Open Thread: Ways to Relax?

how to relaxToday’s reader mail is asking for an open thread discussing relaxation techniques…

It would be fun to see an open thread discussing what readers do to relax/pamper themselves. I just bought the Discovery Channel “Planet Earth” series, for example, because it was on sale and helps me calm down before going to sleep.

Excellent topic! (And perhaps useful as it is also just in time for Mother’s Day, for those of you who have difficult-to-buy-for mothers.) (Pictured: Day 94, HNT Massage, originally uploaded to Flickr by lintmachine.)

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For my own $.02:

  • I find that exercise is absolutely essential to helping me unwind, even though I work out in the mornings. It just seems like if I go several days without exercising, I can’t unwind at all.
  • I love sitting with the hubs and talking about our days while listening to chill music and enjoying some wine. (I have a “Smart Playlist” in my iTunes library, and tag dinner-party-appropriate songs with the “genre” dinner.”)
  • Also, shopping — physically, in stores — relaxes me. I think it has to do with it being a tactile experience, and not a terribly intellectual one: I like to walk around and touch the clothes, play with color combinations in my mind, and so forth.  Buying isn’t necessary!
  • I love a good massage, also, if we’re talking serious pampering, or — if budget or circumstances allow, a trip to a spa with a girlfriend for a series of spa treatments. (I’ve only done that twice, though — once to help a friend celebrate her 30th birthday in Sedona, and once for a semi-bachelorette party at Canyon Ranch in Las Vegas.)

Reading before bed can be helpful, but I find it depends heavily on what I read — anything that has to do with an agenda on my “to do” list makes me anxious, and anything that’s too “brain candy” like makes me want to stay awake and read it.  I’d love to learn more about meditation (sometimes I say the rosary, which is supposedly the Catholic form of meditation).  At various points in my life I’ve also tried to get into habits like drinking Celestial Seasoning’s “Sleepytime Tea” before bedtime, or putting L’Occitane’s lavendar hand lotion on my hands before bedtime, just to give myself a Pavlovian cue that “it’s time to relax and go to sleep.”  Finally — I don’t have a television in my bedroom, but if I’m stressed enough I will rewatch my favorite movie on my laptop or whatever.

Readers, what do you do to relax?  How often do you have problems relaxing?

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  1. I find myself most relaxed by nature, so I try to get outside every day for a walk. Even if that means reclassifying the garden strip of Park Ave. as “nature.” I also need alone time to relax, so I have a super secret Sunday morning coffee shop routine- no one knows where it is, where I am, or what I am doing.

    • Oh…I love super secret routines! And I am a huge fan of alone time. I might need to set up something similar for myself.

    • haha I know my roommate has a secret weekend morning routine, but I never ask what it is, I know its “me (her)” time

    • I love your secret coffee idea… I might do the same

    • That really is a brilliant idea. My husband and I are best friends, so we end up spending all our time together–but sometimes, I think it might be beneficial to have some (just) me time.

  2. I try to get outside, even if it’s just on my terrace or slowing down on the walk to work, to feel the breeze, smell the air and feel the sun. It can have an instant calming effect on me.

    Working out is also essential for me to stay feeling good, as is eating healthy. To really pamper myself though i go get a massage and watch some dumb TV or a non-intellectual book.

  3. Great post! We were just discussing this very topic at work, since in my business we are heading into peak season. Shopping and a massage are always greats ways to relax but also can get pricey quickly. When I don’t have a ton of extra cash to spend a good pedi with a latte is a nice way to take a break too. Yoga also helps. I find on a daily basis, building a nightly routine is ideal for unwinding. For me, it’s taking the 10 minutes to wash my face and put on some lotion – I do this right before I’m ready to settle into bed. Then I sadly fall asleep to reruns of Family Guy.

    • Oh man, I always fall asleep to reruns of Family Guy! is my nightly ritual.

