Best Stress Aids Include Herbs and Swearing on Secluded Beach

Monday Magazine | May 19, 2004
As our multi-tasking lives dump gargantuan amounts of anxieties upon our minds and bodies, the obvious effect is that someone, somewhere, will invent a product we can buy to make it all better. Hence, store shelves are lined with heaps of products with catchy labels like “anti-stress formula” or “stress-reducing ingredients.”

At a certain point in the journey of stress, buying these so-called magic cures and gadgets becomes tempting. I know. I’ve tried most of the ones out there.

Do they work? That’s another question. Here are my experiences with anti-stress products—that is, all the ones that were legal and not addictive—and with some unlikely stress relieving activities that don’t cost a thing.


This works, but only in products containing essential oils. Scents like geranium, lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang are uplifting and proven to ease tension. Buy a diluted combo of oils and add a dropperful to baths, dab it on light bulbs, and even drip it into your vacuum cleaner bag. I like Silk Road’s blends, about $10 for 5ml (1624 Government).

Herbal remedies

As an occasional insomniac, and a somewhat high-strung person, I’ve sometimes fallen prey to pharmaceutical aids—which are highly addictive and have grievous side effects. The only completely non-habit forming sleep aid that has worked for me is Hyland’s Calms Forte Tablets, a homeopathic and herbal remedy, for about $8 for a bottle of 100 at most vitamin stores.


Though the nice lady at the Psychic and Metaphysical fair swore by this stone, it didn’t do a thing for me. Sold mostly in jewelry form, the stone hematite is supposed to have stress-relieving properties. Either my chakras are beyond repair or healing rocks are overrated . . . and pricey at $25 a pendant.

Stress balls, bricks and squeezies

Since the foam brick made its way to cramped office cubicles in the 1980s, squeezable de-stress items have become favored desk décor and office party gifts. The wackier they get, the better they work. I prefer the smooshy computer toy or happy face in my death grip; though I’m sure Bart Simpson and George Bush replicas would equally suffice. Available online and at dollar stores everywhere.

Vitamin Supplements

Much stress stems from low energy. While eating right is crucial, the following nutritional supplements have given me the kick in the kahunas I needed when at the end of the proverbial rope: blue-green algae, St. John’s wort, flax seed oil and strong ginger tea.

Free and fun stress-relieving activities


As the older of two hyper and volatile siblings, my parents exposed me to some highly effective steam-letting activities at an early age. One such activity involved walking down to a secluded ocean lookout and swearing profanities to the howling sea for a good 10 minutes. Now, in my late twenties, I continue this practice once or twice a year to great satisfaction and ease, often making myself laugh in the process.

Split wood

Whether it’s firewood or an old desk ready for the dump, hands-on destruction is fun and satisfying. Be safe and wear protective clothing. Hard labour is stress-relieving and productively satisfying.

Take a hot bath

I take a bath nearly every night. I call the tub my second office, where I make important phone calls and read lengthy articles in Vanity Fair and The Walrus. If anything, the bathtub is an accessible sanctuary—where stealing away for 20 minutes to wind down is easy and effective. Add epsom salts, available in cartons for $3 at pharmacies, and the above-mentioned essential oils for extra mellowness. Ahhhh.

Monday Magazine

Founded in 1975 to provide a critical voice in Victoria's political and cultural communities, Monday Magazine continues to shake British Columbia's conservative capital city with tell-it- like-it-is features and reviews. Targeting educated, active adults and Victoria's growing youth market, Monday...
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