Any stressful situation, brought on either by external circumstances or internal struggles, can be hard to grapple with at times. Even the word “stress” can bring about stress within the body.
Stress, particularly chronic or stress related to an overwhelming sense of trauma, has a profound effect on us. Stress decreases working memory which makes you more prone to poor management decisions and errors. Stress also reduces your lymphocytes which can make you more susceptible to physical illness. It also ages you prematurely. It’s ugly!
The way to find relief from stress and anxiety starts with understanding the stress response process. And that starts with knowing your brain.
What stress is and isn’t
What is stress, exactly? The phrase “stress” was first used by endocrinologist Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”
Sensing a need to react, the body will kick into action. 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.
This reaction to stress is so efficient that many don’t know it’s happening until they are in a full “fight or flight” mode. The Harvard Medical School points out that the brain’s wiring moves so rapidly, the visual centers will slightly lag. It’s like instinctively trying to catch a glass jar before you realize it’s falling.
The key phase is “non-specific,” meaning what stresses one person won’t be the same for another person. There are common stressors, like a loss of a job or a relationship. The demand, though, can be different for everyone.
However, the response looks similar. Much of that is biological. We still keep a part of that primitive instinct, where a lion looming in the distance meant an instant flight. In that way, some stress is good for you! It keeps you focused and prepared for change.
What most struggle with, however, is chronic stress, where the body is perpetually in an aroused state. In our modern age, our lions usually don’t look like lions but they still feel like lions.
Is stress all in your mind?
In thinking about stress, it’s good to think about the brain as full of electricity. It won’t shock you (at least not with static!) but brainwaves are electrical currents that guide how you think, feel and respond.
Scientists have identified six types of brainwaves that can be categorized in two ways:
Delta, Theta and Alpha brainwaves are considered “slow.” When activated, the brain is in a more relaxed or quiet state. For example, Delta brainwaves help you fall into a deep sleep. Someone who is meditating or taking a stroll through a garden is exercising the alpha waves. You came up with an amazing idea while driving on the freeway? You can thank your theta brainwaves.
Beta, High Beta and Gamma brainwaves are “fast.” When they are dominant, the brain is active and engaged. Significant cognitive activities are the beta’s terrain, while deep concentration is all gamma waves at work.
When you are stressed, the beta brainwaves kick into hyper-motion, sending messaging through the Amygdala, which controls emotional processing. Your brain produces high beta, which makes the brainwaves fast and active. It activates the nervous and adrenal systems, preparing the body for a physical reaction to a stressor. In an optimal situation, once the stressor is gone, the high beta waves lessen and you return to a relaxed state.
Stress is gone, life is good.
But if you have too many High Beta brainwaves that aren’t addressed, the body cannot come back to a relaxed state. That leads to sickness, burnout and other physical or emotional side effects.
There’s good news about stress and the brain.
Technological advances enable researchers to understand the nature of brainwaves. An electroencephalogram (EEG) evaluates the electrical activity in the brain. Using neurofeedback and immersive media in virtual reality and augmented reality devices, you can see how brainwaves shift from fast to slow.
That’s how Healium came into being. The goal is to make you more aware of how to self manage your fast brain patterns, try to increase your alpha, and boost gamma asymmetry which is associated with feelings of positivity.
You have healing powers inside yourself to quiet your mind.
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 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.
You try whatever is the latest craze online and it’s just not helping. Is there a natural way to cure stress ― especially one that doesn’t involve eating some random food?
The answer is yes and it involves slowing down certain brain patterns.
What does that mean and how do you do it? Read on.
Moving the brain toward positivity
The brain acts as many things, including the command center for our being and doing. The infinite number of neurons are working together, creating electrical currents of high and low frequencies.
The Hypothalamus, which controls the autonomic system of the body, dictates emotions and the Amygdala controls responses to threats. They correspond to messages through brain waves, 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.
So, the goal is to shift the brainwaves from a fast to a slow perspective through positive alignment. Research shows us brain waves that move from the right part of the frontal lobe to the left exhibit a move from negativity to positivity. By decreasing beta activity in the brain, you can also move into a relaxed state and lower stress.
Slowing my brain down is great but what does this look like for me now?
Especially dealing with self-quarantine?
Promoting a relaxed brain requires a multi-layered approach and training but it’s very doable.
