Before I moved to the islands, I was under a tremendous amount of stress, and my physical health showed. See a few examples below:
Why Stress is the #1 Silent Killer
There's no doubt that twenty-first century living is filled with stress. People's jobs are demanding, the roads are crowded, and even the entertainment is fast paced. Stress comes in many packages, but the overall effect of stress on our lives is easy to spot. There are so many physical and emotional symptoms associated with stress that it has been called the silent killer. What is it about stress that would make it a silent killer, and what can You do to counteract it?
Stress comes in several different types. There are exciting, good things that happen to us, such as getting married or getting a new job. While these things make us happy, they are also changes in our lives. In addition, we have sudden, bad types of stressors, such as a fight with our kids or losing our job. And then there are the day-in, day-out types of stressors, such as money problems, an unhappy marriage, or chronic illness. When we talk about the stress in our lives, we usually are referring to the sum total of the effect on us of all these types of stress.
People are wired to respond to emergency stress with a rush of adrenalin. For example, if you had a vicious dog lunge at you, your heart would beat fast and you'd immediately (1) grab something to fight it off with or (2) turn and run. This is called the "fight or flight" response. During this physiological response, your body is responding quickly because your logical brain is not working logically.
While this flight or fight response is certainly appropriate and useful in some situations, it really doesn't have much value in helping people deal with the kind of stress we experience in the twenty-first century - leaving people with upset stomachs, muscles tension, overwhelmed brains, and taxed cardiovascular systems. In short, stress might be killing you! You might not be aware of it, though, so stress is a silent, sneaky sort of killer.
Reducing stress, even in today's world, is a real possibility. In fact, it is a virtual necessity. Smart people take care of themselves physically and mentally. Consider adding stress management to your daily goals is a good idea if you are under a lot of pressure from various aspects of your life. And these days, who isn't?
Stress management consists of getting enough rest, eating a nutritious diet, and getting some type of moderate exercise. Specific nutrients that can nourish the nervous system from the ravages of stress include the B-complex of vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. Some herbs that can help are skullcap, St. John's Wort, and chamomile. If getting to sleep is a problem, you might try melatonin or valerian.
Sleep is absolutely essential to good health and stress reduction, although not every person needs the recommended seven to eight hours. Most do, however. Over-the-counter sleep aids made from the drug, diphenhydramine, will help you get to sleep, but the sleep will probably not be as restful as natural sleep. Use it as a last resort.
or... You Can Live by the Ocean for Stress Relief (no Prescription Required)
Since ancient times, humans have assigned healing and transformational properties to water. In early Rome, baths were an important part of cultural life, a place where citizens went to find relaxation and to connect with others in a calming setting. In ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal wisdom, and traditional Chinese medicine, the water element is crucial to balancing the body and creating physical harmony. Rivers have long been seen as sacred places, and in a number of different spiritual contexts, water has symbolized rebirth, spiritual cleansing and salvation.
Today, we still turn to water for a sense of calm and clarity. We spend our vacations on the beach or at the lake; get exercise and enjoyment from water sports like surfing, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming; refresh ourselves with long showers and soothing baths, and often build our lives and homes around being near the water.
Our affinity for water is even reflected in the near-universal attraction to the color blue. We’re naturally drawn to aquatic hues — the color blue is overwhelming chosen as the favorite color of people around the world, and marketing research has found that people tend to associate it with qualities like calm, openness, depth and wisdom.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, believes that we all have a “blue mind” — as he puts it, “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” — that’s triggered when we’re in or near water.
“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”
The tranquil sound of ocean waves is very hypnotic and soothing. These natural sounds are great for general relaxation, for helping you to sleep, or as a peaceful aid to meditation.
Since the beginning of time, mankind has been graced with Mother Nature’s own relaxing sounds. But in the modern era, we have become cut off from the natural sounds of the world. Nowadays so many of us are so surrounded by the noise of modern industry and media that we never have the opportunity to enjoy natures own relaxing background music.
