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
Filed under blood pressure, cortisol, cortisol effects, exercise mental health, healing nature, immune system, stress hormones, Uncategorized
Tagged as burnout, healing nature, nature, nature meditation, reconnecting, stress
Tomorrow my wife Alyce and I are starting our walk on the Camino from the French town of Lourdes. Its time to walk things off again and to reconnect on many levels after a more than challenging year. For centuries, if not longer, countless people have walked these ancient paths mainly as an inner and outer spiritual journey. It is believed that prior to it becoming the mainly Christian St. James Way the Celtic people had walked these ceremonial paths in paying homage to the Earth Goddess.
Over the years I’ve walked several Camino routes alone, with a good friend, in a group and with my wife. I’ve been asked so why walk the Camino if you can go on a hike anywhere else? Whats the big deal? Why are so many thousands of people in modern times rediscovering this ancient pilgrimage route and taking time out to “walk things off”.
I’ve had some of the most interesting meetings with people from all walks of life on the Way. Some take time out after having lost a loved one, or having recovered from a serious illness or finding themselves at a crossroads in life. Others simply enjoy the walking. But nobody I know has gone home from the Camino without it having triggered something something in their lives. Its been a long tradition to leave a stone at these kilometre markings as a sign of respect to previous pilgrims, or to let things go that you no longer need in your life, or in memory of a cherished person.
During the Middle Ages it was common for at least one member of a family to go on the pilgrimage to “cleanse” the family line of “sins”. Many never came back. It was an arduous route in those times with many people dying of disease and illness. Today practically every town caters towards the pilgrims with good food and comfortable accommodation. The route is well-marked although every pilgrim will tell a story of having got “lost in the way.” It is part of the process of reconnecting, finding ones rhythm and getting back into ones own space.
This time we will be walking about 270 km over two weeks from Lourdes to Puenta La Reina, taking things as they come. We will keep you posted.