Singing yellow warblerWe can’t escape it. We can’t outrun it.

Some people turn to Ben & Jerry for help. Others zone out to Law & Order. For many, tablets, smartphones, and laptops bring needed relief.

Stress. Fatigue. Life is full of it – financial strains, work pressures, raising children, relationships, and health problems, to name a few. If you struggle with it, you’re far from alone. One study estimates close to 75% of Americans regularly experience physical and psychological symptoms due to stress.

Trauma can increase sensitivity to stress

Chronic stress impacts emotional, mental, and physical health for anyone. If, however, you have experienced trauma, you may be more sensitive to stress. Trauma can cause changes in the brain which make it harder to recover from stress. It’s harder to bounce back, and, over time, the effects of each stressful period can be more intense and stay around longer.

If you are regularly exposed to trauma and suffering, you’re likely well-acquainted with the impacts of ongoing, sometimes unrelenting, stress. Reducing your stress is essential, but it can seem impossible when the primary source of stress cannot be controlled. Perhaps you are working in a highly stressful job, raising a child with challenging behaviors, or providing care to aging parents. It may seem impossible, yet your very life may depend on it. Without relief, adrenal fatigue and other serious physical problems can develop, as well as depression, anxiety, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Here’s one fairly simple way to get some relief…..

Nature as a stress reducerHealing benefits of nature

Time and again, research tells us that spending time outdoors is healthy. But, of course, we don’t really need statistics and graphs to convince us that fresh air, soothing sounds, and beautiful landscapes are good for us. It can be as simple as sitting out on your porch or as involved as a multi-day backpacking trip. Either way, being outdoors is good for your mind, body, and soul.

More specifically….bird songs help reduce stress

It also turns out, according to a recent research study, that hearing bird songs can reduce stress and attention fatigue (from, say, concentrating on office work or parenting all day). Simply being exposed to certain bird songs allows us to feel more relaxed and refreshed, giving us a healthy break from the stress.

Can You Take Five?

If you want to take five and add bird songs to your stress reduction toolkit, experiment with what works for you. Here are a few suggestions to try:

A mindful approach: find a space away from distractions to quietly sit or walk while listening. Allow the songs to come into your awareness and simply be present with the songs.

A connected approach: if you are seeking new ways to connect with your child, spouse, or partner, looking for birds can be a fun bonding activity to try out. Simply being out in nature, in and of itself, tends to bring people closer together, and having a fun, shared goal might be just the ticket for better connection.

A playful approach: challenge yourself to learn to identify a few birds by their songs. Knowing their identity is not necessary, of course, to reap their songs’ mental health rewards. But if learning new things gets you pumped, or you enjoy a fun challenge (check out my blog series on play for more about this), you can try your ear at learning to identify birds simply by listening to their songs.

Here are a few bird songs to get you started (click bird name for song sample):

Northern Cardinal (aka Redbird): sounds like cheer cheer cheerNorthern cardinal

Mourning Dove: their call is a soothing, quiet coo coo

Yellow warbler (the bird photo featured at the top of this blog post): their song sounds like sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet

If you like the peacefulness of the nighttime:

Eastern Screech Owl: a soft and hauntingly beautiful trill or whinny

A final “note” (pun intended): Many birds will be singing throughout the spring, and some continue even through summer. I hope you will find ways to get outside with open ears and a curious mind. However, if you find yourself stuck inside, wishing for the sounds of nature, check out this free app that will deliver bird songs and other nature sounds right to your ears.