First, you begin to feel a slight pounding in you head. Next, a dull ache spreads through your back and shoulder blades. Your eyes hurt, you’re tired, and what started out as a slight pounding has become a loud, constant, almost dehabilitating drumming throughout your brain.
People everyday, walk into their jobs experiencing these pressures. In fact, 62% of Americans find that they close out each day with work-related neck pain and/or “tired” eyes. Stress. Alas, it’s that one uniting factor that pops up in almost every conversation, with study after study citing the workplace as the primary culprit. From anthropologists in Antarctica, to the guy standing behind you in the line at Starbucks, over 80 percent of employees claim they feel stress on the job. 42 percent of professional employees worldwide admit their jobs super-stress them. So, how do you cope? In a world filled with chaos, how does one find his inner paradise?
* The Do-it-Yourself Technique. Uncorking the stress yourself may involve meditating discreetly in the boardroom, or the simple use of pressure points to tone down the intense pounding in one’s head to a more manageable drumming. Techniques like progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) also relieve tension. Through a series of tense-then-relax sessions with all the muscle groups in the body, PMR eases the overall tightness. It takes all of five minutes, and claims that the reduced tension in the body leads to increased physical and emotional health. Does PMR work for everyone? I’m not sure. My own “at office” brand of stress relief sadly involves many Tylenols with a coffee chaser, all the while pushing strongly against my temples in a bizarre attempt to “squeeze” the stress away. However, one thing I can attest to is that when you’re ready to take your stress relief to the next level, nothing beats an hour or two at the spa.
* Sinfully Seductive Spa-ing. For many people, the word spa conjures up images of individuals idly dwelling in luxury’s lap and for whom the word “work” is completely unknown. But this simply is not true. Yes, a spa does commit itself to making you feel as though you are being pampered and cares drop away like summer rain, yet the traditional spa customer is someone who spends the majority of their time knee deep in Excel and PowerPoint.
Dr. Elizabeth Mathews, swimming in the pressures of hospital residency, says stress is a regular part of her life as a doctor. Irregular shift patterns, countless hours she spent on her feet, plus the concentration and responsibility for human life takes an amazing toll. It’s no surprise that Dr. Mathews is a frequent victim of neck pain, back pain, as well as severe tension headaches. When asked how she combats these symptoms, Mathews replied that the most she can count on is a hot soak in the tub!
But her true re-creation tool remains the spa. She has patronized a few spas over the years, her favorite being the Spa at the Doral Forrestal, in Princeton. The Forrestal Spa serves a nice mix of high- powered clients, and those just out for a day of fun and relaxation. Interestingly, 80 percent are women. Thanks to their proximity to the Marriott Conference Center, a lot of their clients come in for a massage between meetings and business dinners. Dr. Mathews says “I always leave feeling less stressed and feeling I should do treatments more often.”
I have to agree with the Doctor’s assessment. Admittedly, my own life and mental well-being certainly doesn’t affect others the way Dr. Mathews does. I have never held a beating heart in my hands. But in today's frenzied world, even us common folk get overwhelmed and overworked. Thus, in the name of research, and ever seeking to to ease my own tensions, I decided to test out the Doral Forrestal myself, and scheduled a heated stone massage.
* Economy Shmeconomy. I have to say, that when I walked out of that room, I might as well have been drugged. I have never felt so relaxed in my entire life…as proved by the fact that it took all of ten minutes for me to feel so at peace that I fell asleep on the massage table! Regardless of treatment, every client gets full spa service, which includes slippers, robe (which by the way I had to restrain myself from taking home!), lunch, and access to the pool and gym.
My massage lasted 75 minutes, and cost me $165. While my soul kept assuring me it was an experience well worth every penny, I had to wonder, given today’s economic climate, whether this was realistic for the rest of the world - or at least the rest of New Jersey. According to April Chapman, the Forrestal’s Spa Manager, there really has not been much of a difference between this year, and last. The spa’s annual gross revenue fluctuates between $800,000 and $1,000,000, and that does not look to change for 2008. Their day specials keep them booked solid, and this year’s very slight downturn has certainly not been as bad as they expected. Chapman did note that now the trend seems to be group bookings. She feels that people are realizing that spas are not just a luxury, but that as times grow hard, this is the best time for a little relaxation therapy.
At the end of the day, we are all going to take at least some stress home with us. Unless we find a way to magically eliminate paper jams, deadlines, traffic, and well, chaos, stress will always continue to mushroom. For those looking into long-term stress relief, meditation and yoga are excellent options. Personally, I can never manage to clear my mind enough to benefit from either of those things; and taking up a hobby such as gardening just seems to conflict with my dirt phobia. Nope, I’ll take an hour at the spa any day. So the next time the world gets crazy and it sounds like someone is performing a percussion solo in your brain, head for that massage table. Chances are, I’ll be in the next room - tuning out the world and tuning in to myself.
The Spa at Forrestal is located at 100 College Road East, inside the Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at Forrestal. Appointments are required, and reservations must be made with either a credit card or gift card number by calling the spa at (609) 897-7520 or (877) 289-1152. Biz4
Leanne Philip is a freelance writer living in Princeton. She has contributed to Biz4NJ, including her feature, “Matri-money” which may be found under the “Where Business Meets Culture” section.