Relax and Renew

Old Man Winter has officially left the scene. But as we all know here in Southern Indiana, spring is shaky. It throws a thunder tantrum and then just as quickly settles into a quiet, sun-filled calm. That can leave many of us feeling both uneasy and hopeful, optimistic yet cagey. And that’s not a surprise.

Stress is a major part of our lives at any time of the year, but especially during unsteady times. So here are some ways to both welcome the new season and adjust to its mercurial nature. Relax and Renew, with our help, and the assistance of some local experts.

Get Organized

Amy Payne doesn’t just know chaos. She lassos it. That’s what professional organizers do, after all, day after day after day. But this woman who owns Lasting Order in Newburgh isn’t just a working gal. Neither is she perfect.

Payne has three kids. She moved 11 times in her first 12 years of marriage. She knows what it is to be overwhelmed. And that, it turns out, is how many of her clients feel when they ask her to help them organize their files, their homes, and their calendars.

“It’s just drowning them,” Payne says. “Most of them describe, when we are done with them, (that) they feel free. It really helps improve their mental outlook. They just feel so much better.”

Payne’s first act in organizing someone’s room or calendar is to ask what stresses them the most. She calls it eating the frog, a not-so-delectable term that means to complete the least desirable task first. That’s because, Payne says, “the rest of your day can only get better.”

Payne says no one is born knowing how to catalogue or how to organize. But these are skills that people can learn, and she’s able to teach them how.

“Life happens to everybody,” Payne says. “Life gets messy. So it’s all about maintenance, and putting up habits and routines to keep it the way that you want it to be.”

Color Your World

Colors can impact us psychologically, emotionally, and even physically. So if you are suffering from stress and its effects, you might consider changing the colors in your environment. Cinda Vote, an interior designer at Y Factor Studio, says a number of her clients seek calming colors in their homes. But it’s not just a matter of color. Shades and tints matter, too. “A soft butter yellow will lift your spirits, but if it’s too strong of a yellow, like a lemon yellow, it can cause anxiety,” Vote says. Blue can also be problematic. Brighter blues tend to stimulate the feel of a home, while softer blues have a more calming effect. Green, however, is most associated with nature. The Pantone® Color of the Year happens to be emerald green, which Vote says enhances the sense of well being, balance, and harmony.

While each client is different, Vote seeks to decorate their homes with colors that make them feel peaceful and comfortable. “It saves them a lot of money,” over the long run, she adds. “The right color palette will ease tensions and support harmony in their lives.” 

Indulge Yourself

Sometimes the best way to relax is just to pamper yourself. The Secret Garden, 101 State St., in Newburgh offers the best reasons to escape stress with a multitude of products. Owner Barbara Ulrich carries Baudelaire Inc. soaps, lotions, and gels, as well as Rance Soaps from France. Towel lines for sale include Sferra, Abyss, Matouk, and Peacock Alley. Wrap yourself in a big, fluffy robe and then lay down for a nap wearing soft, comfortable pajamas. The shop carries several brands of pajamas and women’s nightwear (like the comfy lounge wear worn by model Lori Lynn), as well as a high-end line of women’s slippers by Patricia Green. The shop located at the corner of Jennings and State streets also offers high-quality bed and bath linens by Sferra, Peacock Alley, and Matouk. For lounging on the sofa, try cashmere throws from Sferra, and handmade throws from Textillery Weavers in Bloomington, Ind. The Secret Garden carries a limited supply of men’s special shaving creams and lotions, as well as scented diffusers from K. Hall and Hillhouse Naturals.

Need the full spa experience? Then consider the famous mineral spas at French Lick and West Baden about 1 ½ hours northeast of Evansville. The two-level natatorium at West Baden offers a full service spa with 12 treatment rooms, a full-service salon, and a health club with an indoor lap pool. The spa at French Lick features 28 rooms and a diverse number of treatments. The Pluto Bath, in particular, is well known for its historical healing mineral spring waters, which help alleviate stress and pain while also nourishing skin. 