  4. I definitely agree with working out. Though I wouldn’t say it’s “relaxing” as much as it just releases tension (if that makes sense). Funny how studying for finals (last set of finals EVER) makes me want to go to the gym every. day.
    I’m also a bit of a movie/TV junkie and I also crochet. So plop me down on the sofa for a good movie/show with my latest crocheting project (currently an afghan for a friend who’s getting married in the fall), and I’m a very happy camper.
    Also I love cooking. Except for those rare nights when I crave pizza and wings, I feel much better and more relaxed if I can cook myself an actual meal.

  5. A short run and a long romp in the sack. Or vice versa.

    • A long romp in the sack is a great stress reliever, definitely. :)

      • Trouble is, I don’t feel “romantic” when I’m stressed. Complete opposite for my husband, and drives him cRaZy!!

        • divaliscious11 :

          Me either! I am like I want to fall into a coma, because otherwise I will ba making mental to-do lists, which is a buzz kill!

  6. In my current job, which I’ve had for two years, I frequently wake up in the middle of the night stressing out frantically about work. Usually about something very specific. It could be something that was on my mind the day before, or something that just works its way into my head in my sleep. Often I can’t get back to sleep when this happens — it just spins through my half-asleep mind. Does anyone else experience this and/or have any solutions?

    Agreed about not being able to relax without hitting the gym regularly, but I usually do that. I also unwind almost every night by talking to my husband about the day over a glass of wine. (Though I guess, to be honest, most of that talking is ME recounting stressful events at work! Hmm.)

    • I used to do this ALL the time. And then I forced myself to stop thinking about it at a set time each night. I usually watch tv or look at blogs with cute puppies and pretty interiors, etc. after that point, as it just lets my mind empty. For me, it’s got to be a couple hours before bed, so clearly it doesn’t work on the days when you keep working into the wee hours. I’ve also heard talking it out/writing it down. But that makes me dwell. HTH!

    • This used to happen often to me too. I read somewhere that if it’s a specific issue that wakes you up, you should just get up and address it. This usually just means logging onto remote access to review a document, but once I actually drove a half hour into the office at 4 am. It isn’t ideal, but it certainly beats staying up all night worrying and then having to deal with it six hours later when you’re even more tired.

    • A: Mr Sierra gets this frequently. Falls asleep ok, but then what we call Busy Brain wakes him up, usually a math problem from work. Only thing that works is to get up and work on it. Sometimes only back to sleep at 3 a.m. No remedies, sorry.

    • One of my friends keeps a digital voice recorder by her bed and when she wakes up with her mind racing, she’ll turn it on and talk about exactly what she wants to do about the issue in the morning, until she dumps it all out of her brain. Then she turns off the recorder and goes to sleep. Her husband is a heavy sleeper so this doesn’t wake him up. If your husband is not a light sleeper and this won’t drive him crazy, you could try it.

      I have trouble sleeping sometimes when I worry about unsolveable things (what if someone in my family gets cancer, what if the stock market crashes again, what if what if what if). I have learned to do meditative breathing while trying to clear my mind, and reciting something over and over to myself (usually “don’t worry, it will be fine). It usually works.

      Barring all of this, I highly recommend two caplets of Benadryl. :)

    • I sometimes think of urgent things I’m worried I’ll forget immediately before falling asleep. I usually write them down on a pad of paper. I find that if I just try to go to sleep, I will get too worried about forgetting them and can’t sleep. Then, when I wake up in the morning, I can deal with them (or add them to my list for the day).

    • I did this, too (i.e., would wake up in the middle of the night stressing about work–usually things I did not need to stress about), and resolved it by taking a very low dose of anti-anxiety medication under the supervision of a psychiatrist that I really trust. I don’t know if this would be the right choice for you, but could be something to consider.

  7. This is so funny.. I was just telling a friend about my newly found relaxation before bed routine. I also have a really hard time shutting off my brain before I can sleep. Nature videos, for whatever reason, work wonders. I started with David Attenborough’s “Life of Birds.” Among the peaceful flapping, bird splashing, cute baby chicks, and soothing British voice, I can empty out all of my thoughts and actually get some rest. I thought I was the only one! :)

    As far as my non-sleep relaxation, I find cooking and baking to be incredibly relaxing. And then I have something delicious to eat, too. Bonus.

