Try This Trick to De-Stress Fast

Changes to our vision are a natural part of our stress response but not one that’s often talked about. Known as stress controlling our visual field, when we experience stress, our eyeballs rotate inwards towards our nose to allow our focus to narrow and us to concentrate solely on the stress threat in front of us without any other visual distraction. As this happens, it triggers our body’s sympathetic nervous system which mobilises us to deal with the danger.

In ancient times, that stress threat might have been a lion waiting to pounce or a large boulder falling, but in modern terms, this kind of response can happen when an unwanted email lands in our inbox or when we read a piece of news we weren't expecting. In other words, we deal with this kind of highly stressful reaction and visual adjustment technique on a very frequent basis, and it’s hugely damaging to our health and wellbeing, causing stress levels to rise and rise.

The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to control our visual field and shake off the high-focus visual mode we enter. We can do this by adopting what’s known as panoramic or peripheral vision and it’s the perfect technique to adopt if you’re sitting at your desk all day feeling groggy from too much screen time and you’ve just received that gut-wrenching email.

To do this all you need to do is consciously work on averting your gaze by keeping your eyes pointed at a fixed point a few feet in front of you. Working near a window helps with this as it offers something broader to look at. This increases your field of vision, allowing your brain to receive as much of your visual environment as possible. Not only will doing this help diminish the fogginess that comes with working in front of a screen all day, but you’re also able to decrease the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and encourage your body to enter the parasympathetic nervous system instead. You might even find yourself letting out a big sigh as you do. And if you do, it’s a sign that your diaphragm has been released which means your parasympathetic nervous system is taking charge and you’re on your way to relaxing and unwinding. Even if you can’t manage to switch your visual field consciously, taking lots of planned breaks from your screen will reduce feelings of fatigue and allow you to involuntarily step out of that narrow focus mode.