For many of us, winding down after a stressful day means a glass or two of wine on the sofa. But there are several alternatives that may help you relax without the hangover. A relaxing massage comes top of the list for most of us when we think of chilling out - lights down low with music as gentle as the receding tide for company.
Holistic therapeutic massage is tailored to meet your specific needs after a consultation. "In a holistic massage you speak to the client first and you would also feel which muscles are tight," says Anne Marsham, a qualified practitioner at Napier's Clinic in Edinburgh.
"It's relaxing and it slows down your pulse so it can help with blood pressure, which is related to stress as well," adds Anne, who works on the whole body, giving special attention to any problem areas. "You can focus on the upper body if people are doing a lot of desk work."
Scottish teacher Iain Campbell, 35, has found relaxation and health benefits by practising transcendental meditation (TM) for the past 14 years. He found it helped him study, improved his health and helped him cope.
Iain teaches RE at Dumfries Academy and meditates morning and night. He left school with no qualifications at 16, but took up TM when he returned to education five years later and completed a university degree.
Meditation won't make your problems disappear, according to Iain, but it can help you relax and give you a sense of perspective. "I think it helps all areas of my life - my sense of wellbeing, health and self-esteem," he says. "Prior to meditating I used to have problems with my sinuses, but now I rarely go to the doctors at all."
All you need to meditate is a comfortable chair and, once you've been taught, you can even do it on the bus. The mental technique is effortless, and as the mind settles down, the body also achieves a unique state of rest, according to the organisation Transcendental Meditation. It claims that the changes that take place have been measured in physiological tests and are found to directly reverse the adverse effects of stress.
Hugh Rooney lectures in reflexology at Napier University in Edinburgh. He uses a meditation technique with roots in Celtic traditions. "It involves the use of chant and sitting in position in silence," he says.
How do you choose which meditation technique to adopt from the range on offer? "I think that's often a question of try and see," Hugh says.
Reflexology is a holistic therapy where you get to put your feet up. Pressure is applied to reflex points in the feet or hands, which are believed to mirror every organ and structure of the body. It can be used purely for relaxation or to treat a range of conditions, including stress.
"Applying this specific pressure induces a state of deep relaxation and stimulates the body's healing processes," says Renee Tanner, who chairs the International Federation of Reflexologists. "Instead of focusing just on the symptoms, reflexology works on the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of wellbeing."
But even alternative therapists use conventional therapies to chill out. "I'm human, so I'm not averse to sitting down with a glass of wine of an evening and chilling out that way," says Hugh
Give alternative options a go
- Holistic therapeutic massage: www.massagetraining.co.uk.
- Reflexology: www.intfedreflexologists.org.
- Transcendental Meditation: www.t-m.org.uk.
- Aromatherapy: www.aromatherapycouncil.co.uk.
- Yoga: www.bwy.org.uk and www.yogascotland.org.uk.