A Hot Bath Can’t Solve Everything, but It Can Lower Stress—Here’s How to Make Your Soak Even More Relaxing

Photo: Stocksy / Anwyn Howarth
Even in the best of times, a relaxing bath is a legit way to decompress. Few things melt away the ordinary stressors of daily life like a warm-to-scalding, sudsy soak. Now, when stressors have become anything but ordinary, it might make sense to likewise level up the bath in order to meet the day's unprecedented toll on the psyche.

"During stressful times it is even more important to make sure that while we are taking care of others, we are also finding some time to take care of ourselves," says Elena Severin, director of brands at The Detox Market. "Settling into a calming bath is the ultimate pause button since you are forced to sit in one place and come to peace with your surroundings in that moment."

The benefits of a soak can exceed the psychological, too. "In Ayurveda, bathing is seen as more than just relaxing, it’s a powerfully healing and detoxifying self-treatment," says Ayurvedic expert and Surya Spa founder Martha Soffer. 

Her version of the ultimate bath follows a specific recipe. "To create your own healing bath at home, add one pound of baking soda, one pound of sea salt, and one pound of epsom salts to your bath as it is filling up," she says. "Then, add to your bath relaxing herbs and flowers such as lemon balm, lavender, roses, verbena, and ashwagandha to soothe your nervous system and reduce inflammation." 

A hot relaxing bath, Soffer explains, creates "swedhana," or sweat therapy. "This is powerfully detoxifying because it allows the tissues to release build up toxins that are then excreted through the skin," she says. "The minerals from the epsom salts aid in this detoxification process, the baking soda helps to alkalize your body, and the salt cleanses your aura.” (As an alternative, Surya sells bath soaks to address different conditions, e.g. muscle relief, hormone balance, etc.)

Soffer's not the only fan of sodium soaks either. “Bath salts are high in minerals that can relax the muscles, reduce inflammation and detox the skin, leaving it silky smooth," says Shari Auth, DACM, founder of WTHN. "After adding bath salt, I add about 10 drops of essential oil. I use bergamot essential oil ($10) for a relaxing bath (that leaves my bathroom smelling amazing), or rosemary essential oil for an invigorating bath that reduces pain, clears the sinuses, and leaves me feeling energized.”

Severin finds that leaning into aromatherapy while bathing helps prevent her from trying to multitask in the tub. "Incorporating aromatherapy into bath time helps keep me centered as I draw my bath," she says. "Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil ($73) starts my mind’s unwind process before I step into the tub; just rub a capful between your hands and onto the torso and breathe."

She's also a fan of utilizing CBD to further your zen, and to this end recommends natureofthings' Fortifying Magnesium Soak ($36). "It combines CBD with magnesium to help sore muscles and encourage a good night’s sleep," she says. Alternatively, you can opt for ingesting CBD in preparation for your bath; however, timing is critical. "Our Mello Sea Salted CBD caramels are made with water-soluble CBD, so it will hit your bloodstream faster than normal edibles—typically within 30 minutes," says Mello Daily founder Boronia Fallshaw. "If you eat one about 15 minutes before drawing your bath, you should feel the heavy chill kick in once you are fully immersed in the tub.”

While the whole point of a bath is to leave to-do lists behind, you can use the time to proactively shift your mindset into a positive space if it feels right. "It is a great time whilst bathing to meditate and set some intentions," says Amanda Raich, Spa Director at La Prairie Spa at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. "Candles are a must; if you are having trouble silencing your inner thoughts, try to stare at the candle and focus on the flickering light. Sometimes I will choose a mantra. I place my hand on my heart and just repeat, for example, 'Life is for me, life is not against me, all my needs are met.’"

Raich also recommends a "large" glass of wine, while LATHER Founder Emilie Hoyt recommends opting for a more neutral beverage. "I’m a big tea drinker, and I used to drink my tea in the bath," she says. "Recently, however, I’ve started drinking my cup of tea about half hour before—I love either chamomile or lemon balm." (So, I suppose you could do both the tea and the wine... this bath is meant to be extra, after all.)

Finally, while you can't access a float tank right now (unless, I suppose, you happen to own one), you can approximate the experience by adding sensory deprivation methods to your tub time. "I throw on Spacemasks Self Heating Eye Mask ($24) to block out the light and replace the to-do lists racing through my mind with daydreams," says Severin. "When your mind is at peace a proper bath feels like you’re in a calm ocean."

Set the mood with one of these 9 calming candles. Plus, here's how to turn your entire bathroom into a spa in five simple steps

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