Part of raising your vibration or having good vibes is taking action to reduce stress and promote mindfulness. Controlling stress is linked directly to mental and physical health and there are many ways to manage it.
We all know that stress doesn’t just come in one shape; it can be physical strain, mental exhaustion, emotional fatigue, or countless others. Scientists even refer to the damage done to our organs by air pollution as “oxidative stress,” which is damage at the chemical level. Other forms of stress, even psychological ones, also cause oxidative damage at the chemical level.
However, not all forms of stress are bad. Straining your muscles at the gym, for example, just makes you stronger. When balanced with recovery, moderately stressful experiences in our past can even help protect us from oxidative damage due to stress in the present. So we don’t need to eliminate it, that’s impossible anyway, we need to manage it so it makes us stronger.
Molekule and some of our friends came up with a few ways to help manage your stress, Breathing air, grounding yourself in nature, and using clean water.
More than food, water, or shelter, we need air. For many of us, our air comes along with different forms of pollution that physically stress our bodies. It’s possible to reduce the impact of contaminated air by taking steps to keep it clean. When we breathe that cleaner air we also want to breathe well. When stressed, we breathe shallower, which restricts oxygen and raises anxiety. Some easy breathing exercises can help us learn to breathe better.
Air pollution from traffic, industry, and wildfire can affect the central nervous system and is linked to depression, dementia, and many other neurological problems. Oxidative stress and inflammation is caused by fine particle pollution entering the blood through the lungs.
It’s best to keep the windows closed if there is traffic or other sources of air pollution outside and use HVAC for mechanical ventilation. In addition, air purifiers can provide a layer of protection from particle pollution that can seep in from outside. Be sure to get one that handles a wide variety of pollutants and can remove both particles and gasses. Molekule’s PECO purifiers are designed to reduce the levels of particles of all sizes, volatile organic compounds, ozone, viruses, bacteria, and many other forms of pollution.
Activities like cooking can increase the amount of fine particles in the air to levels just as bad as a busy freeway. It is best to try and avoid fine particles completely, so when the source of the pollution is indoors, be sure to open windows and use any available vents when cooking, cleaning, or just spending a lot of time indoors. Air purifiers are also a good idea if ventilation isn’t enough to clear the air quickly of particles and chemicals.
Even without a source of particles, carbon dioxide can build up from just existing. Excessive carbon dioxide can impact decision making and make you less productive, which may have a more indirect effect on your stress levels. No purifier can remove carbon dioxide, so there’s no substitute for opening the window for a few minutes every hour to let it out.
Learning how to breathe sounds odd, but breathwork actually refers to a series of methods from many disciplines. In addition to helping with breathing problems like asthma, proper breathing techniques can reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD symptoms, and mental health experts are using them to treat these issues.
Anyone can start with simple mindful breathing by simply sitting down and focusing on each breath filling up the body like water into a jar. Slowly expand your chest and pull your belly in toward your spine. This type of calm breathing is linked to stress relief.
There are quite a few techniques out there, but the best breathwork is taught by instructors trained in a breathwork discipline. The most common is pranayama, the breathing exercises associated with yoga. In several studies, improvements in heart and lung function, pulse rate, and blood pressure were associated with pranayama. Always talk to your doctor before starting breathwork practice for the symptoms of a serious or chronic issue.
We come from the outside world but spend 90% of our lives indoors, so it stands to reason that grounding ourselves by spending time with nature also makes it easier to use our natural forms of stress management. There are a variety of theories as to why contact with nature is linked with improvements in mental health.
Flora and Fauna
One study found more green cover and birds in the afternoon helped to avoid triggers for stress, depression, and anxiety in cities. Just being around house plants is associated with quicker recovery from mental fatigue.
Living indoors also means we are constantly looking at artificial light, which has the potential to impact circadian rhythms and cause sleep disorders. We also miss out on what sunlight has to offer, which contains a full spectrum of the light energy we need.
Grounding yourself in nature by soaking up the sun for 15 or so minutes a few times a week ensures your skin cells absorb UV light to produce Vitamin D. Sunlight also helps keep away seasonal depression and even helps our brains to function better. But remember there is evidence for artificial light helping seasonal depression but none for tanning beds helping with Vitamin D.
We are also finding out that our bodies use the sun’s infrared light as well, which is invisible light that usually just carries heat. But above and beyond the heating, studies on infrared therapies have found it is absorbed by cells to drive processes linked with helping chronic pain, recovery from injury, and reducing acne scars. One literature review found that infrared was more effective than bright visible light in treating seasonal depression.
Molekule’s partner Higher Dose has several at-home infrared therapy options. You can read more on their blog about the benefits of infrared and other biohacking wellness methods.
Clean water inside and out
Ready access to water is one of the greatest benefits of the modern world, and we use it to help with stress in too many ways to count. Keep in mind water that goes on or in your body still has to be free of impurities that might cause stressful complications.
Water that goes in your body
The water that you drink and use for cooking is no exception. In America there are protections in place to ensure that municipal water supplies don’t have dangerous levels of bacteria, heavy metals, or other pollutants. Unfortunately these protections are unevenly enforced with tens of thousands of water suppliers in violation of the Clean Water Act and as many as half a million households without proper plumbing just in our country. People in rural areas, low income neighbors, disadvantaged communities, or other groups with less economic and social clout bear the brunt of the problem, both in America and worldwide.
There are organizations like UNICEF that help to provide clean drinking water everywhere and can use your donations. An area particularly hard hit right now is Ukraine. Our partner Berkey Water Filters is donating filters through the organization Samaritan’s Purse. You can go to their website to give money toward medical and evacuation services in Ukraine.
Water that goes on your body
Most people in the world shower daily or at least multiple times per week. Doctors and dermatologists aren’t recommending less showers, but do say that for some people too much showering can dry and damage skin and hair.
Relatively recent research is also showing that the chlorine we use to decontaminate water supplies may present a cancer risk when inhaled during showering, due to the formation of chloroform from hot water and chlorine. Common water-saving low-flow shower heads may aerosolize bacteria and other harmful substances into very small droplets, allowing them to penetrate deep into your lungs.
One option is to soak in hot water instead of shower. Bathing has the same impact on the skin, but compared to showering is more associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and helping manage stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. Another is simply to get a showerhead that filters your water. Our partner Jolie makes a filtered showerhead that removes chlorine in addition to hard water and other impurities that can affect your hair, skin, and body.
Keep an eye on this blog for more wellness, and our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for everything on the science of clean air.