stress relief fail, look to the East! The Chinese believe that the body consists of several pathways, called meridians, through which energy flows. When these meridians or "acupoints" become blocked, you experience a laundry list of problems -- stress is at the top. Acupressure is the art of applying pressure to points on the body to release the energy and restore balance. All you do is rest, fully clothed, in a treatment chair, and the Jin Shin Do practitioner goes to work. You emerge from the session relaxed, mentally more lucid, and with a greater sense of well being.

Aromatherapy

You've probably heard of aromatherapy -- the healing practice of using fragrant essential oils to affect health and mood. The nose and olfactory system send signals to the areas of the brain that govern the hypothalamus. As a result, the endocrine and hormonal systems are affected. Essential oils can relieve pain, enhance immunity -- even relieve PMS! The trick is to choose the right blend.

Try one of these well-known aromatheraputic remedies:

  • To relieve stress, try bergamot, chamomile, lavender, melissa, clary sage, neroli, rose, or jasmine. Or, use this recipe: 3 drops lavender, 3 drops neroli, 2 drops marjoram, 2 drops ylang-ylang, 1 drop chamomile, 2 drop clary sage, 1 ounce carrier oil.
  • To help you sleep, try clary sage, marjoram, ylang-ylang, or neroli.

Once you've picked your potion, simply drop the oils into a warm bath. Or, if you're going to massage them into the skin, dilute them in a carrier oil (i.e. almond, grape seed, or olive oil). Most oils are available at health stores and pharmacies, and come with directions.

Herbal Treatments

Chamomile, Gotu Kola, Kava Kava, St. John's Wort, and Valerian are some popular herbal treatments that help conquer stress. Check out your nearest health or natural foods store, for some of these herbs -- just be sure to read labels for the recommended dosages. And remember: Even though they are herbs, you shouldn't treat them differently than traditional medicines (i.e., don't pop them haphazardly), and you should always check with your doctor before you try anything new, especially if you are taking other medication.

  • Chamomile has sedative power. Besides calming frazzled nerves, it can relieve indigestion and toothache pain. Try a cup of chamomile tea or place chamomile extract in a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam.
  • Gotu Kola is good for treating insomnia and anxiety, and it works as a gentle sedative. Look for capsules of powdered Hydrocoltyle asiatica (the weaker variety) or try the stronger variety, Centella asiatica, available in capsules or extract.
  • Kava Kava induces relaxation, promotes sleep, and helps relieve anxiety and tension. It comes in many forms, including capsule, liquid, and powder.
  • St. John's Wort helps heal serious cases of the blues in the same way as antidepressant drugs: by blocking the brain chemical monoamine oxidase (MAO). Proponents of the herb call it "nature's Prozac". You can buy it in both tea and capsule form.
  • Valerian turns most people off with its awful smell and equally nasty taste. But it does provide serious stress relief, so you may want to give it a try. Insomnia sufferers swear it promotes sleep without that groggy, morning-after effect. Look for capsules in heath food stores.

-- The Knot

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