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Time Out — For You!

Healing beauty

Ease neck aches with moist heat, says Steve Ellis, the lead massage therapist at the Four Seasons Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. Soak a hand towel in water and wring it out, then warm the towel in the microwave for 60 seconds. To protect skin from direct heat, place a dry towel on your neck, then roll up the heated towel and lay it on top. Gently rotate your head back and to the sides as the heat works its way into your neck. You can also drape a warm, moist towel across a sore back to soothe it.

Dab on some peppermint oil for a great natural pick-me-up, says Sasha Lefort of New Orleans' Ritz-Carlton Spa, where the towels are subtly scented with peppermint and guests are offered peppermint oil to inhale after a massage if they feel congested. (You can find essential oils at health-food stores or beauty sites like Dot on your temples to relieve post-carpool headache, or place a few drops in the corners of your shower and turn on the hot water to help clear your head -- and your sinuses.

De-puff your sleep-deprived eyes with cotton balls soaked in water and left in the freezer until icy cold. For an even more effective treatment, steep the cotton balls in green tea before you pop them in the freezer, as they do at the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton Spa. Caffeine in tea helps reduce water retention in the eyelids, says Lefort.


Skin that glows

Enjoy a sweet and easy body scrub: Bring a cup of sugar with you into the shower, wet your skin, then turn off the water and apply the sugar all over, gently massaging it into your skin. Turn the water back on and rinse. The sugar dissolves easily and won't leave grit on the shower or bath floor, says Kenneth Ryan, spa director at the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Turnberry Isle in Aventura, Florida.

Try dry body brushing to smooth rough spots, increase your circulation, and make you feel good inside and out, says Ann Brown, director of Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Missouri. All you need is a body brush. Starting at your feet and working up, gently brush your body in a stroking motion toward your heart. Follow with a bath or shower and a rich moisturizer.

Make an easy, effective face mask by blending an egg white with the juice of half a lemon. Leave it on for 15 minutes before rinsing. This instantly brightens and tightens your skin, says Sasha Lefort, spa manager at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in New Orleans.


Eating lighter

Enhance the taste of ordinary water (and iced tea) without piling on calories by adding orange or strawberry slices, suggests Lefort. At the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton Spa, these flavored waters and iced teas are offered in the relaxation rooms. You can also spike your H20 with cold cucumber slices (unpeeled).

Prepare lunch ahead of time, and you'll be less tempted by your kids' mac 'n' cheese, suggests Catherine Kruppa, a nutritionist at Trellis, the Spa at the Houstonian, in Houston, Texas. Try this simple chicken wrap, for instance, served at Trellis:
Fill a whole-wheat tortilla with 3 ounces grilled or roasted chicken breast, ¾ cup baby spinach leaves, a few jarred roasted red peppers, and 2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese. Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, then top with 2 tablespoons salsa.

Prepack mom snacks. Kruppa urges moms to keep healthy snacks in their purse and car for themselves as well as their kids. Her favorite 200-calorie-and-under picks for moms on the go: an apple and two sticks of low-fat string cheese; a Dannon Light 'n Fit Smoothie and a banana; 10 almonds and a low-fat yogurt; a single-serving bag of Glenny's Soy Crisps; a Slim-Fast or Carnation Instant Breakfast drink.

Make quick anytime smoothies with frozen overripe bananas, offers Kimberly Anderson, executive chef at the Sundara Inn and Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Run the banana under water to remove the skin, then cut it up and place it in the blender with fresh fruit like blueberries and strawberries. Add soy milk or low-fat yogurt and a little bit of water or fruit juice. Whirl and enjoy!

Don't forget the much-maligned potato -- studies show that, calorie for calorie, potatoes are the most effective food at leaving you satisfied, says Ralph Ofcarcik, Ph.D., director of nutrition services at the Red Mountain Spa in Ivins, Utah. So skip the fattening fries and prepare your potatoes Red Mountain style -- baked or mashed with a low-cal butter substitute and 1% (or skim) milk.