    • Nature videos, old disney movies & Carl Sagan narrating Cosmos have been my go to for years!

  8. Knitting is my prozac on sticks especially with a good movie or book on tape.

  9. My latest de-stressors during the day are doing the 3 Neck Stretch (3 times back and forth, 3 times front to back, 3 times a day). I really feel tension release with that, and it helps keep my neck/shoulders relaxed.

    At night, I like to watch an episode or two of The Golden Girls on TV (or Cheers, if I am up later), while relaxing. These shows kind of feel like ‘home’ to me in a way, as it reminds me of watching them with my family growing up. Sometimes I play a simple game on my iPod Touch as well, when I’m watching, like Super Collapse, Solitare or Sudoku. The repetitive actions in these games really helps me calm down and focus.

    I also crochet, and that is nice to do in the evenings while watching some mindless TV if I’ve had a stressful day, or crocheting to mellow music.

    I do splurge on massages every once and a while, typically at a beauty school (1 hour for $25 is a bargain!), and since I was getting frequent headaches, I’ve been seeing a chiropractor as well. Anything to release tension in my neck/shoulders helps me stay relaxed all day.

    • Haha I do the same for the same reason w/ the Golden Girls & The Cosby Show! I feel carefree like when I was 8.

    • The massage therapist at my chiropractor told me about a great tip a couple of weeks ago that is working wonders for me!! Put two tennis balls in a sock and lay on top of it on the floor with the balls under your head. There’s a spot just at the top of neck/bottom of head that gets really tight and the pressure from the tennis balls releases it. You can use it on your bed if you want a little less pressure. Don’t stay there too long though!

  10. I love long walks in the park on a beautiful day. I also love facials. Reading every day before bedtime is an absolute must for me, even if it’s just O Magazine. :)

    Working out is important for me, but I would never say that it was relaxing!

  11. Gosh, another well timed post. I was just talking to the hubs about managing anxiety. We decided that managing anxiety and stress might be two different things. Stress seems more logical, and therefore more easy to release in a targeted, rational way (i.e. with a massage or workout). Anxiety — at least for me — seems to be harder to pin down and therefore harder to deal with. I’m reading a book on meditation and trying to get to more yoga classes. Xanax definitely works, but I would like to find a way to handle this without chemical intervention! Would love to hear other people’s suggestions!

    • NYC – I’ve wrestled all my life with free-floating (i.e., no apparent cause) anxiety and, before I started taking SSRIs, flat-out, full-bore anxiety attacks.

      I do what I can to manage stressful aspects of my life, but I’ve come to believe that part of it is organic, physiological, unlucky brain chemistry, and can only be managed with meds. That’s what seems to be true for me, anyhow. I never go anywhere without Ativan, which for me is the best anxiety-buster, Xanax never worked for me. I dislike being reliant on drugs, but I make the analogy that if I were diabetic, I’d take my insulin and be glad I had something that helped.

  12. Because I am a human ball of stress and tension, I spend a lot of time de-stressing. Enough exercise is important. Stretching before bed. Breathing exercises, especially if my mind is racing before bed. Try if you’ve never done breathing exercises before. Generally, I find baking very relaxing, as well as walks outside, but I think it’s very individualized and different for everyone. Except for the wine, that one is universal.

  13. This might sound silly, but I get a lot out of having a few plants and taking 30 minutes to water them/pick off dead leaves/retrain climbing branches. I grew up in the middle of nowhere with a huge garden you can do this even in a tiny apartment (or an office desk – C posted a Lifehacker article about office friendly plants not long back). I think it’s the feeling of nurturing and caring for something. I’ve actually gone to Home Depot before just to go walk around the garden section…it’s kind of like being in a park.

    I worked for a solo practitioner attorney when I was in college. Once or twice he noticed I was having a particularly horrible day and sent me down the street to the garden store with some cash and instructions to bring back office plants. I’d calm down and I still think of him as the best boss ever.

    • Agree about gardening. It’s like needlework – a moving meditation. I can’t concentrate on regular meditation, but hand-hobbies I can do, slowly, meditatively.

