How stressed out are you? If your response is “very,” “OMG, let me tell you,” or just an incredulous, slightly delirious cackle — believe me, I can more than identify. Working hard, working late, making money and trying to pay the bills while also making time for family, friends, side projects, and — last but not least, yourself — can seem almost impossible at times. The question is, how do you de-stressify? What do you do when your blood pressure’s high, your head’s aching with the pressure of unfulfilled expectations, and you need to somehow shut off the insistent voices in your ear?

I’ve been incredibly stressed out recently — my parents are in town for the rest of the month, work’s been killing me, and I feel the constant threat of deadlines over my head like a miniature storm cloud. Sometimes I feel dizzy with stress. Sick with it. I’ve had to seek out healthy methods to deal with my stress issues.

For Christmas a few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a slender little book called Destress — 100 Natural Ways to Relax. It’s one of those chock-full-o-illustrations books, very simple, cute little drawings throughout. But the advice within it has helped me figure out an after-work routine that takes the edge off the day I just endured. Here’s some of the tips I’ve adapted to my own life.

After a long, arduous day at the office, all I want to do is collapse on the couch, preferably with a cocktail in hand. But I’ve been trying to deny myself that decadence. That’s an ideal time for me to work out, shake my B.O.O.T.A.Y to some Spank Rock and Santogold (watch out for raunchy lyrics if you click that link, BTW), and take out all the day’s aggression on the elliptical trainer. Another great form of venting that aggression is high tech and often hard to find these days… but I’ll put it out there… have any of you played the Nintendo Wii? I LOVE it. It’s so, so, SO much fun. I love that a video game system can get you up and on your feet, and if you’re sick of Wii Sports, now there’s Wii Fit, which I am dying to try. It sounds really cool.

After working all day then working up a sweat, I settle down to a simple, early dinner. Eating too late means I’ll literally fall asleep on the couch with a heavy belly of food, and that’s no good. So I try to eat dinner soon after I’ve come home from work, by 8:30 p.m. for the latest. If I am totally sapped of energy, I might splurge on something pre-cooked from the neighborhood gourmet grocery, but that really adds up for this bella on a budget. So most often I make a simple dinner salad — grill some chicken, skirt steak, fish, or shrimp on my indoor grill, place it on top of my bag salad of choice, add cherry tomatoes, diced strawberries, or almond accents or all of the above, toss with some kind of light dressing. And because my husband loves them, I serve the meal with Pillsbury whole wheat rolls, which are awesome. I have no idea how healthy (or unhealthy) they are, though.

Every night I wind up sitting at the computer, working until the wee hours. At one point, I was regularly falling asleep at the keyboard, fading out in the middle of an Afrobella post. Now I know that I need to tear myself away from the glowing screen, and let my mind slowly shut down before bedtime. So after Colbert, my favorite way to wind down before bed is with a hot, fragrant shower. My husband thinks it’s so weird — why would you take a shower so late at night, when you usually just take one in the morning before work? But the warm water cascading down on me really soothes my spirit, and I know my body wash of choice really helps as well — Johnson’s new Melt Away Stress products really are exactly what the doctor ordered. You’ve probably seen these ads splashed all over some of your favorite blogs recently (including this one). Allow me to share my experience with them so far.

The products are infused with their patented Aromasoothe fragrance, which is subtle, mild, and infinitely calming. Wafts of chamomile and hints of lavender — which is known as a stress reliever. A few drops of lavender essential oil to a bath tub can help to destress your body and mind. If you don’t have a bathtub (like me), the Johnson’s Melt Away Stress moisturizing wash is a great way to get the soothing effects of lavender without making your shower all slippery. It’s the kind of wash that I let lather on my bath sponge, then hold to my nose to inhale the scent before I start showering. Very moisturizing, and the bottle’s tall and big — 20 oz for $6. Good deal. I follow up the body wash with the body lotion — they claim that it’s clinically shown to help you sleep better and melt away daily muscle tension. It’s been working well for me — a hot, soothing shower and body rub with these two products, and I’m infinitely relaxed and ready for sleep.

