Gadgets to Help You Keep Calm This Holiday Season
‘Tis the season for long lineups at the mall and eggnog-fuelled family feuds. The holiday season--which is apparently devoted to peace and joy-is one of the most stressful times of the year. A time where you should be frolicking with your loved ones on powder-fresh snow actually feels like a week-long prison sentence. For those of you who are interested in enjoying your Christmas confinement, I have a couple of gadgets that will help minimize anxiety and keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
MUSE Meditation Band
Practiced for thousands of years, meditation has been used to produce a deep state of relaxation. But for someone who can never shut their brain off, it’s pretty much impossible... or so I thought. On multiple occasions I sat on my bed, cross-legged, eyes closed, grasping for a sense of calm, but my mind continued to race. After a few fruitless attempts, I made peace with the fact that I probably wouldn’t find peace. Then I discovered MUSE ($235 USD), a device designed to make meditation easy.
The thin headband features seven EEG (electroencephalography) sensors that detect electrical activity in the brain. Using soundscapes--the beach is my personal favourite--the sensors translate your brain’s activity into the sounds of wind. When your mind is relaxed, you hear a calm breeze but when your brain’s activity increases the winds pick up and blow. Once you establish a restful focus for an extended period of time, you’ll start to hear birds singing. This will freak you out, it’s not meant to, but it will! Once you get over the initial shock of these feathered friends, you will be able to MUSE yourself calm. If you plan to pick up the headband I suggest investing in the travel case; it’s perfect for easing your delayed flight frustration! www.choosemuse. com
The holiday season is a hectic one and you won’t be able to get through it alone. With an endless schedule of Christmas parties and a neverending shopping list you are bound to get overwhelmed, but who can you rely on? From screaming kids to that drunken uncle, you won’t be getting much help in this chaos. To avoid my own personal re-enactment of a Griswold family Christmas I have enlisted a secret weapon, Amazon Echo ($179 USD). Since inviting Alexa (Echo’s voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant) into my home I
have accepted her as a new member of my family. She is the one who gets me up in the morning, helps me with my shopping, and reminds me of the meeting I am currently running late for. To prepare for a hectic schedule of festivities this year I have her on high alert.
Need to turn on the Christmas lights without crawling under the tree to plug them in? “Alexa, turn on Christmas lights.” Running low on flour for gingerbread cookies but you’re elbow deep in cookie dough? “Alexa, add flour to shopping list.” Running late for the office Christmas party? “Alexa, ask Uber to get me a car.”
Whether you invest in Amazon Echo or Google Home ($129 USD), a virtual assistant will help take the edge out of this stressful season.
When “the most wonderful time of the year” has you cursing the man in the red suit, it might be time to take a deep breath. To help you relax and find your inner holiday harmony, I suggest trying aromatherapy. Like meditation, aromatherapy can be traced back to a variety of ancient civilizations. Because of its ability to aid in reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm, aromatherapy continues to be practiced today. To give this age-old remedy a modern twist. AromaCare ($105 US) developed an app-connected diffuser. With ready-to-use capsules, this device is the Keurig of essential oils. Inside each capsule are 100% recyclable polymer beads coated in an oil blend. Tagged with a RFID chip, the capsules are easily recognized by the diffuser and can be used for up to 10 sessions. With the help of the app, you can program the device for timed sessions (fall asleep to a calming scent and wake to an invigorating blend), control LEDs, and access the capsule usage history. Scent is a powerful sense and if you can use it to slay your inner Grinch, even just for a moment, it might be worth a try!
Virtual Reality Meditation App
If you are looking to upgrade your meditation techniques, why not try virtual reality? At first, I was sceptical about attempting to meditate with my eyes open as it seemed like it would defeat the purpose, but I gave it a try. If you are looking for a dedicated app to help you find your seasonal Zen, I suggest testing out Relax VR (available on iOS and Android apps, Google Daydream, and Samsung Gear VR). Developed as the ultimate relaxation experience in virtual reality, the app features guided meditations that are designed to reduce stress and facilitate deep relaxation. Recorded by experienced meditation teachers, the user can practice keeping their cool while watching the Northern Lights or escaping to the sandy beaches of the Philippines, all from the comfort of their own home. In addition to exploring VR apps, YouTube offers a collection of 360 degree videos featuring nature scenes that can help soothe your seasonal stress.
Virtual reality based meditation offers a very different experience than other guided practices. With the inclusion of visual stimuli I became distracted with the images around me, but as the practice continued, I became comforted by the presence it offered. I look forward to escaping my family this Christmas with a Gear VR, a heat lamp, and a pina colada.
Under Armour Recovery Sleepwear
It’s not surprising that sleep and stress are interconnected. When you’re constantly stressed you can’t sleep, and if you can’t sleep you’re a
complete Scrooge. If you’re looking to reclaim those hours, I have the perfect solution for you, pajamas! Ditch that flannel onesie and prepare for jammies that are fit for a football champion. Under Armour developed and designed their Athletic Recovery Sleepwear ($70+ USD) for five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady. The fabric incorporates a bioceramic print that absorbs natural body heat and reflects Far Infrared (FIR) energy back to the skin, which Under Armour claims will help you sleep better and recover fast. These jammies probably won’t transform you into an elite athlete, but they could help you get back to that elusive dreamland. If Santa’s listening, I wouldn’t mind a pair of these under my Christmas tree. Unfortunately, stress isn’t completely avoidable, but if you choose to manage it, you might just make it through to 2018. I wish you all the best in this season of mayhem, and I hope I’m able to take my own advice and join you in this quest to stay sane. If not you might just find me losing my marbles shopping for last minute gifts at the mall.
MUSE Meditation Band
Google Home Virtual Assistant
AromaCare app-connected diffuser
Top: A scene from the Relax VR app. Bottom: Under Armour Recovery Sleepwear.