Eat Well

Drop the potato chips. If you want to feel calm, says Evansville chef Cheryl Mochau, try an apricot. Foods like apricots, kale, sunflower seeds, turkey, chicken, tuna, Swiss chard, salmon, and onions are high in tryptophan, a natural-sleep inducing chemical. Mochau also advises against eating lots of sugar and salt. While she and her husband munch on almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews every day, “it’s better if they are not salted. The salt tends to constrict the heart muscles, and it gets the heart pumping.”

Magnesium is also a key calming chemical because it relaxes muscles. Almonds, cashews, and peanuts are good sources of magnesium and protein, as well. Magnesium that is paired with calcium can also build bones – think milk, yogurt, low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese, and sliced cheese. Mochau also recommends adding apricots, berries, or peaches to plain yogurt or cottage cheese, and to avoid sugar substitutes. “Even some of the fake sugars, they get your central nervous system going,” she says. “They may not have the calming effect that you are looking for.” 

Awaken Spiritually

Even a few days away from the stress of the daily grind can make a difference. Just ask Mike Reffett and his wife, Michele, who’ve attended 12 to 15 retreats at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Seminary and its School of Theology. Founded in 1857 by Benedictine monks from the Swiss Abbey of Einsiedein, the seminary is about an hour northeast of Evansville. “It’s a quick way to slow down when the pace is fast,” Mike Reffett says. He and his wife are Catholic, and they’ve participated in spiritual discussions at Saint Meinrad’s with a number of others coast to coast. Yet not everyone who goes to this picturesque locale is searching for a religious experience. History buffs may appreciate the stories behind the construction of the buildings on the property. Reffett says there is also an ornate flower garden behind the church, which, at night, is illuminated by stained glass windows. “It’s easy to enjoy it because it’s not intense in any way,” he says. “The more you go there, it just kind of grows on you.” The property offers a furnished guesthouse with a private bath, chapel, conference rooms, reading rooms, a dining room, and a welcome center.

The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph in Daviess County, Ky., also offer retreats. A spinning gathering is scheduled for May 11. Participants will have a chance to make new friends and improve their spinning, weaving, knitting, and crocheting skills.

Couples may appreciate workshops offered by Community Marriage Builders. A free marriage enrichment weekend will take place April 12-13 in the Gasthof Amish Village in Montgomery, Ind.

Wellness Mission

Health is multi-pronged — By Beth Tompkins — It may sound like the newest game show to hit the network. Yet the “Wheel of Wellness” is actually the latest trend sweeping the holistic health community.

Stacey Shanks, yoga instructor at Tri-State Athletic Club, and Helen Shymanski, health and wellness coordinator for St. Mary’s Women’s Wellness Center, say local residents are starting to see that there are multiple ways to become healthy.

“Wellness is more than just going to gym,” Shymanski says, “It’s more than just doing yoga or just getting a massage. It’s a balanced and a multi-pronged approach to health and wellbeing.”

Because each spoke is important, there’s no right or wrong place to start. Each aspect of wellness is equally important, so it’s more about finding what interests you than about following a step-by-step guide.

“It’s like ice cream – you just have to pick your flavor,” Shanks says. “And with yoga in particular, there are plenty of flavors to choose from.”

She says a lot of first-time yoga students look at yoga as if it is just another workout. Shanks’ hot yoga in particular cranks the temperatures to 105 degrees, so they want to sweat. They want to burn calories. They think as long as they are doing those things, they are being good to their body. But Shanks says her students soon realize yoga is not necessarily a path to torch calories. Yoga is also a pathway to greater self-awareness.

“It truly is a life change,” Shanks says. “And you can see it with someone starting out, that they start to alter their approach and intention. It’s great to see.”

One key aspect of yoga is the mantra of mindfulness. Restorative yoga, a growing trend where students hold fully supported poses for 3 to 5 minutes each, rests on this concept.