My two favorites are the body wash and lotion, but there are two other items in the line — the massaging moisturizer is really best used for couple massages, it warms up wonderfully between your hands and makes for a sensual, slippery experience, but it’s a little sticky and runny if I use it on its own. The dreamy night cream is great for your hands, feet, knees, elbows, and any of those arid areas of your skin. But for my money, $10 to $12 for the body wash and lotion combo is totally worth it. After my shower, I collapse happily into bed. Recently, instead of lying there recounting my list of the 1001 things I didn’t do that day, my sleep has been dreamless and deep — exactly what I want it to be. I wake up smelling like an angel, and my skin is so smooth and soft. Click here to get $1 off any Johnson’s Melt Away Stress product.

Whew. It’s Monday morning and I’m already ready for my post-work ritual, bellas! What helps you unwind your mind after a long day?

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ericka says:
May 19, 2008, 10:40 am
a hot candle-lit shower, a good body scrub, some aromatic soap, some good lotion/perfume, my favorite "house" dress, some iced chai tea or warm honey tea, candle-lit lanterns, a warm herbal eye pillow, and peace and quiet! Thats how I end my days. I am a stay at home mom & wife, and I have felt stress many of many times. So once the tot and hubby goes to bed, & I have tidied up a bit, thats when I take my showers, I feel like I am washing off the stress of the day. I love this time of the night because it is so quiet and peaceful! I am trying to work in some craft time to help me relax even more!
Mrs.Mckinzie says:
May 19, 2008, 10:44 am
Hey Bella,when I need to unwind fresh ginger tea,and lavender candles help me to relax.I also use fabric softener with lavender in it .
Wes says:
May 19, 2008, 11:25 am
A nice shower, my robe and (funny-but-true!) a bowl of cereal usually helps my mind to unwind after a loooong day.
Coffy says:
May 19, 2008, 11:30 am
i like to unwind with jotting down the days events in my journal,and the night is not complete without a warm bath with Johnson and Johnson cucumber and melon body wash. i'm definitely going to try the Melt Away Stress products.
Danielle J says:
May 19, 2008, 11:48 am
Listening to music, watching a good film, reading or hearing something funny. Laughter is the best medicine for me.
Glamarella says:
May 19, 2008, 12:23 pm
Green tea, tons of magazines and a nice long soak in the tub works for me. I love that new Santogold CD too!
Melinda says:
May 19, 2008, 1:42 pm
The best way to begin and start my day has been through the conscious breathing of meditation. It's the only thing that helps me connect back to the center of myself. Professing gratitude always helps me in the attitude adjustment department...especially when I get irritable. The esoteric things are great..but I find that they too can be a distraction from dealing with the essence of you; which is your spirit. The Esoteric things won't make you feel better if you don't nurture your inner self. Here are some things that I like for R&R. Soy Wax Candle by Aveda. Aveda Comforting Tea Essential Oils. Ylang Ylang. Lavender. And Rose are some that I love. (Good prices at Foot Rub (Yes! You Can Massage your own feet! hell you can talk to your own body!) Jazz by Miles, Coltrane or Herbie Hancock. Scalp Massage Stretching on a Yoga Mat Glass of Red not bottle Bubble Bath Magazines (Essence,Real Simple, Domino) Books by Iyanla Vanzant Journaling in a Beautifully chosen journal More importantly. Mah Sistahs. When you think you can't make it or that you can't go any further; or you're even downright stressed. Humble yourself and honor the ancestors. Think of the journey that they survived and how that has allowed you to be here in the now. Love and Light.
Melinda says:
May 19, 2008, 1:48 pm
I also recommend: Colonics Stretching Diet Overhaul ( no white stuff!) LITTLE TO NO TV Dancing & Singing Staying Away from people with Negative Dispositions Prayer Practicing Forgiveness and Non-Judgement
