Relax! There Are Many Ways Big and Small to Chill Out and Feel Better

Healthy Living April 2023
(Jacob Lund/Jacob Lund -
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Yes, we’re stressed.

It’s understandable. The evening news. Climate change. Inflation. Our old nemesis, the COVID-19 pandemic virus that just won’t go away and leave us alone.

Need a little relief? Lots of people tell us, “Just relax!” But how to relax? We asked a few hundred of our friends and neighbors on social media this question: What do you do to relax?

The No. 1 answer: Get outside. Brady, among others, recommends a leisurely walk with the dog in the neighborhood, and chat with neighbors along the way. (Maybe avoid politics.)

Paula says a brisk walk lowers blood pressure and releases the feeling-good endorphins. Hike a local trail. Michael says to find a view and stare at the sky. (Don’t let the clouds get in your way.)

Stop and smell the flowers: Visit one of numerous public gardens, nature centers and arboretums in our area. There also are many botanic gardens. Find them from Claremont to Manhattan Beach, and Corona del Mar to Thousand Oaks.

Basking in floral glory is so right now - wildflowers are in full bloom. You can make the trek to the desert with the hordes of petal peepers, or look for the flowers closer to home. Check out the poppies in Antelope Valley, and other wildflower parks and trails in Chino Hills, Riverside and Hemet.

Go horseback riding: (But friend Alberta cautions us not to buy a horse yourself. There’s a lot of financial stress in caring for one.) More horsing around: Friend Joe says going to the racetrack “completely clears my mind.”

Exercise! Hit some balls at a batting cage or at a golf practice range. Take up archery. Sign up for Tai Chi classes - the disciplined, slow movement of this martial art demands concentration. Yoga, mindful movement and meditation are popular stress-reducers.

There is always the beach: After the sunbathers have gone home, sit on the sand and do what Arline does, which is to “listen to the waves and letting the sound wash my thoughts away.” Araceli likes to visit the Newport Beach pier at midnight. “It’s so quiet!” she says. Jacob prefers The Wedge Newport Beach, known for its shorebreaking waves.

Massage is a stress-breaker. Massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which improves circulation and sleep cycles and accelerates healing, says Susan Peterson from CMT Costa Mesa.

Let out your inner artist: Social media is host to numerous craft groups that can show you how to express yourself without leaving home. One interesting approach is called dot painting, which uses special brush tools to make a precise picture or pattern of dots on pottery, plates or canvas.

Face the music: Catch the tribute bands performing the favorite music of your youth at community fairs and concerts in the park. Sing along (but not too loudly) and, as Cathy advises, dance!

Classical music and opera can stir your soul. Brady listens to koto music, which is produced by playing a traditional Japanese stringed instrument almost the size of a surfboard.

And then there is the easiest of all: Lounge on the couch at home to read a book or watch a crime drama or cooking show on TV or your laptop (Jacques Pepin is a marvel at simple recipes).

Add a soft blanket, a mug of hot tea, a glass of wine or, as Tim suggests, “a good strong martini.” Invite the dog to join you. If you’re lucky, your pet will fall asleep and snore softly. That’s an instant stress reliever, and it’s free of charge.

-Catherine Gaugh