Dearest readers,

stress-testAchy muscles from hunching over your computer? Tumultuous tummy from crazy deadlines? Tension headache from staring at that tiny cell phone screen too long? Well, April is National Stress Awareness Month and today is National Stress Awareness Day, so step away from the laptop, the calendar, and the phone for some deep breathing and your fave anxiety-reducing activity. Otherwise, stress may land you in the doctor’s office, and then you’ll just be fretting about all the pharmaceuticals you’re popping (and leaching into our waterways), and medical bills piling up, and time lost from work, and and AND! That’s why I pilfered the archives for these calming little morsels on chillin’ like a villain.

Being eco eating you?
If achieving the nirvana level of being green is what’s stressing you, relax first—perhaps through some sort of meditative or spiritual practice—and then make some goals for yourself. Sit down and write out the highest hopes you have for your personal environmental impact on everything from your home to your neighborhood to the earth. Look carefully at those hopes, and from them select the realistic goals for what you might be able to achieve in your lifetime. And then set reasonable, human timelines for achieving these goals. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Light my fire.
A little candlelight can be totally soothing. Worried about candles making you ill? Easy: Burn fewer candles. Like any burning object, candles give off particles and vapors that can enter your lungs and irritate your respiratory system. Most of these irritants are present only in negligible amounts, with the exception of lead, which is used to keep wicks stiff. U.S. candle manufacturers voluntarily ceased using lead wicks in recent years, but companies in other countries continue the practice. If you don’t know the candle’s country of origin, you can test for lead in the wick by cutting off a section, stripping the outer cotton sleeve, and rubbing the core on a piece of paper. If it contains lead, it will leave a pencil-like mark. Also, avoid scented candles (which contain chemical additives), paraffin candles (which are made from petroleum), and smoky flames (which produce more soot). Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Just say om.
Downward dogging can be good for working out the kinks, but the vinyl and phthalates in conventional yoga mats? Not so much. Vinyl is toxic to the environment during production and disposal, through creation and release of dioxin—among other issues, including that it is made from a nonrenewable resource. Phthalates are “plasticizers” often found in soft vinyl materials, which do leach out during a product’s lifetime. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to negative reproductive health effects in both men and women. However, many manufacturers are offering PVC-free options, usually made of jute and rubber. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Such a tea-se.
Nothing like a hot cup of tea to soothe the nerves. Ah, but how to heat the water: gas stove, microwave, or electric tea kettle? A review of the literature (various governmental energy-efficiency advisories, like this one from Canada) indicates that the electric kettle is No. 1 in efficiency. So pop a reusable tea filter full of organic leaves into a reusable mug, and take a chill pill. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Tranquilly,
Umbra