heyhey says:
May 19, 2008, 2:03 pm
Okay fine, maybe I should try the evening shower. I'm a morning person myself, but my man is all about the shower before bed for the same reasons you described. It sounded crazy (since I like a shower to perk me up and get me going, and baths are for relaxing) but if afrobella suggests it then it must work, lol.
naturlglolady says:
May 19, 2008, 2:45 pm
Celestial Seasonings: warm Sleepy Time Tea
regina says:
May 19, 2008, 3:46 pm
Unwind!!!??? What's that? But really, a hot shower, some smooth jazz, and I'm good! I have to try some of those destressing shower gel.
Bebroma says:
May 19, 2008, 3:47 pm
Sometimes I like to go outside and sit (if it's not too hot/cold) and look at my flowers or veggies, and pet the dog.
gorgeousblackwomen says:
May 19, 2008, 4:03 pm
"Detox" = consume only water, fruits, vegetables, teas. no dairy, no animal products, nothing heavy. no news no gossip limit e-mail time and anything else that zaps energy abstain from negative forces in your life exercise
gorgeousblackwomen says:
May 19, 2008, 4:11 pm
beware of "fragrance" though. that's a very vague label that could mean a bunch of things, many negative. go to the natural food store and get some lavendar essential oil instead.
Shell says:
May 19, 2008, 6:13 pm
I love to take a bath. Wash all of that negativity and grime of the day. I also watch cartoons like Curious George and Chowder. They take me out of my adult mind and plug me back into my kid side.
Lima says:
May 19, 2008, 7:29 pm
I love silence. I think it's more like platinum than golden. I am also a wife & stay at home mom of 2 extremely talkative 2 & (almost) 5 year old little Bellas. Nothing beats their early bedtime (8pm is late in this house!) especially when Mr. Lima is working nights! Lately I've developed a bad habit snacking on chips or cookies to relax so I'm trying to curb that & get back to my fruits. Walking & reading also help me "de-stressify", but I don't get to do either very often. When driving, if I need the little Bellas to be quiet for a bit, I pop in a dvd (Bad Mama!) for them & put in Bob Marley's Legend.
Calming.Corners says:
May 19, 2008, 8:25 pm
Thank you so much for this Bella, you know I am all about the calm! It feels so good to relax after a long day. I like to take a walk, listen to soothing music like enya or my ambient lounge cd's and sip on some tea. Yoga is another wonderful way to unwind. xo, cc
pets says:
May 20, 2008, 8:00 am
An NCOT (aka a nice cup of tea)....
MzTravelDiva says:
May 20, 2008, 9:20 am
Hey bella! We are living parallel lives right now. Work has me soo stress out and overwhelmed. Then after that I'm up late working on my blog. Working on weekends. AND I'm applying to grad school. I just feel to low on energy most of the time. That's funny I bought some of that Melt Away Stress lotion, too. I was like...right now I need anything that can do that. I will have to check out your de-stress book. I plan to REALLY de-stress starting tomorrow though as I'm headed for a week in Costa Rica. Zip lining and thermal hot springs here I come! Wishing you a wonderful time of relaxation!
The Beautiful One says:
May 20, 2008, 10:55 pm
A warm shower, in candelight. Sitting quietly and still. Acupuncture Going on walkabouts Watching films by Antonioni Walking silently with a good friend. There are just some people that you don't even have to speak with, there presence alone is quite calming.
Chanelle, Indigofera Beauty Expert says:
May 27, 2008, 11:56 pm
A warm bath with lavender essential oils Soy Candles in my signature scent Savannah Relaxing in the bed, listening to Teena Marie, Erykah Badu or Angela Winbush Escaping to a Spa for a Hot Stone Massage or Deep Pore Facial
flygyrl72 says:
May 28, 2008, 12:50 pm
A glass of red wine & a Xanax...LOL..just kidding about the Xanax, at least most of the time...


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