What’s Enrichment? 6 Stress Busting Tips

National Zoo, Washington, DC

National Zoo, Washington, DC

Enrichment is a term I hear my animal keeper friends use all the time. They are talking about adding things of interest and play for the animals they are caring for at the time. I have listened to their conversations for years and related to their passion for a well-rounded and healthy environment for the animals. In some cases, when the employers were not supporting enrichment, my friends would become very annoyed, talking about the welfare of the animals. My labradoodle has a lot of enrichment in her environment. As I meditate this morning, she is playing with some of her toys and wagging her tail. She is enjoying her enrichment. This leads me to thinking about humans, specifically the people I am working with as well as myself and others around me. So I ask: “What’s your enrichment?”

Having items of interest and things to help us grow as people is vital to a successful and a happy life. When we are enriched we are full of great memories, experiences, energy and fulfillment. Enrichment decreases stress in the animals my friends care for and enrichment also decreases stress in humans. When you overwork or deny yourself the joys of life, you lose your luster and your sense of being fulfilled. Stress is caused in many cases by being distracted from what is truly important and allowing priorities to somehow get out of alignment. The good news is that alignment can always be reestablished. It takes enrichment to help you once again be in alignment and to have manageable stress levels.

6 Stress Busting Tips:

1.       Slow, Deep Breaths – When you take slow, full, deep breaths your nervous system begins to calm down and release tension that is causing stress and discomfort in the body. When you are breathing in a shallow manner from your chest, you are not actually receiving the best amount of oxygen. This shows me that you are dealing with some type of pain, known or unknown, and your body is attempting to mitigate this pain or separation.  Slow, deep breaths reset your system and allow your body’s natural healing power to work.

Pass-a-Grille, FL

Pass-a-Grille, FL

2.       Enjoying a Sunrise or Sunset – The transition of the day is a powerful time of renewal. So many people flock to our beaches here in Florida to watch the sunsets. They are beautiful year round in many ways. When I go to the beach, many people wait for the green flash and once the sun disappears, they leave. Probably rushing to the next stop for the evening. Then there is myself and some others who remain after the sun disappears. The beauty in the sky magnifies as the clouds light up in the west and the east. The spectacular show of nature has just begun when the sun disappears. Many people who think they enjoyed the sunset only really have the enjoyment of the beginning, much like leaving a great play after the first act. They have missed the entire beauty because of being in a hurry. The benefits of this enrichment have been reduced by the fast pace and the failure to enjoy all the benefits. I see this with sunrises as well.  The beauty starts before the sun appears and lasts much longer than many people realize.

3.       Taking Pen and Paper into Nature – Taking pen and paper into nature and drawing or writing your thoughts and ideas is a great way to relieve stress and bound up thoughts and emotions. Our fast paced lifestyles can steal our serenity by keeping us moving and disconnected from the world around us on a day to day basis. By spending time sitting and writing or drawing while in nature, many inspired ideas and solutions can appear for your life’s desires or questions. The writing or drawing clears the way for those solutions you seek to come forth for you. Being outdoors in nature tends to support better breathing and relaxation so the benefits of the first two can also be realized. Breathing, enjoying nature with pen to paper is a 3-fold enrichment for your daily life.

4.       Balance Alone Time and Social Time – This will vary greatly from person to person. Introverts recharge when alone, they need more alone time. Extroverts recharge when with others, they need social time. Regardless of your temperament, the key here is to honor your temperament and allow yourself to recharge in a way that supports your life. I am more introverted than many of my friends so I need more alone time. Some of the people in my life are so extroverted that they seem to be always with others. There is no one right way to get the balance, there is only your way. Honor your personal style and others will also honor you.

5.       Allow Rest – Only machines can go not stop. Humans are meant to rest after any work. Our systems are circular rather than linear. What I mean is that humans have cycles and we would be wise to honor our biological cycles. By trying to be like a machine, we are not honoring our essence and we are setting ourselves up for sickness on many levels. Your enrichment here is allowing for rest and decompression after a time of work. Rest is not sloth. Rest means the body, mind and spirit can recuperate from the work. Rest and checking out are not the same thing. Rest is a conscious time of rejuvenation. Shutting down and checking out or participating in an addictive behavior is not rest. Rest is quieting the mind and body to allow rejuvenation. Rest is required for a happy life.

6.       Take a Break –  Give yourself a break. When you are saying “I can’t take it anymore!” then it is time to take a break. The fear that you will miss something or things will pass you by or any other fear is controlling you when you will not take a break. Take an internet/social media break even if it for a few hours. Take a weekend break from work and enjoy life. Take a vacation and unplug from the tensions and stressors in your environment. Simply the gift of breath, when focused on as a gift is healing.

Stress is caused when you are pushing too hard or in some way not in your personal flow. Some stress is important for growth, yet too much stress can cause damage. Only you can take charge and reduce your stress levels and your stress response. The answer is not in a pill or in anything outside of you.

How are you enriched? Are you accessing and enjoying your enrichment or are you treating yourself like a machine? Enrichment for humans can come in many forms yet the goal is the same as my animal keeper friends use enrichment for the animals they care for every day. Enrichment makes life more full and complete. It is essential for thriving rather than mere survival.

Instead of working yourself to the brink of exhaustion, follow some of these enrichment tips. When you are on social media, visit our Facebook page and enjoy some enrichment!

Be Well!



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