As a nutritional therapist, I can tell you that if there’s one thing that can completely sabotage a perfect diet, that thing is STRESS. And as a homotoxicologist, I can also confirm that stress is the “ultimate toxin”due to its ability to severely disrupt multiple body systems at once and also due to our inability to simply “get rid of it”: you can’t “detoxify stress”, in the way you would toxic physical molecules from the body. There’s nothing “physical” about stress, stress is an abstraction, however its effects are deeply physical.
In a nutshell, stress damages your body at the most profound level: it dysregulates the normal physiology of a healthy cell, creating havoc in the way your body goes about its business: of nourishing you, building healthy tissue and muscle, repairing your DNA, detoxifying you. All the key physiological processes in the body, from digestion, liver function to chromosome repair & immune defence, fall apart under stress. Besides creating a high cortisol/high adrenaline state that overtaxes your adrenals and leads to chronic fatigue over time, stress triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines that negatively affect the immune system and degenerate the brain.
There are many clinical studies linking chronic inflammation caused by chronic stress with auto-immune diseases and neurodegeneration (Chronic Stress and Glucocorticoids: From Neuronal Plasticity to Neurodegeneration, Relevance of chronic stress and the two faces of microglia in Parkinson’s disease). Also, chronic inflammation due to chronic stress leads to premature ageing. In other words, stress deprives you of the possibility of “ageing gracefully”. By ageing you prematurely, stress makes you ugly (Chronic inflammation induces telomere dysfunction and accelerates ageing).
And did you know that the body can’t detoxify when caught in a state of chronic inflammation? This is why you always hear nutritionists and functional medicine practitioners prescribe anti-inflammatory diets for almost every health issue you can think of.
While there are many adaptogenic herbs that can help with stress, such as rhodiola and ginseng, these can only improve the way your body responds to stress but they don’t completely eliminate its insidious effects.
The best solution to deal with stress is to give yourself a break from it once in a while. However, going on a mini-holiday is not a valid solution because holidays can be extremely stressful: all the hassle of travelling to and from busy airports, the stress of missing your flight, all the packing and unpacking, all those small but tiresome decisions you need to make at every step of the way.
My solution to deal with stress the “splendid way” is actually right there in your city waiting for you to just step in. There is nothing more effective in changing your frame of mind than a change in environment.
“Imagine you’re in a wonderful, peaceful place…” (this is what a stress-management counsellor would also ask you to do at the end of a costly session!). But instead of imagining you’re in a “wonderful, peaceful place”, my idea allows you to actually be in it. And instead of paying a psychotherapist for simply asking you to experience something wonderful, you’d actually be paying for the wonderful experience itself. And isn’t being happy so much more satisfying than imagining you’re happy?!
The wonderful experience that can instantly cut you off from chronic stress and everything inflammatory is HOTEL THERAPY: simply check in what I would call a “therapeutic hotel”, a place whose every feature (architectural charm, intelligent interior design, inviting sound, seductive colours, calming light quality etc) is asking you to sit back, relax and enjoy life.
If this sounds slightly hedonistic (not that hedonistic pursuits were ever proven not to be therapeutic), I will argue that relaxing and enjoying life is more than pure indulgence: beyond the physical pleasure that relaxation and enjoyment bring “in the moment”, there are real and long-lasting health benefits that derive from it. Most importantly, there is the treasured benefit of creativity.
Creativity is extremely important when dealing with chronic stress (the kind that makes you feel you’re “stuck in a rut”) because creativity is the ability to come up with a viable solution to the problems that are stressing you. And only a relaxed mind is a creative mind, hence the importance of temporarily cutting ourselves off from daily stress as often as we can.
Going back to the idea of “hotel therapy”, certainly not all hotels have this therapeutic quality. I define a “therapeutic hotel” as a place whose every feature (architectural charm, intelligent interior design, inviting sound, seductive colours, calming light quality etc) is asking you to sit back, relax and enjoy life, thus allowing you to regain a serene state of mind, a state of creativity, the creativity that invites in new ideas and solutions to the stressful problems you’re dealing with. Obviously, such a place has more to do with art than therapy but isn’t all great art therapeutic at the same time?
The actual hotel that made me come up with the wonderful concept of “hotel therapy” was the Hudson Hotel in New York.
This hyper-stylised Philippe Starck hotel has a bold design and a whimsical quality to it. The hotel feels out of this world but interestingly, it’s right in the middle of the action (just two blocks from Columbus Circle and Central Park, in the very heart of Manhattan) and also affordable (it’s been described by some reviewers as “cheap chic”).
Symbolically, you reach the hotel lobby through an escalator encased in a luminous glass tunnel that “transports” you to a most seductive social space, with soaring glass ceilings and brick walls dripping with ivy. Here, you’ve already reached a “higher ground”, a higher sphere of consciousness, and the higher you go (your room might as well be on the 18th floor), the more detached you feel from all the stressors that just a minute ago were weighing you down.
The rooms, although on the small side, create a very intimate feel. The design is lush, with great attention to detail: walls paneled in rich, dark cherrywood, African hardwood floors, bedside lamps by the British x-ray photographer Nick Veasey. Beds covered in crisp Egyptian cotton linens and billowing down duvets, C.O. Bigelow products in the bathroom.
There is nothing more powerful than immersing yourself in a certain space to change your state of mind (and your stress levels with it). The Hudson Hotel has such a strong, wonderful personality about it that you will feel its impact immediately.
I whole-heartedly encourage you to try “hotel therapy” for yourself sometime. It works wonders and it’s the best money you will have ever spent: you’re basically purchasing pure happiness.
As for me, I will keep travelling the world and keep discovering more “therapeutic hotels”. Feel free to get in touch by email or follow my blog for more health articles and wonderful therapeutic insights.