    • I 100% agree with this. I’ve planted some veggies and herbs this year, and every day I make a tour around to inspect all the changes–new pea pod poking out, another leaf on the squash plant, etc.–maybe it helps us reconnect with nature or something, but I can stare and be fascinated by my little garden for much longer than would seem reasonable, considering it’s mostly inanimate. My fiance is the same way; many mornings we actually go outside together and inspect the plants! (hope I’m not making us sound totally weird ;)

      • I wish I could do this but I am so busy that my plants always die. Last year I planted a container garden and didn’t harvest anything. :( FI won’t let me plant anything this year as a result.

      • cj: not weird at all. Or, if you are, we are too. Hubs and I take a tour around the garden every evening, point things out. Ooh, look, rosebuds! Hm, that whatsit isn’t looking too happy. Good way to wind down.

      • I recently moved and my happiest moment all week was seeing that my potted bougainvilleas (they had a really tough trip and lost a LOT of leaves) were starting to have new buds. So I can relate. :)

      • That actually sounds kind of cute…like something you’ll be doing 50 years from now when you and your fiance are a cute old married couple. I like it.

    • I just planted my first plants in my new house (moved last summer) – I did it was a great deal of trepidation since my track record has not been great with plant life, but I’m really enjoying watering them after work, and sitting on the deck and enjoying the butterflies that flock around the butterfly bushes.

    • Anonymous :

      I can’t really call what I do “gardening” but I also find it very calming to groom the plants in my office…

  14. This post could not have come at a better time! I am having so much anxiety about work! It’s gotten really busy again (which makes me happy because it means I have a bit of job security) but I’m feeling totally overworked and overwhelmed. I just booked 4 days at Canyon Ranch and am so excited but I’m still anxious about being away while I’m there (and also feeling slightly guilty about the amount of money I’m spending to go there!).

    I tend to do yoga once a week, exercise (run/spin/cardio kickbox) 4 times a week. I also find that breathing and journals help me with anxiety.

    I live in NYC and find that most of us lawyers grapple with anxiety :-)

    I really appreciate everyone’s tips!!

    • Amy – please can you write us something about your Canyon Ranch experience afterwards? I love the sound of those places, it sounds as though you can ditch everyday responsibilities and take a step outside your own reality. But they’re very expensive. I’d be interested to know if you find it was worth the $. Which one are you going to?

    • the other A :

      In March I stayed at the Canyon Ranch in Tuscon for five days, and it was just what I needed. They have many different things you can do there, like fitness classes, hikes, cooking classes, lectures on various things, traditional and alternative medical services, and counselling. They have healthy food there and also of course have all the spa services. For me it was worth the money, because I needed it so badly. I had been working for two and a half years as a trial lawyer during which I took almost no vacations and had gained 30 pounds, and was about to start a new, different, and more challenging assignment. At the ranch I spent all day going to fitness classes, and saw an exercise physiologist who determined my fitness level and target heart rate for interval training. I saw a therapist for stress management who gave me some good advice, attended lectures on healthy living, and got a couple of spa services. The setting was beautiful, and it helped that there was no alcohol served (there is at the Vegas location) and that you can only use your cell phone in only very limited areas. Since I returned I have made exercise and healthy living a priority and have continued to lose weight. My stay at the Ranch helped me reset my priorities. I think I might take a spa vacation like this once per year.

      If you can’t truly leave your work behind for the time you are there, then I don’t think it would be worth the money to go. If you have the money and want to make a lifestyle change of some kind, then I think it can worth it.

  15. – Exercise. For me, it works so much better for overall, everyday stress management than alcohol, food, shopping, or any other consumptive activity. If I don’t work out for a few days, I definitely feel it in my stress level.
    – Watching movies with my husband, with a drink. My husband and I have always been able to spend time together without talking much and that definitely helps me de-stress.
    – Sit in the grass in the park while my son plays. That is a great 20-minute de-stresser.
    – Read a book in a quiet house. Unfortunately, the house is not quiet much.
    – Serious stress usually warrants a spa visit. I love to steam and then get a massage or a facial (or both!).

