National Geographic launches a mental health campaign with a focus on de-stressing

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This May, National Geographic has given a nod to Mental Health Awareness Month in the US – with a new campaign unveiling a range of mental health research in the form of articles, videos, photography and more.

Content includes downloadable phone wallpapers, ASMR nature YouTube videos, soothing Spotify playlists, and a “How Stressed Are You?” questionnaire first developed by psychologists in 1983.

The organization also released a series of think pieces about a culture of urgency in America that apparently leads to burnout; the efficiency and effectiveness of meditation; and multiple views on experiencing stress.

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“In our 'always-on' world, people are more stressed than ever, and the science is clear that chronic stress negatively impacts our health,” said Nathan Lump, editor-in-chief of National Geographic, in a press release.

“We want to help people better understand the effects of stress and encourage them to slow down and take the time to prioritize their mental health,” Lump also said.

He added that he hoped “these tools will encourage and facilitate that behavior.”

The initiative for NatGeo came from a deep dive into how scientists have been trying to solve stress for generations because of signs that stress can have life-altering consequences, from heart disease to a weakened immune system.

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In an interview with Fox News Digital, NatGeo contributor Yudhijit Bhattacharjee shared details about his research – noting that “stress is all around us.”

“Stress pervades our lives,” he said. “Stress has serious consequences for our health, our well-being, even the way our brain functions, how our immune system functions, and so on.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVwENDOOjnM

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Bhattacharjee, who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, said it has become “clear” that social isolation is a “major contributor to stress.”

“When we are significantly stressed, we are more susceptible to viruses and germs.”

“In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a lot more research into exactly how stress affects us,” he said. “For example, we didn't know as clearly as we do now that stress often wreaks havoc on our immune system.”

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“When we are significantly stressed we are more susceptible to viruses and germs… and in this post-COVID world this is definitely very relevant.”

Bhattacharjee's research also examined how stress can affect adolescents and children.

Aniko Korosi, a researcher at the University of Amsterdam, told NatGeo: “Chronic stress in early life has more serious and long-lasting consequences because many connections are made in the brain.”

Raising their triplets is a challenge for Caitlin and Chris Nichols of Lawrenceville, Georgia. The children are born prematurely and have long-term health problems. Caregivers of chronically ill children themselves struggle with health problems. Telomeres – protective caps at the ends of chromosomes – are shorter than expected, a possible sign of stress-related aging. (Brian Finke/National Geographic)

According to Bhattacharjee, experts have discovered that high stress can hinder the development of a child's brain.

“Not much attention has been paid to the impact of stress on babies,” he said. “The stress that parents experience trying to make a living, keep a roof over their heads — all that stress ultimately gets passed on to their children.”

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“And while the adults can probably handle the stress and their brains are already fully formed, it is the children who will ultimately have to pay a price that will last their entire lives.”

Bhattacharjee said NatGeo's campaign “calls attention” to what stress does to our bodies and our children, and advocates for people to “try their favorite way to de-stress.”

woman meditates outside with headphones on

Teaching people meditation at a young age could make a “major contribution” to society, said a National Geographic employee (not pictured). (iStock)

Meditation – a well-known method for de-stressing – has been more openly embraced by the public and is even being introduced to children in schools, NatGeo reported.

Bhattacharjee assumed that programs like these could make a “major contribution” to society by “changing the way humanity responds to everyday stress.”

“Scientists are learning exactly how meditation ultimately helps reduce stress and thereby control some of the adverse effects of stress,” he said.

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Bhattacharjee considered other activities to be “meditative” in their ability to manage stress, such as exercising, singing karaoke, spending time with a pet or walking.

“Meditation is kind of an umbrella term for a number of contemplative practices and many of them focus on paying attention to the breath and thoughts,” he said.

woman kisses her dog while drinking tea

“I think we need to spend some time with ourselves and being bored to increase our well-being,” said one expert. (iStock)

The NatGeo contributor said many people today live in a “hectic social media environment” while surrounded by issues ranging from the environment to politics – making it a good time to pay attention to our stress levels and learn how we these can calm down.

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“This constant search for stimulation, this addiction to stimulation, adds to the stress,” he said.

“[Scrolling is] it probably won't help… even if you think it will entertain you. Maybe that just adds to our stress load.”

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He added: “I think we need to spend some time with ourselves and being bored to increase our well-being.”

For more health articles, visit foxnews.com/health.

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