Nature and Fractals Reduce Overwhelm and Stress

Fractal 1Many of us have times of overwhelm and stress during these times of uncertainty. It may be only sporadic or more pervasive. Overwhelm is the consistent state of feeling in over your head, overburdened, and unable to sustain manageable control over the various expectations in your day. It has a domino effect. Usually beginning in one area of life, it can extend to all areas as the body begins to fatigue from the chronic stress.

If your overwhelm becomes more than occasional, you may notice that you develop chronic headaches, stomach aches, body aches, and can’t seem to get enough sleep.  These are symptoms of adrenal fatigue and your body’s natural reaction to chronic stressors.

Mother Nature’s Surprising Antidote to Stress and Overwhelm

As we continue forward, it’s helpful to expand our strategies for coping with the stress, not only of the immediate but of all the unknowns of the coming months. Most of us find that being out in nature is one of those strategies. What is it about a stroll in the woods or going for a walk along a country lane that seems to bring a sense of inner peace?

Or perhaps walking barefoot on the beach, watching the waves and collecting seashells brings much joy into your heart.

Is it simply because you’ve “got back to nature”? Is it because you are outside breathing fresh air for a change instead of being stuck in the stress box you call your office?

Those are all true, but there is another perfectly natural one-word explanation for why you feel so calm and content. FRACTALS! They’re all around you, wherever you look.  They are even inside you – your body is full of fractals: Your veins, nerves and even your bronchial tree is fractal.

What are fractals and how do they reduce stress?

The simplest way to describe a fractal is a pattern that repeats itself over a decreasing scale.

Take trees for example. The branches are copies of the trunk, only smaller.  The smaller branches are copies of the larger branches they stemmed from. Twigs are copies of the smaller branches. Each part of the tree is a smaller copy of the whole.

If you were to look at a snowflake under a magnifying glass before it melts, you would see that it is made up of the same complex repeating pattern.

Since the beginning of humanity, we have been surrounded by fractals.  They are Mother Nature’s building blocks and our evolutionary comfort zone. More examples include fiddlehead ferns, broccoli, aloe vera plants, crystals, angelica flowers (and many others), lightning, and seashells.

How do you use fractals for stress relief?

  • Don’t spend so much time inside. Get outside more. Stand and watch the clouds, or sit on a park bench and watch the trees swaying in the breeze for a few minutes. Do some deep breathing and fill your lungs with fresh air while you’re there. You’ll soon feel your stress melting away like a snowflake that lands on a surface.
  • If you can’t go outside when you feel your stress levels rising, just look out the window for a few minutes instead.
  • Add fractals to your indoor environment and take breaks to view and appreciate them and their soothing patterns.  These can be houseplants like fractal succulents or aloe vera. They can be seashells that have those patterns.
  • Fractal art and other man-made fractals, according to research, are equally effective. You can just as quickly lower your stress levels by watching a fractal screensaver on your computer for a few seconds or watch a video like this one:
  • Fractal Coloring Books can serve this purpose, too. These are distinct from mandalas and are labeled as such. Here are some examples:

Yes, it might seem incredible, but studies have shown the calming effects that fractals have on the mind really do take effect very quickly.

Fractals are all around, hiding in plain sight. Focus on them and relieve your stress and overwhelm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep Breathing for Stress Relief

Breathe“Calm down, take a deep breath.” “BREATHE.”  We often give or receive this advice when we or someone else is stressed, irritated or angry.  It is really good advice, but a few breaths in the midst of a stressful situation are but a tiny piece of the most effective use of deep breathing for our well-being.

During these days of the pandemic, we have a group of stressors that we may not have experienced before. Expanding our repertoire of tools to deal with them can only be a good thing.

Did you know that your body has a natural relaxation response?  Deep breathing exercises can effectively invoke your natural relaxation response and change the way your body responds to stress.

Your body can use deep breathing to allow the following body functions to happen:

  • You can increase the level of NO (nitric oxide) in your cells. This helps dilate blood vessels
  • You can lower your blood pressure
  • You can slow your breathing down with deep and meaningful breaths
  • You can lower your heart rate so you can feel calmer
  • You can slow down your metabolism so that it is more relaxed and efficient

Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. By doing deep breathing, you engage your brain so that you experience an increased sense of focus, profound calmness, and relaxation of the body.

While you can do deep breathing exercises anywhere, you need to do it for 20-30 minutes per day to lower your levels of stress and anxiety. That time can be spread throughout the day, as described below. Deep breathing will bathe your brain in the vital oxygen your brain needs at all times.  You can experience calmness, peacefulness, and a better sense of well-being.

Types of Deep Breathing Exercises

There are several ways you can go about deep breathing to reduce stress:

  • Visualization with deep breathing. This only takes a few seconds to complete the exercise. You consciously relax the tenseness in your shoulders and neck, which is where many people tighten up during stress. Then you take a deep breath and visualize the bottoms of your feet as having holes in them. Imagine that, through those holes, warm, comforting air is flowing up from the ground to fill up your entire body. The warmth is relaxing and you’ll feel less stress within seconds. Imagine your muscles soaking up the warmth and relaxation under the feeling. Do this several times a day when you feel the most stress.
  • Breathe with a stuffed animal. This exercise takes a little bit longer but it can be extremely soothing. The purpose of the stuffed animal is to remind you to breathe through your abdomen. As you take those deep breaths, it will rise and fall with each breath. If it isn’t, you aren’t breathing deeply enough. Lie down on a couch or bed and put one hand in the area of your chest. Place your stuffed animal in the middle of your abdomen. Keep your eyes closed and allow your body’s muscles to sequentially relax from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Breathe in a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out. Try this for about twenty breaths and repeat throughout the day when you feel the most stressed out.
  • Escape breathing. Escape into your mind by seeing yourself in a calm and serene place. Use all your senses to imagine yourself in this place. Breathe deeply and imagine yourself as calm as possible in this place. It may be a beach with the crashing waves of the ocean, the forest with its rustling leaves and the sounds of birds, or a meadow, where the wind is blowing serenely on your face as you breathe in deeply.

Fitting Deep Breathing into your Day

Try these tips:

  • Do the deep breathing exercises while engaged in other daily activities: while stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, sitting on the train or bus. You can even do deep breathing while walking around.
  • Set one or two deep breathing sessions per day, perhaps in the morning and just before going to bed. This will allow you to de-stress so that you can start your day stress-free and end your day stress-free.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is when you use your brain just to notice the world around you without any type of judgment or criticism. This will increase your focus on the here and now so that you aren’t dwelling on past stressors.

To explore the topic more, check out these books for adults and children about deep breathing for health:  Deep Breathing for Adults and Children