Feeling stressed? Take a bath.

Enjoying a nice long soak in the tub yields physical and psychological benefits

Bath and soaps

Photograph by Martha Williams

Need to center yourself before a stressful workday or release tension after an intense workout? Try dimming the lights, lighting a candle, and hopping into the tub for a long, hot soak.

Warm water increases muscle elasticity and blood flow, helping a tired body bounce back, says Abby Ellis, massage therapist and co-owner of Future Perfect in Cabbagetown. It stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which slows heart and respiration rates—calming a racing mind and signaling it’s time to relax, according to local psychologist Allison Christopher. The uptick in body temperature also releases serotonin, the body’s natural mood booster.

At night, bathing helps synchronize your circadian rhythm by releasing melatonin, which helps you sleep. In the morning, baths can ease you into the day feeling more grounded and calm. And afternoon soaks “can reset a foggy mind or help you shake off a stressful situation,” Christopher adds.

Regardless of the time of day, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, or even opting for a guided meditation can maximize the chill factor. Christopher also recommends lighting a candle or using bath salts or oils. Her picks? Citrus and earthy scents like grapefruit and vetiver for daytime focus and soothing scents like lavender for evening wind-downs.

While the ideal temperature depends on your comfort level, very hot water (104 degrees F and above) can make you dizzy or weak, and pregnant women should consult a physician before soaking in a steamy tub.

Whenever you bathe, try to disconnect from your phone and other distractions. Christopher says, “You’ll reap the most benefit by creating special rituals around your bath time and making it an intentional pause in your day.”

Optimize your bath time with products from these local businesses

Herb’N Eden
Botanical Bath Soak, $5
The Douglasville-based husband-and-wife team of Quinton and Terran Lewis make nontoxic soaps, scrubs, and soaks, including a wind-down blend with rose, chamomile, calendula, and lavender flowers plus essential oils.

Mama Bath + Body
Bath Salts, $13
From invigorating ginger to tranquil lavender, the brand offers several scents of soothing and therapeutic bath salts.

Refresh Bath Soak, $12
Inflammation-easing clay and green tea calm sore muscles, while refreshing peppermint and lime essential oils awaken senses—ideal for a postworkout bath.

Green Girl Basics
Bath Bomb Making, $75
Learn how to make soap, body scrubs, or fizzy, organic bath bombs in this Roswell store’s two-hour, hands-on classes (next bomb class is February 26 at 2 p.m.). Participants leave with around a dozen finished products.

Serenity Artisan Tea, $29
Sip on a cup of this earthy passion flower and lemon balm brew while you soak.

This article appears in our February 2022 issue.