In a recent webinar in dealing with the COVID-19 virus, which is causing a lot of stress and anxiety, several healthcare professionals talked about ways to help mitigate stress during what’s become known as the “stress olympics”. Not all of us have trained for it.
Dr. Stephanie Best, a trainer with the Neuromeditation Institute, noted several ways to help downshift the nervous system and promote the shifting of brainwaves. Meditation is a long-held way to help cure stress. Even for experienced meditators, this time is very taxing. So for those new to meditation, Dr. Best recommends self-compassion and taking baby steps.
“Can you take a pause and focus on your breathing for as little as one minute?” she says. “Set a one-minute timer, put one hand on the heart, one hand on the belly and tune into the sensations of the belly.”
Informally, take a gratitude pause during the day. Wherever you are in your headspace, think of something to be appreciative about. Everyone in your family is well, it was nice to speak with your colleagues in that virtual conference call. Even having toilet paper…that’s something to be grateful about!
Jenna Spector, a project manager with INOVA Well offered several ways to help cure your stress response:
Exercise: It’s a great way to relieve stress and stay healthy. You may be out of our routine because of the quarantine but it’s important to keep moving! Fitness studios are putting out videos on Youtube and other channels to help you.
Nutrition: We want to make sure we’re feeling good and the mind and physical health are all connected. Get those fruits and vegetables in! And be mindful of your snacking.
Notice your breath: Deep breathing is a great tool that doesn’t need equipment. It really is an immediate stress-relieving technique.
All these things help. But remember: the natural cure for stress starts within you.
The dawn of virtual reality, which is 360-degree experiential media, is leading to incredible breakthroughs in how people’s minds are transported to new worlds. And augmented reality, which are three-dimensional objects superimposed over the real world, broadens the capacities for new experiences.
Immersive media is data-driven and based on scientific principles of neurofeedback and meditation. While VR has been used to treat specified cases such as phobias, using VR on people suffering from stress or general anxiety is still a relatively new and novel approach.
Dr. Jeff Tarrant, director of the Neuromeditation Institute and Chief Science Officer for Healium, uses brain-based principles together with storytellers and game designers to study these unique experiences that allow the user to “be somewhere else.” In three peer-review journals, Healium’s mood-powered experiences have been shown to reduce moderate anxiety by a third and increase feelings of positivity quickly, in as little as four minutes.
In helping teach people how to shift their mind’s toward positivity, calm, or focus mood states or promoting mindfulness, Healium works.
In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that intentionally-crafted VR experiences can be therapeutically effective in treating generalized anxiety disorders.
“Our results support the notion that intentionally crafted VR experiences can be therapeutically effective, and may result in immediate, adaptive psychophysiological outcomes. Although there are a number of limitations present in the current study, here we have provided early evidence that VR-based meditation interventions have the potential to play an important role in anxiety management and stress reduction,” researchers found.
The study compared a brief nature-based mindfulness Healium VR experience to a resting control condition on anxious participants. Self-reported anxiety symptoms and resting-state EEG were recorded across intervals containing quiet rest or the VR intervention. EEG activity was analyzed as a function of global power shifts in Alpha and Beta brainwave activity, and with sLORETA current source density estimates of cingulate cortex regions of interest. Results demonstrated that both a quiet rest control condition and the VR meditation significantly reduced subjective reports of anxiety and increased Alpha power. However, the VR intervention uniquely resulted in shifting proportional power from higher Beta frequencies into lower Beta frequencies, and significantly reduced broadband Beta activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. These effects are consistent with a physiological reduction of anxiety.
Improving mood states during painful procedures
A study in the Scholarly Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences found that those suffering from “needle phobia” while donating blood can reduce their mood state in the midst of a blood draw by engaging in an immersive media experience.
“Because this anxiety has real-life consequences, a recent review of research on needle fear recommended that ‘greater attention should be given to evidence-based approaches to alleviate fear during injections,’” the researchers wrote. “This is consistent with other research showing that VR reduces pain and anxiety better than ‘treatment as usual’ in a pediatric population during a routine blood draw. The apparent success of VR in reducing anxiety may be, in part, due to the strong feeling of ‘presence, . … the subjective feeling of being in another place.’”
In this study, researchers examined negative and positive mood states before and after a brief VR intervention at a Red Cross blood drive. Results demonstrated a significant increase in positive mood states such as happiness and calmness and a reduction of negative mood states like tension and fatigue. These results support the accumulating evidence that VR has the potential to act as a powerful and effective tool for anxiety and stress management in anxiety-provoking situations.
