Obviously, hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from illness.
But have you considered “washing” your brain?
We don’t have to tell you that stress can be hard to manage.
Especially in these times of uncertainty with the COVID-19 virus, stress seems overwhelming. The American Psychiatric Association reports that half of all Americans are feeling anxious about getting sick with the Coronavirus, and 40% are very anxious about becoming seriously ill or dying from it. In our jobs, our relationships and in our homes, we may feel overtaxed with the stresses that are thrust upon us.
There is good news ― no, great news. You can find relief! You may not eliminate or resolve all your stress but you can manage it in a drugless way, using technology.
This guide will help you find stress relief and get on the road to well-being. In order to find stress relief that sticks, you should know what stress is and isn’t, what are the natural remedies and some of the unique things in our society today that cause chronic stress.
We’ll also walk you through how immersive media like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can help you find stress relief.
In a recent webinar dealing with the COVID-19 virus, several health professionals talked about ways to manage acute stress brought on by the Coronavirus. You can watch the Facebook live chat here if you missed it.
Here are some things you can do right now to help reduce your stress:
Read the newspaper instead of watching the news. We aren’t advocating that you turn off the TV news altogether. You need that information to keep you safe. But be careful about how much TV news you consume. Instead of watching news constantly, give reading the newspaper a shot. The newspaper provides the same information without exposing yourself to a potential panic trigger that news with video and sound can sometimes do. You can also know that you’re getting a complete version of the day’s news beyond soundbites and headlines.
Use sleep to reset the brain. A four-year study recently completed focused on synapses, which conjoin the neuron cells so they can send signals to each other. Those signals are part of what help you learn new things and create memories. The study found that during the day, those synapses stretch and grow but need to reset each night through sleep so it can grow more the next day. Chronic stress can upset the synapses and actually can make it harder for memories to stick. By committing to quality sleep, you can counterbalance the use (and overuse) of synapses and keep the brain pliable.
Be somewhere else. Did you know that you can trick your brain into thinking you’re in a less stressful place? It’s called presence, a subjective feeling of being in another place, even though you physically aren’t. One way to achieve that presence is through immersive media, which envelopes you in a sensation of virtual peace based on the environment your brain thinks it’s in at that moment.
We have more than 20 immersive media experiences here on the Healium website. If you don’t have virtual reality goggles, you can still try out the videos on your phone, tablet or desktop by clicking on the above link.
When we experience stress, our brain and body make significant changes in an attempt to handle the perceived threat. The brain sends energy away from your frontal lobes into deeper regions designed for a more primitive response. This is why it is sometimes hard to think or we “over-react” when we are stressed.
You know the feeling when the sense of stress and anxiety kicks in. The body is so efficient at preparing for a stress response that you may not know it’s happening until it’s happening.
The nervous system will shift from a parasympathetic to a sympathetic state, heightening awareness. The adrenal glands release adrenaline throughout the body, priming it for rapid response. If the demand continues, cortisol keeps the body in high alert.
What is key is what is happening in your brain when this all starts. It all starts with your brainwaves. Yes, the brain is producing electrical currents that are “fast” and “slow.” It’s the fast Beta brainwaves that are the main sources of how the body responds to a stressor.
It’s slowing your fast brainwaves.
It sounds complicated but if you know how your brain works, there are tools to help.
The Hypothalamus, which controls the autonomic system of the body, dictates emotions and the Amygdala controls responses to threats. They correspond to messages through brainwaves, moving from the left and right hemispheres of the brain. These brainwaves are responsible for how you deal with circumstances, either internally or externally, that require a response. They are the source of how your body deals with stress.
Yes, that means stress is normal and natural. Feeling some stress is actually a good thing!
What we’re talking about is chronic and unchecked stress and anxiety.
One way to slow your fast activity is through immersive media experiences like virtual reality and augmented reality. The goal of our patented technology is to make you more self aware how to decrease your fast brainwave and increase your slow alpha brainwaves.
How else can you shift your brainwaves? By practicing good mental hygiene.
Obviously, hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from illness. But have you considered “washing” your brain?
Research has shown that poor mental health hygiene can make you physically sick. Up to 90% of visits to the doctor are related to stress. It’s life’s “dirt” that gets in our brain and if we don’t wash it out, it can short-circuit our nervous systems.
Your body has a finite amount of resources and moment to moment, your body is making decisions on where and how to use energy. During a chronic stress response, the body determines there is an immediate threat. You are in danger in that moment — even if there isn’t a clear and present physical danger.
What also happens is your body shuts down any “non-essential functions” like producing antibodies. When the antibody production is suppressed, it is more difficult to fight off infections. So yes, you need to take precautionary measures like social distancing. Tackling your mental hygiene keeps your immune and nervous systems at optimal levels.
There are things you can do like positive self-talk and guarding your heart against negative influences. Another key thing that will produce immediate results is watching your digital diet.
Especially in today’s challenges with the COVID-19 virus, it’s important to note that as you need to take care of your physical health through a nutritious diet, you also need to take care of your mental health by minding how your media diet is affecting your stress. What you consume in the media can raise your heart rate, increase the fast activity in your brain, and make you sick.