Listening to natural environmental sounds reminds us that we are a part of a greater whole. Nature sounds like this relaxing ocean waves recording remind us that our life extends beyond the walls that surround us at our home or office. These soothing sounds are innately peaceful and have a purity about them that many of us have become disconnected from, and they are wonderful for relaxing the mind. Take a moment to appreciate just how relaxing the sounds of nature can be. Give yourself some time out to de-stress and sink into a state of deep meditative stillness . . . the sounds of the ocean will take you there.
In our everyday lives, we’re constantly bombarded with sensory stimuli, whether from our devices, busy homes and offices, or hectic city streets. Our brains need downtime, but they rarely get enough of it.
Being around water gives our brains and our senses a rest from overstimulation.
“The sound around us, from an auditory perspective, is simplified. It’s not quiet, but the sound of water is far more simple than the sound of voices or the sound of music or the sound of a city,” Nichols tells the Huffington Post. “And the visual input is simplified. When you stand at the edge of water and look out on the horizon, it’s visually simplified relative to the room you’re sitting in right now, or a city you’re walking through, where you’re taking in millions of pieces of information every second.”
When we’re near, on, in or under water, we get a cognitive break because there’s simply less information coming in. Our brains don’t shut down — they keep working, but in a different way, according to Nichols. “When you have that simplified, quieter ‘blue’ space, your brain is better at a different set of processes,” he says.
Water can induce a meditative state.
Many of us love to sit near the ocean or a river and gaze out at the water — often, we can sit for long periods simply observing the gentle movements of the water. Why? Though we may not be conscious of it, the water could be inducing a mildly meditative state of calm focus and gentle awareness.
When we’re by the water, our brains are held in a state of mild attentiveness — what Nichols calls a “soft fascination.” In this state, the brain is interested and engaged in the water, taking in sensory input but not distracted by an overload of it, as we might be with the “hard fascination” we experience while watching an action movie or playing a video game.
Being in a mindful state — in which the brain is relaxed but focused — benefits the mind and body on a number of different levels. A growing body of research has found myriad benefits associated with mindfulness, including lower stress levels, relief from mild anxiety, pain and depression, improved mental clarity and focus, and better sleep quality.
Water Stimulates for a creative mind.
Hopping in the shower, as many people know, can be a great way to trigger ideas when our brains are in a creative rut.
In our always-busy, screen-saturated lives, we don’t give our minds much of a chance to rest and wander freely. But when we do, the mind switches into a different mode of engagement, known as the default mode network — the brain network associated with daydreaming, imagination, consolidation of memories, self-referential thought, insight and introspection. The default mode network is extremely important for creativity — which is often why we find that when we turn off our brains for a moment and get in the shower, activating that default network, that we suddenly come up with the insights and ideas that eluded us while we were sitting at our computers desperately searching for the solution.
“The shower is a proxy for the Ocean.” “You step in the shower, and you remove a lot of the visual stimulation of your day. Auditorially, it’s the same thing — it’s a steady stream of ‘blue noise.’ You’re not hearing voices or processing ideas. You step into the shower and it’s like a mini-vacation.”
Rather than switching off, when you’re showering, your brain switches into a different mode — and while the brain is in a more restful state, suddenly you’re able to make those new or unusual connections. The “Eureka” moment comes at last — the insight or solution “feels like it drops out of the sky and into your head,” says Nichols.
Exercise by or in water is good for our bodies and brains.
Exercise in any setting can improve our physical and mental health on a number of different levels, and can be an excellent way of reducing stress. But you may get even more benefit from your exercise by ditching the gym and taking a swim or a jog by the ocean instead.
“We know that water helps us relax, and we know that exercise is good for our bodies and our brains. If somebody is experiencing a number of problems that exercise and stress reduction may help with, [water] is a good add-on. Find a river trail and run there, or get on a bike, or row or swim.”
Being outside near water while you’re exercising will potentially give you more of a mental boost than exercising in a crowded, hectic gym environment with TVs in front of you and people all around. Many people feel intuitively that being in the presence water provides tangible benefits for their well-being, and as Nichols explains, their instincts are right.
“It’s almost too obvious, and it gets overlooked. But the health and neurological benefits of exercise by water are very real.”
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