A proof-of-concept study in the Journal of Neuroregulation was designed to determine the feasibility of combining VR and brain computer interface to shift frontal gamma brain activity and positivity influence mood states.
“Because the technology is relatively easy to use and inexpensive, it may serve as a wellness tool in work and school environments, as a calming technique for persons receiving medical/dental procedures, or as an adjunct to traditional therapeutic interventions for anxiety or depression. In fact, such an intervention may be appropriate as ‘homework’ for clients enrolled in traditional neurofeedback training,” researchers found.
Firefighters served as subjects and completed pre-post mood rating scales as well as 19-channel EEG recordings. An examination of sLORETA frontal lobe ROI’s demonstrated a post-intervention gamma asymmetry shift to the left in 3 of the 4 subjects. In addition, subjects generally reported changes in mood consistent with the frontal asymmetry changes. Overall, these results provide initial support for the idea that a consumer grade BCI/VR intervention can potentially have therapeutic utility and deserve further study.
The faces of Healium look a lot like you, your mom, your grandson, your husband, your coworker, and your boss.
There’s Raj Shah, a chronic pain patient who uses Healium to try to lower his blood pressure and pulse.
And Michael Eanes, who is a recovered substance use disorder patient who spent decades incarcerated. He uses Healium to give him virtual peace.
Or Beth Omecene Epperson, a mother whose teenage daughter used Healium to ease her panic attack.
Healium is used for several affected by disasters like the recent COVID-19 pandemic and during tornadoes in Nashville. The app is used by schools and youth centers who want to equip students with ways to self-regulate, manage stress, and learn more about their mind-body connection, as well as those who are terminally ill and aging veterans who want to virtually visit their memorials.
The faces are many but the common desire to relieve stress unites us all.
The stories you experience
A dream pool, looking at the reflection and seeing what is the next step. Tracing the pathway of a Mandalyth or using a positive memory to make flurries inside a magic snow globe.
Within five minutes, these seemingly abstract concepts and imaginary places become immersive experiences that help you relieve your stress.
Healium is based upon the power of immersive stories. Stories are how we learn and remember information. Inside the app, Healium guides you to use memories of happiness, calm, or focus to try to change your heart rate or brain pattern to meet a threshold where the experience changes.
Healium uses data-driven video stories that can be used in virtual reality and augmented reality devices like on your iPhone or Android. The goal is to create an experience that allows you to be fully enveloped in a sense of “presence” to lower your blood pressures and heart rate. In that state of presence and under a guided neuromeditation, you can learn how to shift your brainwaves from a stressed state to a relaxed state.
Healium stories are made specifically to try to downshift your nervous system and boost brain patterns associated with calm, positivity and focus. Our patented technology is the “transmission” that powers immersive media with a feeling state. We create these 3D and 360-degree video and computer generated environments with game engine software and an array of up to 24 different cameras.
Then, we stitch together the images in a sphere so the user is able to feel like they’re inside a bubble of video and see all the way around. We craft the stories in a way the user is able to control it with different feeling states.
There are more than 20 immersive experiences on the Healium website that you’re invited to try out. No need for a full-on VR kit. Just watch the videos, follow the mediation and feel your stories.
Pro tip: Watch the videos on your phone and move your device 360 degrees to give you the sensation you’re inside these beautiful scenes.
The American Heart Association noted that stress can cause secondary behaviors that can lead to heart disease like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Ways that we may use to cope with stress like excessive drinking, smoking or physical inactivity can also lead to problems with your heart down the line.
To be sure, there are many things you can do to keep your heart healthy and consulting with your doctor on any medical issues and other heart-related ailments is one of the best things you can do for your health. Meditation and mindfulness is another. If you’re looking for ways to self-manage your stress, you might want to consider Healium. It’s a drug-free, immersive media product that in three peer-reviewed journals has been shown to reduce self-reported anxiety in as little as four minutes.
Here are five ways Healium can help your heart:
Use meditation to downshift your nervous system.
When the brain feels stressed, it shifts from a higher level of cognition to a primitive level that’s ready to rapidly respond. It’s often called your “fight or flight response.” When using the Healium app on your iPhone or Android or having a virtual reality kit, you are guiding from the fast Beta activity to the slow brainwaves through neurofeedback techniques. As the app senses your heart rate “slowing your brain waves, you’re rewarded with virtual images like butterflies or growing planets on your phone. The sympathetic part of your nervous system, which floods your body with energy, decreases and the parasympathetic part of the nervous system kicks in. Why do you immediately feel stress relief? In part, because your mind thinks it’s somewhere else.
