Wellness Check: How to Stay Resilient During Stressful Times
Self-care is all about shoring up resources, both physical and mental, to stay resilient during difficult or stressful life events. Self-care helps us be strong and flexible, no matter what life is hurling in our direction. During prolonged periods of turbulence, it can be difficult to maintain the routines that propel us through normal days. If you’re trying to adjust to a “new normal,” consider the following list of practices as a kind of self-care check-in to help avoid succumbing to anxiety and burnout.
Be More Intentional With Sleep
Let’s start with the linchpin of self-care: sleep, glorious sleep. According to the American Psychological Association, adults who get at least eight hours a night of quality sleep enjoy lower stress levels, more energy and less depression and can concentrate more easily than people who skimp on rest. However, periods of stress and anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, making it difficult to achieve a good night of sleep.
Finding it difficult to get adequate sleep these days? Daily exercise, meditation and relaxation before bed can help improve sleep quality. Consider using your steam shower as part of a soothing nighttime ritual that helps athletic recovery and signal your body it’s time to wind down.
In addition, a steam bath may help release endorphins, the same feel-good hormone we get from exercise that lowers the stress hormone cortisol and the feeling of stress in the body. Heating the body prior to bedtime may both speed up the process of falling asleep and increase slow-wave sleep, according to this study.
To really reap the benefits of a pre-bed steam shower, add lavender essential oil to the routine via an AromaSteam system, which infuses the steam with botanical oils. (Explore more ways steam can help you relax and prepare for a great night’s sleep here.)
Spend Time With Nature
When it comes to your well-being, a daily dose of nature is as important as those tasty vitamin gummies. According to a University of Michigan study, 20 minutes outside every day significantly reduces stress hormone levels in the body.
Exposure to nature has many benefits, the UM researchers reported, “including better sleep, reduced inflammation, improved immune function and, key among them, a better state of mental well-being that includes stress reduction, increased focused and the experience of awe.” Pop your daily “nature pill” by going for a walk or run, doing some gardening or yard work, or just relaxing on your porch with a cup of coffee.
Even indoors, nature can help us find our inner Zen. How? Through sound. Natural sounds, such as a babbling brook, waterfall, birdsong or wind moving through the trees, cause positive changes in heart rate and brain activity. In your steam shower, using a MusicTherapy system to surround yourself with these relaxing nature sounds while enjoying a steam session may help boost feelings of calm.
Practice Mindful Breathing
Mindfulness means turning focused attention toward something, and one of the most basic mindfulness practices is to simply observe the breath as you inhale and exhale. But for particularly anxious times, try the 4-7-8 Exercise, also called Relaxing Breath. Inhale for a four-second count, hold the breath for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”
Because steam showers encourage deep relaxation, they are an ideal place to practice mindfulness. Take advantage of this spa-like retreat by focusing on your breathing, as well as on the sensations: the steam as it gently puffs around you, the warm teak seat beneath you, the way your lungs fill and exhale smoothly. With the MusicTherapy sound system, you can also stream guided meditations while you steam to help you stay calm and focused. Try a morning meditation for clarity or gratitude, a midday guided meditation session on setting goals or an evening meditation designed to guide you toward restful slumber.
Steam showers are also good for another mindfulness practice: unplugging from electronics. In a steam shower, there’s no phone to scroll through, no TV monitor with scary headlines and no boss beaming in for a Zoom call — it helps encourage you to stay in the moment.
Stretch It Out
While strength training and cardiovascular exercise are important, don’t forget to incorporate stretching as part of your fitness routine. Stretching lowers stress and may reduce sadness, lower blood pressure and positively affect respiration rates. Try yoga or Pilates, use tools such as inflatable exercise balls and elastic bands, or explore isometric stretches, where one group of muscles pulls against another to deepen a stretch.
You can stretch in a steam shower, where the deep, warm heat may help loosen tight muscles, promotes blood circulation, and may relieve pain in creaky joints or tired muscles. Aim for a steam after your workout, or at least a two to three steam sessions week, for maximum musculoskeletal benefits.
Many of us love a morning coffee, but here’s a weird fact: coffee, caffeinated tea and other caffeinated beverages can actually magnify a person’s perception of stress, according to Duke Health.
The bottom line? Reach for a refreshing glass of water or cozy cup of herbal tea instead of mainlining espressos.
To up your daily water consumption, add tempting fruits to water, such as crushed raspberries, watermelon or diced strawberries. Or create an at-home spa vibe by adding cucumber or sprigs of fresh mint to a carafe of water, and sip the elixir prior to and after your steam session.
A steam shower also hydrates skin and hair. The heat and moisture help boost the water-holding capacity of the skin’s outer layer, called the stratum corneum. Steam also may help repair and nourish dry, damaged hair by increasing skin circulation to the scalp and potentially repairing the keratin proteins in hair. After the steam bath, apply moisturizer while skin is still damp, then slip into super soft loungewear.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Making Time for Yourself
Busy, successful people often find it challenging to put self-care at the top of their to-do list. But remember, self-care is the building block of literally everything else you do, allowing you to be a better employee, parent, spouse, friend, neighbor and citizen. So, what can you do today to practice self-care?