Mommy on a Shoestring: Stress busting on a shoestring

“Stay calm and carry on,” is a lovely saying, but it isn’t always easy especially this time of year.

As the lazy days of summer make way for school, carpools and homework, I am reminded once again why people often refer to August as the “Sunday of summer.” There’s a lot of anticipation, excitement, stress and anxiety as families get used to new schools, classrooms, teachers and routines. To help us get through this stressful time, I have gone to experts to find ways to stay calm and carry on — without spending a fortune.

Abhyanga

“In India, Abhyanga is an ancient massage practice that uses sesame or coconut oil,” says Dr. Trupti Gokani, a board certified neurologist and founder/medical director of Zira Mind and Body in Glenview. Although Abhyanga refers to a massage that is generally done over the entire body, it can be modified to fit the time constraints of busy families.

Gokani recommends using the oil (warmed slightly) to massage hands, feet and ears. It’s a great addition to any bedtime routine. Like most things that are good for us, Abhyanga is most effective when repeated over time, and can help both you and your kids reach a calmer and more balanced state.

Breathwork

According to neurologist and integrative medicine specialist Dr. Rowena Chua, breathwork is one of the easiest and most effective relaxation techniques. Chua is a practicing physician at Sphere, a holistic sports medicine team at the Heartwood Center in Evanston.

“Learning how to regulate your breath is invaluable,” says Chua. “It can help improve your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.” In times of stress and anxiety, Chua recommends trying one of the following techniques:

Ten to One: Count exhales slowly from 10 to 1. For instance, breathe-in and then on the exhale say, “10.” Breathe-in again and on then on the exhale say “9.” Continue until you get to “1.” Repeat if desired.

Breath Counting: Take a deep breath and count to 3 slowly, then exhale and count to 3 again. Repeat several times as needed.

In and Out: Take a deep breathe and say internally, “I am.” Exhale and say internally, “at peace.” Repeat several times as needed.

Toe tapping

Chua also recommends “toe tapping” which she describes as an ancient practice that opens the energy flow in the legs and hips, while also balancing the energy between the head and body. “Because toe tapping is so grounding, it is remarkable for treating stress and anxiety,” says Chua. To try this technique, lie flat on your back. Keep your body as relaxed as possible as you tap your toes inward and outward (like a windshield wiper). Feel free to tap as fast or as slow as you like. Chua recommends doing this for 5 minutes every day. However she cautions to avoid this exercise if you are pregnant or if you have had recent knee or hip surgery.

Walk it Out

“Don’t underestimate the power of a walk,” says Hannah Mich an Exercise Specialist and Certified Athletic Trainer at Sphere. “Walking can help relax your mind, boost your immune system and help maintain energy levels.” Even if you only have time for a 10- minute stroll, its calming effects, coupled with a change of scenery and burst of fresh air can have a profound effect on you and your kids.

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

“An easy and portable way to relieve stress is through the use of essential oils,” says Amanda Leuthardt, an acupuncture and bodywork specialist at Sphere. When using essential oils, Leuthardt suggests placing a few drops on your wrists and breathing in the fragrance throughout the day as needed. She is particularly fond of cedarwood, which is known for its calming properties and has been found to help improve concentration and attention span.

Leuthardt also likes lavender, which she calls “the ultimate adaptogen,” because she finds it can balance any personality. Lavender is also the oil that has been most widely studied as an antidote for stress.

For more information: about Zira see ziramindandbody.com; Sphere at spheremedicine.com; Heartwood at heartwoodcenter.com.

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