We mentioned above that reading the newspaper instead of watch the news all the time is one way to find stress relief. Here’s the research behind that tip:
Research on the effects of media in the past decades have shown a distinct impact on how one views and responds to the world. It’s shown that heavy television (and now social media) users begin to adopt distorted perspectives of how the world is based on what they see on TV and online.
For your brain, stress is stress, no matter if you watch the news or fight with someone on Facebook about the right way to social distance. And in the case of the Coronavirus, that fear and uncertainty gets amplified by the media.
“In the case of COVID-19, there is no end in sight, no resolution, causing those brain regions to become hyperactive. When we continually take in more ‘evidence’ of the threat through news and social media it reinforces the threat response,” said Dr. Jeff Tarrant, director at the Neuromeditation Institute and Chief Science Officer for Healium. “On the other hand, if you can send the nervous system signals that it is safe, it can begin to relax the hyper-vigilance, nervousness, and worry that comes with an over-aroused Amygdala.”
That means that more than ever, you need to be mindful of what you digitally consume. Put positive and uplifting things into your mind and limit what is negative and corrosive.
So put a limit on how much news on COVID-19 you watch. Seriously. There isn’t enough news to fit into a 24-news cycle, so about 15– minutes a day of headlines is plenty.
You can use that extra time using Healium to inject some positive fiber into your media diet.
Healium is a self-awareness and self-management tool that allows users to become more self-aware that their feelings have power. Healium allows you to feel like you’re in a beautiful, nature-based escape.
Healium uses data-driven video stories that can be used in virtual reality and augmented reality devices like on your iPhone or Android or with virtual reality goggles. The goal is to create an experience that allows you to be fully enveloped in a sense of “presence.” In that state of presence and under a guided neuromeditation, you can learn how to shift your brainwaves or heart rate from a stressed state to a relaxed state.
Thousands of people just like you have tried Healium to find relief for themselves and their loved ones.
As a former TV news reporter who covered lots of sadness and trauma, I created Healium because of my own struggle with anxiety and a poor media diet. After episodes of feeling dizzy, feeling my heart race, stuttering, and being consumed with thoughts of dread, I was diagnosed with stress-induced panic attacks.
I created Healium for myself along with the 41 million other people who struggle with anxiety. My team has developed a drugless way for you to self manage your stress. In three peer-reviewed journals, Healium has been shown to reduce moderate anxiety by a third in as little as four minutes.
My goal is to help you find relief not only in the virtual world but in the real world as well.
I want to note here that Healium virtual reality and augmented apps or related content are not an FDA-approved treatment for medical conditions, nor are they a replacement for psychotropic medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. Healium is also not a replacement for professional counseling or therapy, which is one of the best things you can do to help yourself.
Healium is a self-awareness and self-management tool that allows users to become more self-aware that their feelings have power. If you have questions about whether Healium is right for you, talk with your health care professional.
The advent of new technologies and studies always leads to new and exciting discoveries on helping the human condition.
There are more than 800 published studies on the therapeutic use cases of virtual reality. While virtual reality has been used to treat phobias for some time, VR on people suffering from stress or general anxiety is still a relatively new and novel approach.
Three peer-reviewed journals published studies on the benefits of Healium. The conclusions from the studies show that mood-powered experiences using Healium can significantly reduce stress and anxiety by a third in four minutes.
In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that intentionally-crafted VR experiences can be therapeutically effective in treating generalized anxiety disorders.
A study in the Scholarly Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences found that those suffering from “needle phobia” while donating blood can reduce their negative mood state in the midst of a blood draw by engaging in an immersive media experience.
Another study in the Journal of Neuroregulation demonstrated that a combination of VR and a brain computer interface can shift brainwave patterns to influence positive mood states.
Your brain is the command center of your body but your heart is the organ that keeps it in motion. Keeping the heart healthy is crucial to an impactful and healthy lifestyle, and your stress can affect how your heart functions.
To be sure, there are many things you can do to keep your heart healthy. You should consult with your doctor on any medical issues concerning heart disease and other heart-related ailments.
Here are some ways Healium helps your heart.
Healium helps downshift the nervous system. When using the Healium app on your iPhone or Android, you are learning what you need to think about to lower your heart rate. Recall a calm memory, and see how your heart rate lowers. As the app senses your heart rate slow through your smart watch, you’re rewarded with virtual images like butterflies or growing planets on your phone. Raise your heart rate and you will see the planets darken. This feedback allows you to become more self aware how to lower your rate with breathing and recalling calm memories.
Healium is more memorable than 2D meditation. You don’t have to meditate with your eyes closed. Focusing on an object or a story can have the same relaxation effects of sitting in a closed space with your eyes closed.
Healium is virtual nature. Research has shown that being outdoors or near outdoors has profound positive effects on your heart. But for those who cannot go outside (say due to stay-at-home orders), that shouldn’t stop you from bathing in nature’s beauty. Even looking at images of trees and greenery has a therapeutic impact.
We hope this guide will help you find relief from stress and find some virtual peace.
Sarah Hill is the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically-powered VR/AR immersive media channel controlled by the user's brainwaves and heart rate via consumer wearables.