Stress Awareness Month: What are the latest Wellness Trends that really work?

Stress! We all know this word too well, a term that seems to be becoming more and more colloquial in everyday language. We are constantly exposed to Micro-Stress Doses, a term coined by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee in his book ‘The Stress Solution’, which described all those anxiety-inducing instances that start from the moment we wake up – alarms, checking emails, the adrenalin rush from your morning coffee, event a rude person on the tube! We live in an ‘always-on’ world where we are exposed to forms of stress constantly, with little ability to switch off.

As April was Stress Awareness month, it seemed like the perfect time to focus on ways in which we can unwind and de-stress. Throughout April, our lifestyle guru Tori Porter tried some of the latest Wellness Trends to see what really works.

Floatation Therapy 

Floating by the power of 25kg of Epsom salts  in what looks like a small spaceship or a small egg, you’re left with only your mind. Floatation therapy is thought to significantly benefit the mood, promote total relaxation, eliminate fatigue and jet lag, improve sleep, energise the body, reduce anxiety and most importantly alleviate stress.

For the first five minutes the pod is lit with green and blue lighting, and meditation music plays. Then, the lights and music dim until you are lying in complete darkness and silence. You wear ear plugs to muffle the noise. To begin with I was fascinated by the sensation of floating. The water is body temperature, so you melt into the water making it difficult to distinguish where your body ends and the water begins. After a while, however, I became very fidgety, trying to swim on my back (with the limited space) or lie in different positions. In everyday life I find it difficult to sit still. I constantly reach for my phone, or try and tick off the next thing on my To Do List. In the pod, I had these urges but I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything so I was forced to sit with this discomfort until I found relaxation again.

You are in the pod for about an hour, until the music starts again and a red light surrounds you to mimic a sunrise. I have to say I felt like I was in there forever, but with meditation practice I think I would find it easier to be still for longer.

Is it for you? Probably not if you’re claustrophobic. Would I recommend it to a friend? 100%. It was a truly meditative experience that forced me to sit with my thoughts and feelings of discomfort and breathe into them, relaxing deeper. It also felt like a spa treatment, which naturally has the relaxation placebo effect. You don’t need to go into a floatation pod to experience meditation, however. A good meditation or yoga class should give you the same effect of quieting your mind.

Cryotherapy 

How do you feel about exposing your bare skin to -140 degrees Celsius? Don’t worry it’s not like sitting in the snow; the difference here is that cryotherapy is a dry cold which only affects the skin surface, rather than penetrating into your bones.

Cryotherapy is a holistic treatment designed to prompt the body into action by increasing circulation and boosting the immune and central nervous systems. The Cryosauna releases liquid nitrogen vapour ranging between -120 to -160 degrees Celsius which circulates the body for three minutes. This causes blood to flow from the periphery towards the core. When the body reheats, this increases blood flow to the extremities enriching cells with oxygen and releasing hormones. Benefits include reduced inflammation, quicker muscle recovery, improved sleep, boost to the immune system, increased metabolism and boost energy and mood.

What’s it like? The cryosauna is a weird experience and everyone reacts differently. You’re partly freezing, like you’ve just jumped into a freezer, but at the same time it is tolerable and in some ways enjoyable! The first couple of times I tried it I would dance around trying to distract myself, but with more experience I am now able to stand still and take deep breaths to focus inwards and relax into the cold. The optimal effects happen when you get out, and not just because you can warm up again. The moment you get out and your body starts to heat up you get this huge rush of endorphins as your body releases hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. For me, it feels like a release of anxiety from my chest, like I’ve taken a huge sigh. I feel relaxed, calm and full of positive energy! Cryotherapy is also amazing for sleep as it causes the release of norepinephrine which regulates your sleep cycle. We all know what a difference a good night’s sleep has on stress and anxiety.

This treatment is only 2-3 minutes long, but you reap the benefits for hours, if not days afterwards! Would I recommend it? Absolutely! I haven’t witnessed one person who has tried it who hasn’t come out with a huge smile on their face.

Ong Studios 

Sitting in a dimly lit room, surrounded by peacefulness, a pillow and a blanket- sounds pretty relaxing already right? Ong 360 is the most complete system for self-optimisation, to help you unlock your daily potential and reset your body and mind. Blending ancient wisdom, modern science and something more intangible; the technique used in this class quickly elevates the body’s energy levels, promoting wellbeing, energising the body yet at the same time promoting a sense of calm.

Before taking the class I had absolutely no idea what to expect, no preconceptions at all. It definitely provided me with the largest sense of relaxation. Taking the class at 7.45pm helped me to release some of the normal sense of urgency I usually feel when I know I have other things to do afterwards.  Combining physical yoga styles, breath work, meditation and ending with sound therapy in the form of a gong bath, this class provided deep relaxation. On your mat, at times you were forced to push your boundaries and have discipline, focusing on the breath to hold uncomfortable poses. The class also used the Breath of Fire, rooted in Kundalini yoga, which is an intense breathing technique which has a number of benefits. These include calming and detoxing the body through getting the blood to circulate in a fast and effective method which helps to remove toxins, it aids in relieving pain and also strengthening the core.

At the end of the class, we lay down and snuggle up in a rug, listening to the deep vibrations of the gong. Having never experienced sound therapy before, it really was deeply relaxing. I was so zen that I got all the way home before realising I had left without the suitcase I had travelled in with! Talk about releasing attachment to material things!

Yoga

The final relaxation technique I tried this month was an activity that anybody can try anywhere, whether that’s at a boutique yoga studio, in a health club class or simply at home using YouTube. I really made an effort to do yoga at least once a week, and I tried a few different styles from restorative, to tradition, to advanced. The more I practiced, the more I enjoyed it!

With restorative (also known as Yin Yoga), it’s a lot of lying down, stretching, breathing and holding poses for a little bit longer. This one is for those who want minimal movement. With traditional, think incense, fast flow and chanting. This one’s for the true yogis, no messing around here. With advanced yoga, it’s all fast paced, lots of pose variations and handstands. My absolute favourite class was the Advanced Yoga at CaliFlow, where I felt challenged and even a little bit sweaty, but completely relaxed with the dim lighting, the amazing scents. It was a class that pushed my body whilst relaxing my mind at the same time.

What did I take away from all of this? Whatever method you choose to reduce stress, I’ve found that the most important factors are distraction, enjoyment, movement and meditation. Find an activity that distracts your mind from your To Do List. Yoga is perfect as you are focusing on moving your body and holding the poses but also using breathing techniques that slow down your heart rate and calm the body. Find something you enjoy, and feel grateful for the activity and what your body is capable of. Make sure you move a little bit every day. Exercise gives your body the ‘fight’ it needs, helping to release tension and anxiety, plus endorphins boost your mood and your energy! Finally meditation seems to be at the heart of all these practices. It isn’t easy, but we all should be a little more aware of our surroundings and take time out from our thoughts.

Push PR x

Interested in trying out one of these techniques? Head over to the below websites to book your session: 

. Floatation Therapy – www.3tribes.co.uk 

. Cryotherapy – www.saisecryo.co.uk

. Ong Studios – www.ongstudios.com

. Yoga – www.califlow.co

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