Stress creates anxiety, causes us to under perform at work, and affects the productivity of us as well as our companies. When our work achievement dips, this causes further stress on our body. It becomes a vicious circle.
The good news is that there are many digital resources that we can make use of to calm our anxieties and help us to manage stress – in the office or working from home. Here are our top three picks and they are all free:
1. Meditation apps
Are you feeling anxious about the task you have on hand? If so, meditation can help you calm down. Download an app like Calm or Headspace and give yourself 10-15 minutes to zone out from the world and let the many meditation exercises you can choose help bring your mind to the present and relax. Overtime, you will feel calmer and less anxious.
Meditation apps are especially useful during work from home days as all you need is 10-15 minutes of quiet time to wind down the curtains, sit or lie down in stillness and play any of the meditation tracks.
A 2014 randomized clinical trial review of treatments given to 3,515 adults found that there was “moderate evidence” that mindfulness meditation improved symptoms of depression and moderate evidence of improved anxiety.
Meditation apps are not a replacement for anyone experiencing symptoms of depression or moderate to severe anxiety. It can, however, be used in conjunction with psycotherapy and prescribed medication.
Both Calm and Headspace come with a free trial period of either 7 or 14 days. However, there are still some tracks that are free after the trial have ended. If you ask us, the US$60+/year for access to the hundreds of meditation tracks that are specially curated for each app is well worth it.
2. Nature videos
Is your stress preventing you from falling asleep or keeping you in a constant state of panic? Try watching nature videos. Nature videos provide you with an all around calming sensory experience. The vastness of the wide plains, the depths of being underwater, the sounds of waves, plants swaying to the breeze can help put you in a relaxed mood.
According to researchers in a recently published study, sounds found in nature help relax the functioning of our fight or flight response; the typical physiological reaction humans have in times of stress.
The research, which was done in conjunction with Mark Ware, an audiovisual artist who recorded sounds in nature versus sounds in artificial environments, consisted of participants listening to either artificial or natural sounds while laying in an MRI machine. While having their brains scanned for clues into what works best to relax the modern mind, participants also had their heart rate monitored, which is generally elevated in stressful conditions.
During the research, the team found that activity in the default mode network of the brain (a collection of areas which are active when we are resting) was different depending on the sounds playing in the background.
According to Science Daily,
“When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. There was also an increase in rest-digest nervous system activity (associated with relaxation of the body) when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds, and better performance in an external attentional monitoring task.
Interestingly, the amount of change in nervous system activity was dependent on the participants’ baseline state: Individuals who showed evidence of the greatest stress before starting the experiment showed the greatest bodily relaxation when listening to natural sounds, while those who were already relaxed in the brain scanner environment showed a slight increase in stress when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds.”
3. Zone out to Binaural Beats
When you hear two tones, one in each ear, that are slightly different in frequency, your brain processes a beat at the difference of the frequencies. This is called a binaural beat. Binaural tunes immerse you in the moment.
Binaural beats are claimed to induce the same mental state associated with a meditation practice, but much more quickly. Binaural beats are said to:
- reduce anxiety
- increase focus and concentration
- lower stress
- increase relaxation
- foster positive moods
- promote creativity
- help manage pain
A controlled study with roughly 100 people about to undergo surgery found that binaural beats were able to significantly reduce pre-operative anxiety compared to similar audio without the binaural tones and no audio at all. In the study, anxiety levels were cut in half for people who listened to the binaural beat audio.
Do you want to try out the binaural experience for yourself? All you need is a pair of binaural headphones or earphones, a laptop/tablet/phone and an internet connection. Youtube has plenty of Binaural beats videos that you can choose from.
Do not let the stress of work and working from home to affect your mood or decrease your focus and creativity. Try out the mobile apps, audios and videos suggested above and tell us if they do help you to calm your mind.