Right about now we all could use a shot of serenity. Make mine a double.
Oh, sure, the holidays are great. And we've survived them. That's a plus.
But what about us sufferers of PHSD — post-holiday stress disorder?
All that family togetherness. Old wounds reopened. The endless food prep, the fussy eaters, the cleanup, the laundry. The wrong sizes, the gift returns. The dog that ate the Nativity scene (true story). Red wine on the sofa. Can we all take a deep cleansing breath?
Well, that didn't work.
Some of us kick back and have a drink to chill out, but, come on, we can do better than that. Another option is the slew of self-help books and websites with enough advice to keep us busy stress-busting until this time next year.
Let's not forget the old serenity-inducing standbys that appear on most 10-steps-to-manage-your-stress lists: exercise, meditation, hobbies, laughter.
Or we can turn to cashmere.
Since this is a shopping column, and I'm no Dr. Oz (or Phil), I went looking for things to buy to soothe our PHSD symptoms.
I was on the hunt for items that can appeal to each of our senses: touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing. Then I decided to skip the hearing part. You already know what music makes you feel good, so play it. But steer clear of that freaky flute music that they play in spa massage rooms. Or consider noise-canceling headphones to block out the madness.
Touch: Cashmere, especially the high quality kind that rubs you the right way, is my No. 1 pick for stress relief. And everybody knows a bright color can perk you right up. That's why I suggest this Kelly green cashmere wrap from J.Crew. It feels luxuriously soft, and its generous 22-inch width makes it more like a stole or a miniblanket than a mere scarf. It's like giving yourself a hug. And who deserves one more than frazzled you? What else I liked about it: It was on sale, one-third off! For a lot of us, the best stress relief around is a post-Christmas bargain.
As for the cashmere socks, a good choice, because they're just so indulgent. In fact they're so indulgent that you have to wash them by hand. Oh well. The red is a wow and a chance for a guy to make a big fashion statement for a relatively small investment.
And what says relaxation more than a pair of fuzzy bedroom slippers? Fuzzy PINK bedroom slippers with satin heart ties, that's what.
Sight: What we see when we first open our eyes or have that first cup of coffee has a profound effect on our mood. Color is key. I went to housebeautiful.com to find out what the experts consider the most calming paint shades ("Color yourself tranquil with these soothing hues.")
"Overcast" might not be the most upbeat name for a paint color (Benjamin Moore OC-43), but designer Barbara Barry tells House Beautiful it's the shade of the "pale early morning sky." "Iceberg" (Benjamin Moore 2122-50) sounds a little intimidating, but it's really just a tranquil light blue. Finally, there's "Durango Dust" (Benjamin Moore 2165-60), which I'd call beige. But designer Lori Feldman describes it on the site thusly: "as the sun goes down it gets this warm rose blush." You'll be napping in no time.
Taste: When all else fails, there's chocolate. And when it comes in the tender embrace of a cuddly teddy bear, I just want to curl up in a chair and fall into a chocolate coma.
Smell: Lavender "calms and frees the spirit," says the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. The scent reminds me of my grandma's hanky, which is about as soothing as it gets.
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