8 effective ways to wind down after a stressful day, according to science
Your one-way ticket to Relax-Station
I take pride in my post-sunset digital wellbeing routine. My work laptop is out of sight. From enabling downtime on my iPhone to activating DND mode on social media apps, I am free from the shackles of smartphone distractors by 9pm.
Just a quiet dinner away from drifting off to the land of Zzzs.
Yet this tamper-proof plan hardly ever materialises, thanks to the worst bin-bulaye-mehmaan: anxious thoughts and their joint family of stress and thought spirals. Sometimes, they join me for dinner and ruin my appetite. On other occasions, at the stroke of midnight, they force me to revisit, and overanalyse awkward conversations from months ago.
Some days, their unfriendly cousins show up too – palpitation bhaiya, nausea bua and dizziness didi. Soon I’m indulging in a midnight snack, and before I know it, the sun has risen, and I head back to my desk, groggy, snappy and sleep-deprived.
This year particularly, these uninvited guests have contaminated our sleep hygiene and post-work winding-down routines.
But instead of internally screaming, “Chhod do mujhe!”, we suggest you buy your tormentors farewell gifts. We scoured the internet for the best stress relief products – tried-and-tested by scientists and experts – to help you wind down.
We have aromatherapy, a blanket that hugs you to sleep, a stone that rubs stress away and ‘The Most Relaxing Track on Earth’, among others.
*If these stressors are persistent and chronic, we recommend you seek professional help.
8 stress relief products to help you relax and sleep better
The herb to curb your anxiety
The Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and researchers the world over unequivocally agree that chamomile packs in a lot of calm – crowning it a popular dietary supplement to ease sleep issues, anxiety, digestion, reduce period cramps, mouth sores and skin rashes.
This Tea Shelf herbal chamomile tea is not an SOS pill or rescue remedy, but the herb’s medicinal properties will temporarily hit the brakes as you spiral.
According to a 2016 study published in Phytomedicine, “Long-term chamomile was safe and significantly reduced moderate-to-severe Generalised Anxiety Disorder symptoms, but did not significantly reduce rate of relapse.”
A couple of cups every day help keep moderate-to-severe symptoms of GAD in check. The Tea Shelf,₹549
Tune in, pass out
Sure, Arijit Singh’s sob-fest playlist will cry you to sleep. But instead of exploiting broken hearts as sleep-inducing catalysts, we found what experts call ‘The Most Relaxing Track on Earth’. Composed by Marconi Union, a British ambient band, in collaboration with sound therapists, the track helps reduce stress and clock in the Zzzzzzzs.
‘Weightless’ is orchestrated on the basis of a scientifically tried-and-tested formula. The tempo begins at a rate of 60 beats per minute and gradually slows down to 50 beats per minute — causing a drop in blood pressure and lowering stress levels.
Liz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, says, “There is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next. The random chimes helps to induce a deeper sense of relaxation.”
Dr David Lewis-Hodgson, from Mindlab International, which further researched the relaxing powers of the song said that the piece “works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound, but also ones associated with emotions.”
Fun-fact: ‘Weightless‘ was so effective that Hodgson’s team advised drivers against listening to the song while on the road since “it could be dangerous”.
You can also follow this Spotify playlist that describes itself as: How to get through the holidays without offing your entire family.
Lighten up the stress
Perfumed candles are more powerful than you think. “Scents can have positive effects on mood, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, self-confidence, and physical and cognitive performance,” says Theresa Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute, the research and educational arm of the Fragrance Foundation.
She further explains that these fragrances can alter mood and trigger areas in the brain that relate to emotions. Since our sense of smell is connected to memory, a whiff of something that reminds you of good times or a peaceful moment in your life could help improve your mood and even combat fatigue or loneliness.
Stress relief is just a stone’s rub away
Instagram has caused social media fatigue for many, but has also introduced us to this strange, heart-shaped stone.
The Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese medicinal tool that relieves muscle pain and releases tension as well as stimulates lymphatic drainage on your face.
Dr Sheel Desai Solomon, a North Carolina-based dermatologist, explains, “Just as our bodies experience stress in the form of shoulders hunched over a computer, or headaches from tension, our faces hold stress in the form of furrowed brows or clenched jaws.”
The facial Gua Sha massage boosts blood circulation and amplifies lymphatic drainage. Looks like a rolling stone gathers ‚ and disposes of — all the stress on your face. Nykaa.com, ₹1,999
A stitch it time saves the nerves
The popular hobby of the ‘60s and the ‘70s and one of the ancient human arts is making a creative comeback as a solution to our troubled nerves. Ask your dadi and she will vouch for the therapeutic powers of looping and purling.
A research study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy found a significant relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy. Based on data collected from 3,545 knitters, the study found that frequent knitters reported higher cognitive functioning.
Knitting in a group impacted significantly on perceived happiness, improved social contact and communication with others.
Move on from fidget spinners, and knit an escape for the mind while busying your hands. It calms you down and also fills your wardrobe with new hats and scarves to flaunt your productivity.
Go forth, be a procrasti-knitter; scientists approve of these needles too. Nykaa.com, ₹799
Spa time for your sleep cycle
You can now say good night to all those hours of tossing and turning. Spritz some mist on your pillow and bed linen, let it dry and bury your face into it — as you drift off to a dreamland that smells like a dream too.
“Studies have shown that aromas can create a physiological response that causes our body to produce hormones — including melatonin, the hormone that promotes restful sleep,” explains Amy Galper, executive director of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy.
This pillow mist infused with tuberose, known to be a sedative in its diluted form, and anti-inflammatory ylang-ylang is the air freshener that dreams are made of. Amazon.in, ₹799
Find yourself a melatonin maker
The pea-sized pineal gland above the middle of your brain secretes this magic hormone called melatonin, that alerts your body to snooze hour. In some cases, a flaky melatonin may forget to notify you and keep you wide awake all night long.
A little external push or a supplement is all it needs sometimes.
Johns Hopkins’ sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M says, “Most people’s bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own. However, there are steps you can take to make the most of your natural melatonin production, or you can try a supplement on a short-term basis if you’re experiencing insomnia, or are a night owl who needs to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier.”
Most physicians believe in the less-is-more approach, and will encourage you to not to make melatonin supplements a long-term habit. Consult your GP before narrowing down on dosage and duration of the course.
Himalayan Organics, ₹599
When anxious rumination weighs you down, this dumbbell of a blanket will do the heavy lifting to give you the uninterrupted REM sleep you deserve. Weighted blankets operate on “pressure therapy”.
An anxious mind causes your heart to beat faster. During these spells, pressure activates the parasympathetic nervous system, thus reducing your heart rate. And a lower heart rate means an overall feeling of calm.
According to Martin L Levinson, physician at Penn Sleep Centre, “The pressure of weighted blankets puts your autonomic nervous system into “rest” mode, reducing some of the symptoms of anxiety, such as a quickened heart rate or breathing. This can provide an overall sense of calm.”
A study published by researchers at University of Massachusetts, found that “when using the weighted blanket, 63% of respondents reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”
But sleep experts maintain that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to tackle anxiety, and individuals with sleep disorders should consult experts before investing in this cozy comforter.