    • One other thing I thought of after reading other posts – YouTube in general is a great tool for midday de-stressing. There are certain clips that always make me laugh – skits from SNL or Chappelle’s Show, or South Park – and in the middle of a bad day, if I take a 10-minute break and watch some funny things on YouTube, the intensity level seems to get dialed back. Watching videos of my son when he was a baby on my home computer works too.

  16. First, I love Corporette for loving Joe vs. the Volcano.

    As for relaxation, I took a meditation class in college and was surprised at how many different methods of meditation there are – the key was finding which one(s) worked for you. To calm anxiety, I breathe in through my nose as much air as I can take, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe out through my mouth until it feels like my lungs will collapse (and then a little more, because there is always more air in there). To fall asleep, I use a system where I focus on how my body is feeling; I start either at the top of my head or at my big toe and pay attention to how it feels and then move on to the next body part (i.e. the crown of my head, or my second toe). The key is to pay attention to only a very small area at one time. Focusing on each individually helps to relax that body part and keeps my mind off stressful topics.

  17. Dogs really area proven de-stressor. Walking my dogs or even just petting them always makes me feel better. When I wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious, I think about dogs and it helps me get back to sleep. Might sound crazy — but it works and has been proven in studies!

    • On a related note: how do you manage to work a busy schedule and have a dog? I really want to get a dog, kids are begging … but I’m worried that us being out of the house 8-10 hrs per day is not going to work so well for the dog. Nanny is in the house and can let the dog out to pee … but she is not a huge animal person, so she won’t be hanging with the dog. And the pick-up/drop-off of doggie day care will not work in our already-hectic routines.

      • Good thinking – dogs are very sociable, and would be lonesome, unless you could manage two smallish ones together. Maybe a couple of cats? Again, they keep each other company. With modern flushable litter (World’s Best Cat Litter, actual name, it’s excellent) cleaning the litter box is easy. Shelters are full of nice animals needing good, life-long homes.

        • Cats are a lot more independent that dogs from what I understand (I’m a dog person myself) — with the litterbox feature you don’t have to worry about getting home to walk them!

          • My cats rip up paper when they are bored and home alone. Toilet paper, paper towels, cardboard boxes, paperwork left out…nothing is safe from a bored, chewy cat.

        • We currently have 2 cats — started with 4, now down to 2 (fostered a pregnant stray from a shelter 11+ years ago, kept her & kittens). They’re fine all day, generally are very chill cats who don’t interact much until evening (so very noctural). Even if I’m working from home, I rarely see them during the day.

          Downside: these cats are older and chill, so they’re not into playing with the kids. Plus, the two remaining ones are “my” cats. When we had 4 cats, they all self-assigned a person. The two cats who loved the kids passed away, including one just a month ago. :-( “My” cats basically interact with only me; they are indifferent to husband and kids. A dog generally would be more interactive — walks, playing in yard, etc. Also, these particular cats would tolerate the addition of a dog better than another cat. We’ve had friends with dogs visit and they’re curious, but they get super-territorial if another cat comes anywhere near the house.

          BTW, flushable litter only really works if you’re on sewer. We’re on septic/well, and it’s risky.

      • It probably depends on the breed, but I can tell you my dog (lab mix) is perfectly content just sleeping away most of the day, and that includes when we’re home. I think animals perceive time much differently from us, and just the fact that you have to be gone during the day is not necessarily the same as leaving a human for such long stretches.

        The key to pet ownership, in my opinion, is that you have to be able to carve out some quality time with your pet during the hours you ARE around. Meaning, morning walk, walk/training when you get home, weekend hikes or dog park, etc.

        • Do you exercise in the morning? I have a big dog (they tend to be more lazy during the day) and if he gets a long walk in the morning he’d lie around the rest of the day perfectly content. Maybe look into adopting an adult dog…you won’t need to worry about potty training and will be able to have a better idea about the dog’s personalty.