Healium makes biometric data easier to understand.
It’s never been a better time for Big Data. Forbes estimates that the smart wearable market will hit $27 billion dollars by 2022. A lot of people are using smart wearables for fitness and health care. But how are they using it in real time? And does it help them?
Healium transforms your heart rate from a ring or a number on a flat data dashboard into something responsive that you can interact with. Lower your heart rate and watch the Solar System light up.
You’re not just tracking your biometric data, you’re learning how to control it in near real time. Or through a Brainlink Lite EEG headband, your brain patterns are controlling the experience. Recall a positive memory, increase your gamma asymmetry and feel yourself float up to the top of a beautiful waterfall in virtual reality.
Healium is more memorable than regular 2D meditation.
Sometimes, maybe often, we try to mediate. Trying to get into some sort of Lotus position, focusing the mind…sort of. Before we know it, OMMMM becomes ZZZZZZ.
Mediating with your eyes open, full present in the environment around you, always brings tangible benefits. 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. Research shows that even looking at images of trees and greenery has a therapeutic impact. Healium kits surround you in nature in virtual and augmented reality. Through research, Healium has shown to reduce the fast activity in the brain.
Healium allows you to see your feelings and discover your power.
Inside Healium apps, you can see your feelings through the biometric data from your wearable, displayed as a firefly moving up and down the screen. What you see, you can control. Once you recognize the power of your thoughts and feelings in relieving stress, you begin to gain the power to help your heart and improve your life.
Research on the effects of media in the past decades have shown a distinct impact on how one views and responds to the world. Communication researchers have studied “cultivation theory” among television viewers and now, those heavily active on social media.
Cultivation theory asserts that those who watch television for many hours will adopt a view of the world that mirrors what they watch on television. For those who watch the news constantly, it may be a heightening view of a “scary world,” with rampant crime and violence, social turbulence or lately, a very bleak and hopeless future because of the Coronavirus.
Also, there’s a term in journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Meaning, those stories that have direct impact in terms of numbers of those affected or impact within a society will be seen as the top story.
Obviously, global news events are the top stories but in a constant media stream on TV and online, the “emotionalizing” of stories, almost trying to find the new angle or latest victim, can affect psychological health.
To be sure, there are things to be concerned about in the world and everyone should take precautions against COVID-19 seriously. If you want to learn techniques in calming your stress and anxiety, check out this Facebook Live video .
How the brain activates to stress
For your brain, stress is stress, no matter if you watch the news or are being chased by a lion.
A section of your brain called the amygdala is designed to scan for danger or threats in the environment. According to Dr. Jeff Tarrant, director of the NeuroMeditation Institute and Chief Science Officer of Healium, when something is seen as a potential danger, that part of the brain activates the body’s stress response and will remain “on” until the threat is resolved.
“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. Tarrant. “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.”
Does that mean you have to stop watching the news? No. But you need to eat your positive fiber.
You need to eat good food and get plenty of exercise and rest to be physically healthy. In the same way, You can think of your media consumption as “food” for your mind.
I like to think of inspirational broadcasts and podcasts, good music and being out in nature as ways to wash out the negative fiber in your digital diet.
If you can’t make it outside and only have a few minutes, immersive media experiences like Healium also balance out the negative fiber from the constant media.
But it’s a balance.
If you eat too much dessert, you will get sick. It’s the same with the news media, we just can’t help listening to the latest scandal but one bite and we’re tempted to binge watch for the next ambulance chasing story.
When you’re watching the news or trying to get the latest updates online, just remember two things: Your feelings have power. You have the ability to downshift your nervous system and relieve your stress.
And, we are in this together.
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Cleanbox Technology delivers state-of-the-art smart tech hygiene solutions for disinfecting AR/VR HMDs, Communication Headsets, Small Electronics, Eyewear & Masks.
In just 60 seconds, Cleanbox says it safeguards employees and customers with UVC (UltraViolet C) that destroys 99.99+% of viruses, germs, and bacteria on all parts of VR headsets that sit closest to the eyes, nose, and mouth, which are the major contagion points. Independent lab testing recently undertaken at a Biohazard Level 3 lab shows that Cleanbox UVC engineering kills SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) on surfaces and on masks. Tests done on N-95 masks show a 99.9% efficacy after 60 seconds and 99.999+% (log 5+) after a two-minute cycle.
