2 min read

Feeling overwhelmed? Find some water

On the power of water to combat daily stressors
Feeling overwhelmed? Find some water
Photo by Luca Bravo / Unsplash

Sustain issue #16 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

You may not know the name Tom Boyle, but he is responsible for one of the most incredible athletic accomplishments.

After a teenager on a bike was struck by and dragged 20 feet under a car, Boyle hopped out of his vehicle nearby and lifted the car up so the boy, bleeding and screaming for help, could be released. I’ll repeat: He LIFTED THE CAR for several dozen seconds so the boy could be moved. Incredible.

The reaction is what scientists call red mind — where the brain kicks into fight or flight survival mode.

What red mind powers in this instance is nothing short of incredible. The trouble is that our brains are only so evolved and it categorizes all stressors nearly the same. That means we have instinctual stress reactions at work like this ALL. THE. TIME.

It may not give you the strength to lift a car, but it gets your adrenaline pulsing.

New email. Slack. Urgent need from your VP on a Friday afternoon. Microaggression from a co-worker.

All of these can force our brain into an adrenaline-filled spike comparable to being chased by a bear or finding hulk-like strength to lift a car. Only it can happen multiple times a day at work.

Which leads us to work like crazy because our blood is pumping. And we do this day after day until we just crash at the end of the week.

Now, some red mind isn’t inherently bad. But too much without its calming counterpart — blue mind — has negative results as time compounds

As Wallace J. Nichols outlines in his book Blue Mind, the mere presence of water has tremendous healing powers. It can make us happier, healthier, and more at peace.

So, if you’re feeling burdened with too much red mind (aren’t we all?!?!?), make sure to tap into the restorative powers of blue mind regularly. The research finds that the healing powers are nearly identical whether you’re on, in, under, or even near water.

That means all water activities are weighted equally from surfing to kayaking, swimming to taking a bath, and even just a stroll along a local lake or river (these are all great activities for your Three Good Pockets, btw).

So, see if you can find some time near water in the next week and watch as your red mind experiences of the day blissfully wash away, pun intended.

At a sustainable pace,


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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