Constant emotional stress is extremely harmful, especially over an extended period of time. The result: Our body is on permanent alert with many body functions more or less in standby-mode.
We are naturally programmed to react to perceived dangerous situations with our bodies being put on alert by such hormones as adrenaline and cortisol that increase heartbeat and blood pressure, in turn triggering flight or fight responses.
When the threat has passed these stress hormones are supposed to return to normal levels so that all body organs can resume their normal functions. In our modern world that is often not the case because we are not taking time-out for exercise, good nutrition, breaks etc. An over-exposure to the main stress hormone cortisol can lead to a host of health problems including high blood pressure, the risk of heart attack, an immune-system breakdown, anxiety, mood changes and weight gain. An excellent way of getting those cortisol levels down is by taking a time-out in nature.
We come from and are part of nature. Living in cramped, noisy and stressful big city environments is only a recent phenomenon in human evolution. Re-atuning our senses of hearing, smell and touch by taking a walk in a park or forest can be of enormous benefit in winding down from the onslaught of external stressors.
Take a real break by leaving the office desk and taking a 15-20 minute walk. Awaken your senses to the sounds of nature. You can stop by giving all your attention to just one pleasant sound of nature: a bird singing, the rushing of a stream or fountain. Try and inhale the smell of a blooming flower or wild herbs next to a path. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin or a gust of cool air.
The benefit of all this: Our immediate environment is responsible for stress increase or reduction. It influences our immune, endocrine and nervous systems. Numerous research concludes that positive nature experience reduces anxiety, fear, lowers blood pressure and has a positive influence on the heart beat and muscle pressure and especially helps to bring down those cortisol levels.
Reino Gevers – consultant, coach, author