If you have a Cleanbox, spray the headset with nanotech anti-septic that comes with the unit and place the VR headset along with the VR cover in the Cleanbox. The cleanbox uses UVA and UVB light to clean the headsets (1 headset per min.)
Put on clean gloves first and then discard the gloves after you’ve finished cleaning the headset. If you don’t have gloves, thoroughly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after cleaning the headset.
If you don’t have a Cleanbox, put on clean gloves and use a PDI sani-cloth wipe (preferably with the gray top). Gently wipe the face mask and around all of the headset surfaces with the PDI wipes and allow to dry for 3 minutes.
If you don’t have a wipeable facemask from VR Cover, this is not ideal but you can clean the cloth interface with Virex and then set out to dry.
For single users, you can use a can of compressed air to blow dust out of nooks and crannies.
You can clean the lenses using a dry, soft, lint-free cloth. Oculus advises to NEVER use a liquid cleaner on the lenses as it could damage the lenses. However in some institutions, using a dry cloth is not ideal so an alcohol-based lens cleaner is recommended.
CAUTION: Take care as the lens can easily scratch; use a consistent, counter-clockwise motion when cleaning the lenses of the headset. Never store your virtual reality headset in sunlight. Much like a magnifying glass, the sun can fry the lenses.
Put on gloves first and then discard the gloves after you’ve finished cleaning the headset. If you don’t have gloves, thoroughly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after cleaning the headset.
Replace the disposable sanitary cover after each use of the Oculus Go. Peel off the paper backing behind the cover and stick the disposable barrier on the vinyl face mask that has been cleaned according to the previous protocol.
The vinyl face mask is reusable and can be wiped with sani-wipes and set out to dry for three minutes or preferably put inside the Cleanbox.
I’m working with aging or chronic pain individuals who require assistance with the VR headset. How do I ensure they’re comfortable during the VR Experience?
A virtual reality experience is not for everyone, so it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure the user has an enjoyable experience. Check with the person’s physician or close family members to ensure there aren’t any limiting medical or mental conditions. If the user has a history of seizure or motion sickness, they’re likely not an ideal candidate for VR. Ask the user if they even want to see virtual reality, explaining the process as best you can. If they don’t want to do it, don’t pressure them. We explain VR to older individuals like a “High Tech Viewmaster”. (Some people used Viewmasters during WWII so they may understand that concept).
In order to prevent any undesirable experiences, the following guidance should be followed by whomever is assisting the user:
NEVER allow the user to stand up while they’re watching a VR experience.
NEVER take your eyes off the individual while they’re watching the experience.
1. Clean the facemask with a hypo-allergenic, alcohol-free antibacterial wipe with the protocol above.
2. Once the steps listed above are complete and the video is ready to play, explain to the user what to expect and if they are having any trouble, to tell you, or give a hand signal so you can help them.
CAUTION: Instruct the user to alert you immediately if they feel uncomfortable or dizzy. Discontinue use (where appropriate) by immediately removing the headset.
NOTE: Instruct the user to use a thumbs up/thumbs down to communicate how they feel. If given a thumbs down signal, immediately remove the headset.
3. Assist the user as they put on the headset.
NOTE: A seated position is ideal if possible, but lying down is acceptable, you will just have to reorient the view outside of the app by holding down the “O” button.
4. Let the user adjust their own headset, assisting as required until it is comfortably secured with a clear view.
5. In order to focus, ask the user (or assist if needed) to move the headset around their forehead until it’s in focus. The user is also able to wear glasses if that’s easier but not ideal as it may scratch the lenses.
6. Play the video for the user first then place it on their head.
7. Ask the user if they’re able to hear the audio clearly as soon as the experience begins. Headphones are not required as the sound out of the Oculus Go’s built in speakers is really good and works well with hearing aids. Try using the volume buttons on the top of the headgear.
8. One minute into the film, ask the user if they’re still feeling alright and remind them that they can look all around – Left, Right, Up and Down.
CAUTION: If you see a thumbs down or sense any discomfort in the user, discontinue use immediately by removing the headset.
NOTE: Closely monitor the user’s body language during the duration of the experience to ensure they’re comfortable.
Why aren’t there any headphones supplied?
