2353937055_a8d76088a6 How often do you see 'take a long bath' on a list of stress busters? Pretty often, right? That's because taking a bath is a classic stress reducer. And it's a classic because it works.

The bath is an ancient symbol of rebirth and renewal. Look at the history of bathing around the world. The Mikvah in Jewish tradition, Sento in Japan. The Roman baths in the U.K.'s Bath, and backyard hot tubs, for crying out loud.

Taking a bath is so much more than just soaking in hot water. A proper bath is a ceremony unto itself:

  • First turn off all the phones in the house. That's why God gave us voicemail.
  • Warn everyone (the kids, dog and spouse), that you will be unavailable for at least half an hour. An hour's better.
  • Lay out fragrant oils, bubbles, lotions, candles and music.
  • Draw the bath. Set the perfect temperature; cool for summer, warm for winter. Listen to the sound of water pouring.
  • Have a clean, comfy bath robe and towels ready. Maybe a hot or cold pack to lay over your eyes. A bath pillow is nice, too.
  • Meditate as you soak, cleansing your mind as well as your body. Breathe in the scents. You are the center of the universe.
  • Play with your rubber ducky or foamy bubbles.
  • Pace yourself slowly, take your time, make your movements graceful and deliberate like a dancer.
  • As you get out, dry yourself off and clean up, recite a mantra like 'Rebirth' or 'Serenity' to take the relaxed feeling with you as you rejoin the world.

If you do it right, taking a bath is self-nurturing at it's best. Just thinking about it soothes me. Not everyone gets it. I will never forget how years ago I had a lunch meeting with a thirty-something editor of Glamour about writing for the magazine.

From the get-go I knew this wasn't going to turn out the way I'd hoped. In a polite manner the young Sex-and-the-City stylish editor made me feel ancient, no worse, irrelevant. Before hearing any of my ideas she said dismissively, "I need advice that isn't the usual 'take a bath.'"

While we waited for our lobster salad she gave me the rundown on all the stress in her life. She and her husband just bought a fixer upper in New Jersey (Victorian, lots of promise), she had a small child (maybe two, I don't remember), a cut throat, absurdly competitive job (think The Devil Wears Prada) plus her critical mother-in-law was coming in from out of state for a 'little visit'!  She, and her readers, wanted to know how to cope with all that!

Uh huh. This young woman was fast approaching boiled frog status. Yet she was too invested in her workaholic lifestyle to hear me say 'You want my advice? Screw it! Close the door on all of it and take better care of yourself!'

Leaving the restaurant, I was disappointed that I didn't get the writing assignment but very happy my life was my own and not owned by anyone else. That night I comforted my self-esteem with a long, lovely bath. Sometimes the cure for a boiling frog is a soak in some hot water.

Photo courtesy of Swiv via Flickr