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.
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 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.
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