A 2021 Statistics Canada survey found that 25 per cent of Canadians are dealing with high levels of stress on nearly a daily basis.
Approximately half of Canadians believe their stress levels have increased since the pandemic. So what can we do? Quit our jobs and move to a remote island? That’d be lovely. Lovely, but unrealistic for the vast majority of us. Hello, bills.
According to the authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, the key to dealing with stress is completing the stress cycle. When you’re dealing with a “threat”, which could be anything that’s stressing you out from money problems to work issues, your mind and body shift. Now this can work to your advantage if you’re needing to, say, outrun a cougar. Your heart beats extra fast, you get a surge of energy, you’re incredibly alert. And when you need to get away from a cougar as quickly as possible, that stress response can really help you escape and get back to your friends and family to celebrate. You survived!! But…when was the last time you were chased by a cougar? I’m betting never (hopefully). According to authors Emily and Amelia Nagoski, completing the stress cycle and letting our bodies know that they’re safe is critical if we want to master stress.
So how do we close the loop? We’ve got four options for you, thanks to Burnout, but we’ve added ways you can boost these solutions by adding nature to the mix!
OPTION #1: Get Your Body Moving
The absolute best way to close the stress cycle is to move your body. Doing a little physical exercise (a short 20 minute workout will do!) lets your body know that it is safe. You can relax and let go of all that stress.
Level Up: Take a Walk in the Woods
If you’re really stressed, go for a longer walk in the woods. One study compared the cortisol levels in people after walking in a forest compared with those in an urban scene and found that those who walked among the trees had lower levels of stress hormones. It turns out as little as 40 minutes of walking in a forest will result in improved mood and feelings of vigor.
And that goes for the kiddos too! Research shows that when kids play in nature they are less angry – they even have reduced symptoms of ADHD.
OPTION #2: Take a Deep Breath
Did you know that we take between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths a day? When you feel your heart racing and your palms sweating leading up to an important meeting, take a moment and take a breath. A nice deep breath (the kind that goes all the down to your belly) will actually bring those stress levels way down.
Level Up: Take a Deep Breath Outside
While outdoor air pollution is a real thing (that we’re hopefully turning around), for the most part, a deep breath in the great outdoors is going to be more rejuvenating than a deep breath indoors. Think about it. There’s something so wonderful about taking a deep breath by the ocean or in the woods. Maybe it’s all that oxygen! Whatever the magic is, go get some the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
OPTION #3: Hang Out With Your Funniest Friend
Having a lovely chat with a dear friend will absolutely give you peace of mind that the world is a safe place and that you’re safe in it. And you need that reassurance when you’re stressed. While deep conversations have their time and place, when you’re worried that your offer on the house of your dreams is going to fall through, you’d benefit by sticking to light conversations. Bonus if they’re funny as all heck! So get together with your most outrageously funny friend and get all the good vibes you need from some well-deserved belly laughs.
Level Up: Go on a Walk Instead of Sitting at a Coffee Shop
Peppermint mochas can wait. Bundle up and ask your friend to go on a walk outside with you! Researchers have found that when you connect with nature you feel an overall sense of connectedness and you feel more in sync with people. And that makes people happy!
OPTION #4: Create Something Meaningful
Dealing with a terrible breakup? There are thousands of songs that you can listen to to help you work through your emotions. Better yet, creating art – whether it be song, dance, painting or more – often encourages us to feel what we need to feel. And if that turns into a sob fest, even better. Crying is the ultimate release.
Level Up: Take Your Art Outdoors
One 2015 study found that the average adult can only stay on track for about eight seconds. Thanks, TikTok! With shorter and shorter attention spans, it’s hard to stay in the creative zone for long. Scientists have found that spending time in nature can actually help you concentrate for longer periods of time. So go ahead and move your next creative session outdoors. Your body and your mind will thank you.