        • I have a dachshund hybrid (The vet thinks she may have some Chihuahua in her) and grew up with dachshunds — they are a great breed because they are small enough to get most of their exercise from running around in the house (good for bad weather days), sleep in (you’ll be ready to get up on a Saturday before they are), and are great watch dogs (you’ll know if someone tries to break in!)

        • Definitely depends on the breed, but my dog is super, super lazy, and so long as I give him a decent walk/run in the morning, he will sleep all day. After our walk, his routine is basically: Take 4 hour nap; get up and look out window and bark at a squirrel or rabbit; take another 4 hour nap, because all that looking out the window and barking was really exhausting.

          It also helps that my husband and I have staggered schedules, i.e., he leaves much earlier than I do and gets home much earlier than I do.

          I agree with whoever said that a puppy would be more difficult. Puppies need to go out every few hours, so you would have to have your nanny take the dog out or get a dog walker. And even after they are able to hold it for a while, they still have a lot more energy than a 4-5 year old dog.

        • I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion to adopt an adult dog. My husband and I (lawyers) adopted a mutt in NYC who was about a year and a half old. She continues to amaze us, and we’ve had her 5 years! Of course there was the initial training period, but there’s no comparison to adopting a dog who already knows to go to the bathroom outside, is used to crates, etc. She’s a pit mix (so fairly high energy) but so well behaved (originally in a tiny NY apartment and now in townhouse in different city).
          She stays alone for 8-10 hours a day (except my husband comes home to let her out at lunch time) without a problem. We make sure to take her for long walks in morning and night (25-30 minutes each time) and she’s fine. I’d say her energy noticeably dropped when she hit 2 1/2 – 3 years.
          About a year ago we adopted a puppy to keep her company — biggest mistake ever! Of course we’ll never get rid of the pup, but it was a nightmare trying to house train her, crate train her, etc, with busy schedules.
          I also second the comment about dogs being relaxing. Even when I am super stressed, walking the dogs and just petting them for a bit really helps me calm down and pay attention to another living being.

      • Watch out for terrier breeds, they can be very busy dogs. As in, if they’re bored around the house, they’ll find things to do that you won’t like. I’ve seen border collies herd children in a playground, no lie. Shelter/rescue people will usually give you good info on suitable animals, and they tend to tell the truth, since they don’t want the poor animal back again in a couple of months if they were a poor match for you. Also, talk to a vet, they often have leads on animals needing homes.

        • I have a Boston Terrier who is the absolute laziest dog I have ever seen. She sleeps until 10 or 11 if allowed, goes out to do her business and *maybe* takes a walk (if the temperature suits her), goes back inside and sleeps on couch/chair/bed/etc for a number of hours, goes out again usually around 9 or 10 and then falls asleep before we do. She will get energy to play if you bring out her favorite toy and she does love a rawhide to chew, but she is quite happy to snuggle on your lap for hours at a time. She also almost never barks. Basically, she is a low maintenance miracle and she has saved my sanity throughout law school. I know other people with Bostons and they concur. Just had to put a plug in for my particular terrier!

        • My parents’ border collie will try to herd their CATS. No joke.

      • If you really want a dog, research breeds well to find a breed that is ok being home alone and is low energy. But be prepared that you will end up doing most of the work for the dog. A pair of dogs might be better, as they’ll at least play with each other and make less demand for attention for you. If your family likes cats, two kittens might be a better bet. Cats are fine home alone all day, and can happily be indoor-only pets.

        • Quite right about researching breeds. For a while I lusted terribly after a Dalmatian, because they’re so pretty, but I kept hearing about how hyper they are, which is not for me.

      • I adopted my dog when he was 11 years old. He is healthy and active and loves to play, but can sleep all day if nothing else is going on. Right now he is alone about 4 hours a day. Give him a few treats to find and a soft bed, and he is fine.

        A puppy is way too hard when you are gone 10 hours a day and it wouldn’t be fair to your nanny to make her train a puppy if she isn’t an animal person. Older dogs, even 2 or 3 years old, are much easier if you adopt the right one. The humane society people will be able to help you with personalities and problems of each dog.

        • mille: good for you about the older dog. Everyone’s all puppy-puppy-puppy and kitten-kitten-kitten, but there are lots of nice quiet mature creatures needing homes.