We have found that headphones can be problematic due to interference with certain hearing aids. The audio output from the headset is close enough to the ears to be clearly heard or picked up by most hearing aids. As such, we recommend the use of headphones only in specific cases when they may be necessary. If the user is not able to hear the film with the audio turned all the way up, you might consider using headphones.
Can the user wear eyeglasses?
It’s up to you and the user. Eyeglasses have the potential to scratch the lens of the headset or prove to be a barrier for the viewer. That said, if the user doesn’t want to remove their glasses, it’s not a necessity. Feel free to experiment to optimize the user’s comfort level. In our experience, the viewer is most comfortable without eyeglasses, so we recommend starting there.
What should I prepare for after the headset comes off?
Some users have tears so you might want to have a Kleenex handy. Ask the user how they feel after you take off the headset and remain with them for some time afterward to ensure they’re still feeling comfortable. Do not let them get up and walk immediately after the VR experience without assistance.
Questions? Or do you have a recommendation to add to this list? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
My 17 year old daughter was in a car accident last Thursday morning.
It was the first day this year with Black Ice, and as she proceeded down the onramp of the highway, she slid in and out of two lanes of traffic until a guard rail on the opposite side of the highway finally stopped her vehicle.
The impact of the accident was enough to pop her tire, bend her wheel well & remove the bumper & mirror on her driver’s side.
We found out later that day that it also punctured the radiator & transmission. We watched in shock as the tow truck driver hauled her car to the shop to see if it could be repaired and for some reason, she didn’t want to come home & rest. She was insistent that I take her straight to school as she couldn’t miss any “class time” during her Senior Year or her GPA may drop and she would lose her college scholarships.
Later that day, my mom picked her up from school and took her to work which she was determined to go to because she didn’t want to lose the money. While she was at work, we found out that her car would be totaled as the repair costs far exceeded the value of the car, unfortunately, I had only carried liability insurance on her car so she would now have to rely on us to take her to and from places until we can save up for a new car.
She returned home from work, ate dinner & started to do her homework and within 15 minutes she was having a full panic attack.
She came running upstairs to find me complaining that she had something stuck in her throat and that she couldn’t catch her breath.
After a quick assessment, I could tell that she wasn’t choking on anything but that she was having a full-blown panic attack like the ones she had when she was a child. She was literally so worked up from stress that she couldn’t fully swallow or take in a full deep breath.
As I tried to calm her down and debated taking her to the ER, I somehow remembered the Healium app & thought it was worth a try as she was wearing her Apple Watch, so I grabbed her iPhone and downloaded the app. Within 60 seconds she was watching the first exercise of the plant growing & the butterflies starting to hatch.
I sat there in awe watching as she listened to the calm voice on the app, followed all of the instructions and after another minute she was able to keep her heart rate down enough to hatch 3 butterflies. After another minute she sat down on the bed beside me to show me all of the butterflies that she had hatched. She could breathe, she could swallow, she was calm, smiling, laughing and we were both at a state of peace for the first time that day.
We are truly blessed that she walked away from the accident with not even a scratch, but the anxiety from the impact of the accident, the trauma from the loss of her car and the pressure she had put on herself to keep pushing through her day was way too much for any adult to deal with let alone a child. There is nothing more overwhelming as a mother than watching your child suffer to breathe knowing that you can’t fix it.
I will be forever grateful for the gift you gave us that night with your app. It was the best $4.99 that I have ever spent and the whole world needs to know about it.
For more information about Healium’s augmented and virtual reality apps, please visit https://www.tryhealium.com/buy
Obviously, hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from illness. But have you considered “washing” your brain? No, I’m not advocating pouring hand sanitizer in your ears. Whether you realize it or not, poor mental health hygiene can make you physically sick. Let me explain: Stress is responsible for up to 60% of all illness and disease, according to the American Medical Association and up to 90% of doctor visits. It’s life’s “dirt” that gets in our brains. And, if we don’t wash it out, it can short circuit our nervous systems. To help you wash your brain, here are five ways to up your mental health hygiene and boost your immunity.
You know what stress feels like, the tightening of muscles, restricted breathing, racing heart, and worry. While we naturally feel these things when we experience difficulties in life, we can also experience stress simply by remembering something from the past or imagining what might happen in the future-something that hasn’t even happened yet.
Whether we are reacting to something happening in our world or something imagined in the mind, when you experience stress, your brain changes, it prepares for action.