“Just as there are times in your life when you need to rest and relax and there are times when you need to get up and get going, your physical workouts are the same,” Shymanski says. “It’s good to have all these modalities and tools in your toolbox. There’s a natural flow of life and of energy, and you come to understand that you need both the high and the low.” 

Discover a New Passion

Hobbies can rejuvenate. Get your hands dirty when the 2013 Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association holds its annual plant sale May 4-5 at the Vanderburgh County 4-H Center. Meanwhile, the next Tour de Fleur (a garden walk) will be held June 8-9. On display will be 12 residential gardens located in Evansville, Newburgh, and Haubstadt, Ind.

For rainy days – and not so rainy days – take up quilting. The Quilter’s Nest, 2814 Mt. Vernon Ave., offers classes, kits, fabric, and a social atmosphere, says Holly Yingling. She co-owns the store with Mary Brass. “People are staying home more, they need something to do, and people love to quilt – (both) men and women,” Yingling says. “And our beginner classes are always full.”

Book clubs and presentations are always popular. helps you connect with the Evansville Women’s Book Club. Author Brian Kimberling is scheduled to speak about his new book of fiction, Snapper, about an affable bird researcher, at Barnes and Noble on April 22 at 7 p.m. The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library offers a variety of book discussions, including one about Naomi Novik’s fantasy series Temeraire on April 10 at 6 p.m.

Music to Your Ears

But sweat to their browBy Alfred Savia — The most famous line ever penned about the soothing quality of music was not written by William Shakespeare but coined by William Congreve, in the tragedy The Mourning Bride in 1697: “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast/To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”

In today’s jargon, one could say “Leave all your stress and worries at the door – relax and listen to this beautiful music. It’ll help you chill.” Indeed that is my goal as conductor of an orchestra – to offer a temporary refuge from the everyday worries and trivialities in our “temple of music,” the Victory Theatre.

For musicians, though, and for me as a conductor, it might surprise many that the process of making that music is not at all relaxed and stress-free. Professional musicians are highly trained, disciplined, and driven perfectionists. Each member of the orchestra crafts his or her individual part to blend into what will become a unified, harmonic musical offering – much as each ingredient in a great dish must be fresh and flavorful to create a plate that will be delightful to the palate. In fact, in France, the conductor is actually called the Chef d’Orchestre!

While we sweat all the musical details – playing all the right notes in the right rhythm with perfect intonation and uniformity of style – the real goal is to translate the often incredible combination of notes the composer has written on the page into a sublime, transcendental entity that, at its best, is experienced with listeners (the audience) and performers (the orchestra) in the same space (the concert hall). Never was this more evident than in the Philharmonic’s recent All Beethoven program, where those of us on stage could sense that our patrons were spellbound from first note to last. And if the opening phrases of the slow movement of Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto, with the achingly beautiful muted strings that finally meld with some of the most delicate notes ever played on a grand piano, did not have enough charms to soothe … well, you must be a really hard rock or a very knotted oak.

Maestro Alfred Savia has been the music director of the Evansville Philharmonic since the 1989-90 season.

Update Your Style

For an aesthetic renewal, try a unique haircut and style. Waleed Fehme owns Waleed’s International Hair Design & Therapeutic Spa, 4901 Tippecanoe Dr., and he often travels to California to learn about the latest trends. He’s also worked with clients who’ve used their new look to make positive changes in their lives. “It’s all about hair and makeup and what it can do for the person,” Fehme says. “When you see a really pretty hair style moving around, you want to look at her face, and then you want to see her body. It’s hair, really, that makes a huge difference in life. We always tell (clients) that everyone is beautiful, and we make it obvious.” 