Calming cues

Do this one-minute relaxer: Press index finger and thumb together on each hand, close your eyes, and take deep, slow breaths. Once you notice a strong pulsing in your finger-tips, you should feel calmer, says Christina Drozda, a meditation expert at the Centre for Well Being at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Experience an immediate tension release when you rub a dot of lavender essential oil on your temples and the back of your neck, says Drozda. Or to feel more patient, say aromatherapists, try rose oil (you can find essential oils at health-food stores or at

Stop feeling frazzled fast -- even in a crowd (where deep breathing might get you funny looks)  -- with this idea from Natasha Korshak, the director of mindfulness training at Miraval Life in Balance Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona: Simply tune in to your body's connection to surfaces like the floor, your seat, or even your clothes. This exercise makes you more mindful of the here and now  -- and less stressed.


Love your hair

Whip up an easy hair revitalizer, suggest the beauty experts at Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, California: Whirl in blender ¼ cup of olive oil, one egg white, and ½ peeled cucumber. Warm the mixture in the microwave for about 30 seconds, stir well to eliminate any hot spots, and apply to dry hair. Wait 15 minutes with your hair wrapped in towel, then shampoo.

Give yourself a scalp-tingling head massage, offered at the Spa Mandarin Oriental in Miami. In the shower, work your shampoo into a rich, slippery lather. With all your fingers and your palms holding the top of your head like a basketball, move your scalp over to the left five times, then to the right. Press slowly with your thumbs at the muscles at the base of your head. Then gently finger-comb your hair from your forehead back. Rinse well, use conditioner if desired, and pat your hair dry. With your fingertips, rub your whole scalp vigorously for a final invigorating rush.


Sole soothers

Give yourself a fuzzy foot rub! Guests of the Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco take home this reflexology tip: Roll your feet on a tennis ball for two minutes to relieve aches and fatigue; since all organs are said to be represented in the feet, this might ease stress all over.

Massage feet with a blend of salt and olive oil, rinse well, and apply a bit of almond oil to keep cuticles moisturized and supple, as they do at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in Half Moon Bay, California.


Fit for life

Sneak in exercise while doing routine things like brushing your teeth. At the Oaks at Ojai Spa in Ojai, California, guests learn moves like rolling up and down on their toes to help strengthen the backs of their legs, and squeezing and releasing their glutes to firm them while waiting in line.

Tone your tummy with an exercise ball, like the one used in yoga classes at the El Monte Sagrado Living Spa in Taos, New Mexico. Sit on the ball instead of a chair or couch while you're watching TV, talking on the phone, or working on the computer. The act of trying to stay balanced on the ball helps contract and tone your abs and straighten your spine.

Follow the 5-minute rule, suggests Michael Hewitt, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and research director for exercise science at Tucson's Canyon Ranch. When you're tired or having trouble getting motivated to work out, promise yourself you'll exercise for just 5 minutes. If you're still tired after that, quit. But chances are you'll be energized to keep going.

Award yourself a gold star after each workout  -- literally, says Hewitt. First, set a fitness goal you can reasonably achieve, like exercising three times a week, and write it on a month-by-month calendar. Hang the calendar where you can see it, and stick on a star for every completed workout. "Even as adults, earning a gold star feels good," says Hewitt.


Sweet dreams

Aid your digestion and sleep more easily after a big dinner by massaging your belly in a clockwise direction. This technique, taught at the New Age Health Spa in Neversink, New York, helps to relieve a bloated feeling and calm nerves.

Get in the mood to snooze with a cup of valerian tea (such as Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra Wellness Tea); but don't use this herb if you're pregnant or nursing. Or try a decaf green tea, which has been shown in studies to unclutter the mind, says the Red Mountain Spa's Ralph Ofcarcik. Besides, the ritual of sipping tea is undeniably relaxing.