In today’s constantly busy world, we encounter many stressors every day. Concerns over money, careers, relationships, and health can quickly pile up, leaving us to function in a constant state of stress. But we don’t have to live that way.
While therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes can reduce stress, the simple act of stepping outside and reconnecting with nature can help too. From taking a long walk in the woods to sitting quietly on the beach, there are many ways that we can reconnect with nature while making a positive change for our health.
How Stress Affects Our Health
Stress is a part of life, and we all experience it at some point. But too much stress, or stress that’s experienced for prolonged periods of time, can take a major toll on our physical health and overall well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can cause physical ailments like headaches, muscle tension and pain, chest pain, fatigue, and upset stomach. Some people experience sleep problems or a change in their sex drive during times of stress.
Stress also results in mood changes. People under stress may experience anxiety, restlessness, and a lack of motivation. It’s common to have difficulty concentrating or become irritable when under stress. Sadness or depression can also set in, and stress can leave us feeling overwhelmed even by small or ordinary tasks.
Stress even affects veins and blood circulation. Heightened or prolonged stress can increase blood pressure, which puts added strain on the walls of veins. Varicose veins, which are veins that are inflamed, become more swollen and pronounced during times of high stress. This can result in increased pain.
It’s important to find appropriate ways to manage stress. The Mayo Clinic also states that being under too much stress on a long-term basis can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes.
Nature’s Effect on Stress
Spending time in nature helps to relieve both stress and anxiety and can also have a positive impact on our moods. Though modern life has evolved to consist mostly of screens and time spent indoors, we still have a deep connection to nature. When we go outdoors and spend time in the woods or by a lake, we distance ourselves from the constant noises of modern-day life. The tranquility of nature is soothing and relaxing, and because we’ve stepped away from the constant reminders of our worries, it’s easier to forget about our problems and relax for a little while.
As an added bonus, reconnecting with nature often means that we’re performing some kind of moderate exercise, which can also help to reduce stress. Exercise produces endorphins which can help to relieve pain and improve our ability to sleep. Combining exercise with time in nature by going kayaking, hiking up a mountain, going swimming, or even horseback riding can relieve stress in multiple ways.
Thanks to nature’s stress-relieving properties, it can make an ideal environment for learning. Students who learn in nature are more involved with their studies, have the opportunity to discover new things, and even enjoy improved concentration for better learning.
Working in an office environment that values sustainability can also offer stress-relieving benefits. Having plants in the office can increase productivity while reducing stress. Offices that allow remote work can reduce emissions from commutes while saving employees commuting time and the stress that can come along with rush-hour traffic.
Who Can Benefit From Reconnecting With Nature
Anyone can benefit from reconnecting with nature, given its ability to reduce stress. Some groups of people are under higher degrees of stress, and they will very likely benefit from spending time in nature.
For instance, people who live with chronic pain often experience anxiety as a result. Our body’s natural response to pain is to try to escape it, but when pain is chronic, it can be impossible to do so. People with chronic pain may experience times when the pain is reduced or even goes away altogether, but knowing that the pain may return can create anxiety in itself.
This constant stress can be debilitating, but spending time in nature can help to relieve some of this anxiety. A trip to go canoeing or a light hike into the woods can help to remove our focus from chronic pain, giving us a mental break from the concerns associated with pain.
Certain life events can also create significant stress. The most stressful life events for adults include the death of a spouse, divorce or separation, going to prison, the death of a close family member, marriage, and the loss of a job. Anyone undergoing a stressful life event can benefit from spending a little time outdoors in nature.
Additional Ways to Manage Stress
Nature can be a great way to relieve stress, and it can be incorporated into any stress management plan. Other important aspects of stress management can include making lifestyle changes such as leaving a toxic job or setting aside time for exercise every day. Some people find seeing a therapist helpful, and medication can help people suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
If you think that you have too much stress in your life, it’s time to make some changes. Talk with your doctor, examine the lifestyle changes that you need to relieve some stress, and consider adding some time spent in nature to help reduce the effects of stress on your body.
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