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HEALTH & WELLNESS

Let go of stress by creating your own spa environment

Stressed but can't afford a luxury spa? Here are products and design ideas to help you relax at home

You're still carrying those 10 Thanksgiving-to-Christmas pounds, and Valentine's Day was a bust. Not to mention the stress that seems to come with just getting out of bed these days. But there's help — in the form of a little pampering — right in your own home.

And stressed we are. According to the American Psychological Assn.'s 2014 Stress in America report, 72% of us say we're stressed about money at least some of the time, and 42% say we're not doing enough to manage our stress. Half of women and a third of men say stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the last month.

The stakes are high: Chronic stress is related to problems including heart disease, asthma, obesity, headaches and depression.

"Everything you can do to genuinely de-stress and come into your 'green zone' of low or no stress is likely to be helpful. This could involve going to a spa or creating a spa-like environment, if that works for you," says Firdaus Dhabhar, associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford University.

For most people, a spa vacation is too expensive. Perhaps a smaller splurge on some of the products used in spas could do the trick.

Studies report that massage can reduce blood pressure, but the spa's other sensory elements trigger relaxation from the get-go. "For select spas, it's never going to be just about the treatments. It's also about the overall experience," says Suzanne Holbrook, Marriott International director of spa operations for the Americas, including for the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles.

"For us that experience starts from the very moment you walk in and all of your senses are impacted, from the scents (for example, we incorporate vitamin C aromatherapy into our locker room showers), to what you touch, the herbal teas, the fluffy towels, the lavender-heated neck rolls, to the incredible level of service, it all automatically starts to slow you down from your rushed life in the outside world," Holbrook says.

Next up is transforming your bathroom to give it the feel of a spa sanctuary. The process starts with what you see — or rather what you don't see. Want to relax? Clear out the clutter.

"Once you organize and have a well-designed, spa-like space, you've got a spot for everything, you can see your things and you appreciate them more," says Lisa Adams, founder of LA Closet Design. "You're just happier and feel better in the space and actually want to be there. I call it your sanctuary. A place to sit down and breathe. I think all of those things reduce stress. I witness it with my clients."

Adams shares a few how-tos:

Create a sleek, clean countertop. Replicate the spa lineup of sleek, practical containers for cotton balls, Q-tips, razors, lotions and potions. "You shouldn't have extra boxes of items stored in your bathroom. Use a separate pantry closet to house any overflow," says Adams. "Wall-mounted soap and shampoo pumps give the feeling of being in a spa. I like the brand SimpleHuman," ($70, simplehuman.com).

For her clients' makeup, "I do custom drawer inserts. When you open the drawer, everything is very organized and you can see it at first glance. Use materials like black vinyl that's waterproof and also easily wipeable."

Other ways to keep a serene atmosphere include rolling up towels to display on shelves and a laundry basket that closes so the dirty clothes are never in sight.

For a little more of an investment, Adams suggests small refrigerators to hold bottled water or cucumber water and organic products that might spoil. "People are also asking for coffee makers and warming drawers for towels or even mugs," she says.

A dimmer switch on the lights can enhance the mood. And for paint colors, she suggests off-white or pastels. "I don't use more than three colors, and it's always kind of a version of that color. Otherwise it's visually distracting," Adams says.

And finally, of course, it's you who must be prepared: "I love Barefoot Dreams robes," Adams says ($126, barefootdreams.com). "They're so cozy."

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Here are a few products to try to get that spa feeling at homebrands used in spas and spa-like products:

Elemis Spa at Home Quiet Mind Relaxing Bath Elixir & Body Detox Skin Brush ($38 and $45, dermstore.com & $48, shop.nordstrom.com)

ESPA Soothing and Resistance Bath Oils and Nourishing Shower Cream ($49 and $42, us.espaskincare.com)

LAFCO Meditation Room Candle ($60, lafco.com)

Eminence Coconut Sugar Scrub (about $48, eminenceorganics.com/us)

Bliss Hot Salt Scrub ($38, sephora.com)

Body Bliss Forest Bathing Body Mist (also try it as a room spray) and I RenewENEW Cucumber Hydrosol Mist ($18.95 and $60, bodybliss.com)

Level Naturals Eucalyptus Lime Bath Bomb 6 Pack ($15.99 for six, levelnaturals.com)

L'Occitane Lavender Cleansing Hand Wash and Body Lotion ($20 and $25 usa.loccitane.com)

Clairmont Farms Lavender Essential Oil ($44, clairmontfarms.com)

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