      • Thanks everyone. As noted above — we already have cats. And we are only thinking adult dog; a puppy would be too much. Plus, many shelters won’t adopt puppies to families with young children. Since our youngest is 4, it’s off the table. And shelter is the way we’re most likely to go. We fostered cats for a while, so I believe strongly in looking to shelters/rescues first.

        I am thinking bigger dog — both for energy levels and general personal preference. We also have a lot of space (2 acre yard, partially fenced), so room to run isn’t an issue for us. The time issue is the biggest, followed by ability to get along with kids and cats. I’ve been doing breed research and am heavily inclined towards a yellow or black lab or lab mix. Would love a Newfoundland (maybe Newfie mix) but the hair is a major concern, as is the heat of DC. Met a lovely 5 yo Tibetan Mastiff at a shelter 2 weeks ago but he’s already gone through 3 homes so that concerns me. :-( Plus, the hair. Wow, the hair. Husband had a boxer then Great Dane growing up, so that’s where his heart lies.

        • Weimaraner? Some of the males are a fair size. The ones I’ve met have been such charming goofs. Breed rescue societies do such good work.

        • Make sure you introduce the dog to the cats before you adopt him or her. Some dogs (and this doesn’t seem to be based on breed in my lifelong experience living with both cats and dogs) will chase cats and nothing you can do can make them stop. You need to introduce them before committing to adopt the dog.

        • don’t get a lab! every lab I’ve met is N-U-T-S. they are so full of energy that it’s practically obnoxious. Definitely research more sedate large breeds.

    • s in Chicago :

      I totally agree! Nothing beats a good snuggle on the couch with my dog.

      Honestly, just looking at those sweet eyes somehow makes everything seem right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a call at night or a day off dealing with some mess or the other, and I’ll suddently catch myself looking down at him smiling. Instant calm.

    • I agree! I was going to post this as well :-)

      I adopted my dog last summer, and spending the time walking with her after work, playing, training her (she rolls over and plays dead when I say ‘audit’… yep, I’m a tax chick), and just sitting on the couch petting her while watching TV is really relaxing. I also joined a couple dog social groups (go to and have met other people as a result…

      When I get home from work she’s always happy to see me – and always ready to listen to me – an excellent roommate!

    • Yes, my dog (and my cat) relieve stress like nothing else! And it’s true–they reduce your blood pressure more than any other living creature–kids, spouse, etc.

      I’ve got a standard poodle (no fancy haircut–people think she’s a labradoodle). Poodle’s are super-smart, very owner-focused–so training her was a breeze. But, they have a lot of energy–not the destructive-when-I’m-home-alone-type energy, but the exercise me! exercise me! exercise me! energy, which is actually great for me, b/c she is the most consistent, dedicated, and motivating running buddy I’ve every had. She goes on my morning 3 mile runs and my long run on the weekend as long as it’s shorter than 8 miles. And each time she hears my watch beep (signaling the start of the run), she starts leaping and bounding in the air. It’s truly adorable. Just picturing it makes me less stressed. Can you tell I’m in love with her?

  18. I prefer The ‘Burbs.

    And, for relaxing, I highly recommend finding a Martial Arts type class – you would want to look around a bit and find the class that best fits your personality. In addition to learning a new way to stay fit, and probably some breathing/relaxation techniques, you make new friends – who have nothing to do with your work, or the other things in your life that stress you out (such as drama amongst your group of friends/family).

    I joined a Kung Fu club for meaningful exercise – but I get a lot more out of it than that.

  19. Weirdly enough, playing tetris really relaxes my brain.

    I’ve also been trying (limited success so far) to limit “screen time” in the hour or so before going to sleep – Lifehacker had a link recently about how the brightness of a laptop screen, especially close to your face as opposed to a TV on the wall, tricks your brain into thinking it’s not nighttime or time to settle down for the night. Not really relaxation, but could give you a better night’s sleep and ameliorate stress that way! :)

  20. What works for me is brick breaker on my blackberry and bubble baths…but not necessarily at the same time!