Guest Post by Sharon Unis, Founder and CEO of Waterbear Planet
In recent months, world events have heightened and exacerbated underlying personal and societal stresses, presenting unforeseen, shocking experiences within our broader communities. It’s important — now, just as ever — to take exceptional care of ourselves, while showing up for our loved ones and colleagues, and pushing for positive social change.
What are some simple ways to think about stress management during these times? And how might connecting with nature help?
Just like on the airplane (remember those days?), be sure to put on your oxygen mask in order to help someone else. Remember, when we’re overflowing with our own well-being, it’s natural for us to contribute generously while doing our best work.
We encourage you to make these concepts your own.
How might stress be affecting you?
Research suggests that there are several signs that might indicate you are stressed.
- Emotional responses include increased depression symptoms and negative mood;
- Burnout which includes emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of feelings of accomplishment;
- Reduced working memory;
- Physical responses include raised blood pressure, increased heart rate, decreased immune function, and the development of various illness such as coronary heart disease;
- Violent responses such as sabotage, aggression, and hostility.
If you are experiencing any of these things, the root cause might be stress. But, don’t worry if that’s the case. There are strategies that can help you to manage your stress. One of these ways has to do with immersing yourself in nature, which I will talk about now.
A silver bullet? Connect with nature.
Connecting with nature improves our mood and reduces stress. It also helps us to be more productive. As we focus on soothing, external stimuli, this decreases mental chatter, rumination and distractibility. We enter a state of mindfulness, which helps us to focus on the tasks at hand and makes workflow easier. There are three ways that I recommend you connect with nature. These are easy to do, and can make a big difference in your stress level when you take time to do a little of these things each day.
- Listen to recorded nature sounds. It reduces pulse rate, muscle tension and self-reported stress within minutes. So, it doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time. Just try listening to these sounds for a little while and start to reap the benefits!
- Even virtual nature experiences can help reduce stress. If you want a visually immersive experience, you might try buying a nature-based video game or looking at peaceful scenery videos online.
- The best medicine? Spend time in a natural setting that you find relaxing, where you can let your guard down and soak in the sunshine, breathe the fresh air, take in the summer sounds. Watch the trees sway in the breeze. Give yourself a big hug.
Additional strategies for managing stress
Luckily, research also shows that there are ways that you can manage stress. While my favorite way to manage stress is to immerse myself in natural settings, there are other things that you can do as well. You can also combine these strategies with immersing yourself in nature.
- Detach. Detachment is the feeling that you are mentally removed from work (or even other life circumstances). This means that you aren’t engaging in related tasks or even thinking about related issues. You can combine this strategy with nature by promising yourself that you will become immersed in a natural setting, without constantly scrolling on your phone or checking for new emails.
- Relax. Relaxation can help your brain to detach from negative emotions and to produce more positive emotions. If you go sit outside in a park or in your backyard, it’s ok to put your feet up, close your eyes, and just chill for a while.
- Take on a challenge. This allows you to achieve a difficult goal that is meaningful to you and can help you to experience positive emotions. Maybe you have always wanted to try hiking or rock climbing. Surfing or going out on a paddleboat might also appeal to you. Combining a challenge with a natural setting can have positive impacts on your wellbeing and give you a sense of personal achievement.
- Choose what works best for you. It’s important to have control over how you manage stress by choosing the activities that are the most personally meaningful, and restorative to you. So, if you really like to take a walk, but hate going for a run, that’s ok! Taking a walk will allow you to enjoy nature while engaging in an activity that doesn’t stress you out or fulfill someone else’s idea of what you should be doing. This is about you – choose what makes you happy!
Research has shown that using all four of these strategies is the most effective way to decrease emotional exhaustion, increase your ability to perform, and boost your capability to be physically healthy. So, be sure to get a little of each of these 4 per day. Try to pick activities that check multiple boxes, so that you get the most out of the time you spend recovering.
Interested in learning more about how to immerse yourself in nature? Tune in later this week, when we release our collaborative podcast episode. In this episode, you’ll be able to learn more by diving into our conversation about nature connectedness, mindfulness and self-care. So stay tuned on June 18th for our Waterbear Planet x Workr Beeing podcast episode!
Explore Waterbear Planet’s oasis online ℠ nature relaxation program, and ways to help your team manage stress here.