Depletion to Renewal: The HeartMath® Program as Tool to Effectively Transform Stress
BY: DR. JULIE MILLER
Stress can be defined as the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts the normal balance. Stressors can be physical, such as illness or injury, or they can involve certain situations, circumstances, or interactions with other people. Although any major life change such as a new job, move, or loss of a loved one, can be a significant source of stress, the accumulation of day to day stressors such as rush hour traffic, waiting in line, and endless emails can also have a detrimental effect on wellbeing. However, it is important to recognize that it is not the situations themselves that are stressful, but rather it’s our perception of them that dictates whether or not we will feel stressed.
When people describe themselves as stressed, they often use emotions such as anxiety, irritation, frustration, lack of control, and hopelessness. Emotions, to a much greater degree than thoughts, activate and drive the changes in the body that correlate with the stress response. Consequently, the key to improving health and vitality by effectively managing stress is to learn how to regulate our emotional experience. We know that “negative” emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety can disrupt optimal physical and mental function and the opposite is also true. Emotions we label as “positive”, such as joy, love, appreciation, and kindness, facilitate a wide range of processes within the body and help to renew our energy.
Research conducted by The Institute of HeartMath has shown that when you intentionally shift to a positive emotion, heart rhythm changes immediately resulting in greater synchronization between the heart and nervous system, including balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. It also creates a beneficial cascade of neural, hormonal, and biochemical effects that is both immediate and long lasting. As measured through heart rate variability (HRV), this state of synchronization produces a smooth wave pattern the heart rate called coherence. Conversely, negative emotions lead to increased disorder in the heart and nervous system, as shown by a jagged, irregular HRV.
Because coherence leads to more mental clarity, creativity, and better problem solving skills, it makes it easier to find solutions and better ways of handling stressful situations.
In order to achieve coherence, the HeartMath program uses different techniques involving breathing and emotional shifts while monitoring HRV to provide immediate feedback. These techniques are simple and easy to use and only require a few minutes each day to build resilience, increase energy, and promote focus, mental clarity and emotional balance. Heartmath has been used to successfully address stress, anxiety, depression, anger, high blood pressure, and to improve work productivity and support peak performance.