This past year has been incredibly stressful for the majority of human beings on earth. Unfortunately, strategies to deal with stress aren’t as well developed or discussed as often as they should be. There are a number of unique relaxation techniques that might be able to lift you out of that constant mode of stress and allow your body and mind to take a break. Living in a fight or flight state coupled with fear and anxiety can wreak havoc on your entire being, and finding something that helps you relax is necessary!
Halotherapy- North Shore Salt Therapy Center
Salt. Yes, you rim your margarita glasses in it, use it to de-ice the driveway, and can even be used to help remove wine stains from carpet (Google it- you’re welcome). But have you given much thought to how salt, an absolute necessity for the human body to operate, can benefit you when involved in different types of therapy? I had heard of float therapy before- chambers containing a salt solution that allows users to float inside- but hadn’t heard of halotherapy.
Halotherapy is a type of “dry salt” therapy- sodium chloride is heated and ground into small aerosol micro-particles and then dispersed into a salt room via a portal and fan. These microscopic particles work on the body in two ways- they are inhaled and come into contact with the skin. The potential benefits include decreased inflammation, reduction in allergies, anti-bacterial properties that kill the spread of bacteria/virus, and relieve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
In addition to all of this healing, an important reason many people spend time in these man-made salt caves is for relaxation. I visited North Shore Salt Therapy Center in Highland Park recently and was able to experience the calming, relaxing vibe of their salt room. They have two different rooms- one for families (complete with alllll the typical trappings of a sandbox, like shovels and dump trucks), and an adult-only room that is incredibly quiet and serene. If you are looking for unique relaxation techniques, hanging out in a room full of salt is definitely one to try! They also have a collection of Himilayan salt lamps for sale in various shapes and sizes.
As you walk into the room, you remove your shoes and step onto the pink crushed-salt-covered floor, making your way to a selection of zero-gravity loungers. One entire wall is covered in a Himilayan salt formation with a light set behind so the room appears to glow a gorgeous color of pink. I opted to lay on a type of bean bag that also provided a weightless feeling and dug my feet into a headed saltbox. BLISS.
The micro-particles of salt started spraying into the room, and although I couldn’t see them, I could feel a fine layer of salt accumulating on my skin. Each session lasts 45 minutes, so you have a long enough period to relax, slow down your mind, and just breathe. The family salt room is helpful for children with similar afflictions- breathing or skin issues- as well as providing a calm space for kids to meditatively play.
I left feeling relaxed and comforted, something that I rarely have felt in the past year. Since devices aren’t allowed in the therapy rooms, it provided a dual-purpose detox for me since I am always on my phone. I recommend using this as a chance to escape reality for 45 minutes- you can meditate, practice gratitude, focus on breathing and sensations, or just zone out. It is therapy for the mind and body. Pricing for North Shore Salt Therapy is below:
TIP- Try to expose as much skin as possible so the salt can make contact with your skin, and avoid dark-colored clothing.
Sound Healing- Rebel Human
Sound. It is one of the five senses and can be a source of inspiration, anxiety, calm, and a number of other emotions depending upon the vibration, frequency, volume, and pitch. Sound healing is the process of using vibrations to relax your mind and body. Rebel Human co-founder Jenny Arrington leads a weekly sound bath every Tuesday in Wilmette from 7pm-8pm called “Tune-In Tuesday.” With the use of crystal singing bowls and a bronze Chau Gong, she gets the energy and vibrations moving throughout the room in such an intense fashion that you can feel it deep down in your bones.
I was a Kundalini Yoga student of Jenny’s pre-pandemic, and it truly taught me to slow down and listen to my body. She occasionally indulged our class in a sound bath, and I can still recall being completely deeply affected by the different pitches of each crystal bowl, and the heavy, almost oppressive vibrations from the gong, producing one of the most unique relaxation techniques I have ever experienced.
It is an experience unlike any other I have ever felt and allows you just immerse yourself in the sound. I am someone who struggles with meditation- I simply cannot clear my head and stop the ruminating thoughts no matter how much I practice. During the sound bath, there was no way I could focus on anything else but the sensations! It forced my body to take a much-needed break.
Art Therapy- Institute for Therapy Through the Arts
I am someone who can get completely lost in the world of art. Be it dance, painting, creative writing or acting, this is one aspect of life where I can settle in and let the freedom of expression help me relax. Many people, however, haven’t discovered the magic of art as therapy. Some simply believe they aren’t “creative people,” or think that art is all play and doesn’t serve a need.
ITA Chicago, with locations downtown, Evanston, and Highland Park, offers four different types of art therapy: dance, drama, music, and art. I have driven by their building hundreds of times, but never really dug into what they do and how they serve as an important mental health resource. In addition to individual and family sessions, they also conduct group art therapy groups and community programs, like CBT skills to develop through art therapy, which helps manage strong emotions and develop healthy coping strategies.
This relaxation technique can be practiced at home as well on a more basic level. Adult coloring books have risen in popularity in recent years- it has been discovered that coloring can relax the fear center of your brain. Singing can help you relax- it is a natural anti-depressant. It can help the body release endorphins and stimulate the release of oxytocin.
Cheers to discovering unique relaxation techniques that work for you, and making your mental and physical health a priority this year!