Let me explain how this happens by examining brainwaves. This explanation comes from Dr. Jeff Tarrant, Founder of the Neuromeditation Institute and Chief Scientist for Healium.
“When your brain is stressed, it tends to produce more fast brainwaves, such as Hi Beta. This activates regions of the brain associated with holding attention and coordinating thoughts and feelings. When there is an excessive amount of fast activity, the brain can get stuck in this pattern, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and depleting your resources. In order to keep balance in your nervous system it is important to counterbalance this fast activity. That’s where we can help. Healium is designed to quickly shift out of a stress response, into a more relaxed, calm, and present state of mind. It does this by reducing Hi Beta activity and shifting the brain into a more positive pattern.”
Virtual nature bathing. Sometimes a real walk in the park isn’t possible because you’re at work, the weather’s bad outside, or it’s in the middle of the night. But that shouldn’t stop you from bathing in nature’s beauty. Research shows that even looking at images of trees and greenery has a therapeutic impact. Healium kits surround you in nature in virtual and augmented reality. I use my Healium kit before I go to bed at night to quickly downshift my nervous system and wash everything that’s happened during the day out of my mind. Through research, Healium has shown to reduce the fast activity in the brain. Healium is an app that works on your mobile phone or on your virtual reality headset.
“This is like the stress olympics,” said Dr. Tarrant talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is what experienced meditators train for.”
But what if you’re not an experienced meditator?
Mind your Digital Diet: You are what you consume in your media, social media, and news headlines. As a news reporter for 20 years, that constant digital diet of negativity made me sick and led to panic attacks. I recovered by replacing my digital diet with more ‘fruits and vegetables’ like inspirational or spiritual media, books, and podcasts. Even listening to reports of a natural or health disaster can raise your stress levels which reduce your immunity. I’m not advocating turning off the news altogether. You need that information to keep you safe and to know who to vote for but if the only thing you’re eating in your digital diet is chock full of negativity….negative fiber will make you sick.
Self talk at the sink. If you don’t have the ability to talk to a therapist, teacher, family member, or friend, talk to someone, even if it’s yourself. Self-talk is a powerful tool to shift the negative narrative playing in your head. I have regular conversations with myself on a daily basis every time I wash my hands. When I lather up, I look at myself in the mirror and say my name, followed by these words, “Sarah, you are beautiful.” Stress is ugly. Not only does it age you prematurely, but it zaps your self-confidence. Shift that negative narrative playing in your head. If no one is pouring beauty into your soul, it’s up to you to be the wind in your own sails. You don’t need anyone to tell you you’re beautiful when you have the power to say so yourself. You. Are. Beautiful. Say it every time you wash your hands. Lather, rinse, repeat. Molly. Joe. You. Are. Beautiful.
Stoplight Circular Breathing. What else are you going to do at the stoplight? I played clarinet in high school. My band teacher, Mr. Berry, taught me how to do what’s called “diaphragmatic breathing,” which is like kryptonite for your lung muscles. Your diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle located just below your lungs and your heart. It contracts continually as you breathe. This kind of “belly breathing” encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure. Thirty years after Mr. Berry’s band class, I still practice breathing that way at intersections. I see a red light, and it reminds me to slow down and breathe. I breathe in a circle around my face. I inhale and count to six through my nose, and then exhale to the count of six through my mouth. Inhale one part of the circle, exhale the other half of the circle out your mouth. I also find that groaning loudly on the exhale feels good! Inside Healium, you’ll find some fascinating breathing stories tied to the windy patterns of a mandalynth.
Guard your Heart. Just like hand sanitizer can repel germs, you too can let go of thoughts and people who don’t serve you. If someone says something negative to you, you get to decide whether your heart receives that comment. It doesn’t have to sink into your soul. Have you ever noticed how a duck’s feathers have the amazing ability to repel water? It can be totally submerged in water, but yet it’s underskin doesn’t get wet! Be a duck. If something doesn’t serve you, let it roll off your back.
Research shows the stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (lowers the number of lymphocytes). Stress also leads to unhealthy behavioral coping strategies, like drinking, overeating, and smoking. Stress is linked to: headaches; infectious illness (e.g. ‘flu); cardiovascular disease; diabetes, asthma and gastric ulcers.
Lowering your anxiety can reduce toxins from your nervous system and protect you from physical illness. So, in a sense, you are washing your brain. What are some of the ways you practice good mental health hygiene? I’d love to see your tips in the comments.