Go Out for a Smoke

Kick back, put your feet up, and light up that cigar. Matt Latham, the store manager at Cigar! Cigar!, says lighting up a cigar can help relieve stress. The business located at 500 N. Congress Ave. offers a selection of 1,450 different cigars of varying lengths, brands, tobaccos, and flavors. Men and women who purchase cigars from the humidor are also invited to puff them right then and there. Cigar! Cigar! offers free Wi-Fi and comfortable chairs. “We get guys every Wednesday and Friday mornings … who come in and smoke cigars,” Latham says. “Other guys have had a stressful day and they come in and plug their laptops in, and they are on their own.”

Find Your Sound

“We know from research that music has the ability to change a person’s mood as well as to increase their pain tolerance (and to) decrease their respiration rate and blood pressure,” says Casey DePriest, the owner of Integrative Music Therapy, 621 S. Cullen Ave. Many of her clients have developmental and learning disabilities. Yet others who struggle with high anxiety, chronic health issues, and other stressful circumstances also can benefit from her methods.

Progressive muscle relaxation helps her clients who are feeling muscle pain release tension in their bodies. Imagery is also helpful, DePriest says. She helps her clients visualize that the music is flowing over them like a blanket. “The music is not just something auditory,” she says. “It becomes something that you can see and feel. So in a sense, the music can kind of massage you and attend to the parts of you that are holding stress.” DePriest prefers to use live music when tending to her clients’ needs. However, recorded music can also help clients who are trying to manage stress on their own. Piano or guitar instrumentals, possibly infused with nature sounds, are common examples of relaxing music. 

Making Scents

Aromatherapy can help you healBy Beth Tompkins — They can instantly remind you of your grandmother. They can also rumble your stomach. Yet did you know that scents can also have the power to heal?

Cecile Martin, owner and director of Bodyworks Massage Institute, says aromatherapy is now being applied in medicinal settings.

More people are using essential oils on acupressure points or meridian pathways as part of other bodywork therapies to elicit a healing response. “The application of essential oils for use in oncology massage, digestive disorders, and pain relief, to name a few, has been in practice for many years across the world,” Martin says. “Through reading and personal experience, more people in our area have become aware of the powerful healing aspects of using therapeutic grade essential oils massaged directly onto the body.”

Several coordinating plant and flower extracts can alleviate stomach ulcers, heartburn, nausea, and cramps. Common scents for healing include peppermint, fennel, and anise for digestive issues, as well as ginger and cinnamon.

If you’re just getting started, Martin suggests trying aromatherapy as a mood enhancer. For example, diffuse a scent into the air or place a drop or two of the oils on the wrists, shoulders, or soles of the feet.

If you’d like to explore the healing side of aromatherapy, contact a professional for guidance.

Go Outside

If the best way for you to relax is to get away from creature comforts, then consider bird watching. John James Audubon State Park, Museum and Nature Center across the Ohio River in Henderson, Ky., offers lots of opportunities to view wildlife. Walking trails varying in difficulty and length meander through hardwood forests and lakes. More than 20 species of warblers migrate through Audubon in the spring. The park is also a wonderful spot for watching belted kingfisher, green heron, woodpeckers, and many other waterfowl.

For another opportunity to bird watch, the Ohio Valley Birding Festival will offer its Eagle Slough Natural Area Birding Hike on April 19 in the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area just outside the city of Henderson. These 10,000 acres of wetlands are home to nearly 10,000 geese and 10,000 ducks during the winter. You may see Wood Duck, Winter Wren, warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, and late shorebirds.

The opportunities don’t end when the sun sets, either. April happens to be an active stargazing month. International Dark Sky Week is April 5-11, and remote locations like Posey County, Ind., or St. Meinrad Archabbey offer a great opportunity to see the Milky Way. The Lyrids meteor shower will take place April 22, and that usually means you’ll get to see about 10 to 20 meteors falling to Earth per hour. April 28 will be a good day to see Saturn, too, as that’s when the planet will be closest to Earth.

Koch Planetarium at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science also offers show times of 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Hubble Vision is available until May 26 at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Participants will have an unblinking eye at thousands of objects in the universe. The planetarium also offers “The Sky Tonight” at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The program helps participants find planets and that night’s constellations.

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