Got stress There’s a gadget for thatIt seems that everywhere I go the talk is of stress – or maybe I’m just thinking about it, and so I see it. Clients, friends, family – most of us are feeling it.

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So it’s not surprising that everyone feels it – and it is a fact that those who live with chronic illness, and the demanding circumstances that arise from living and dealing with RA or other autoimmune diagnoses have more than their share.

What interests me more than diagnosis is how do we deal with it?

I have been road testing two little gadgets. I want to describe them to you, and see if they might be useful for you.

The first is from the Heart Math folk. I have written about this group of researchers before, and their work studying heart coherence. ( The theory is that we can bring our hearts to coherence, and when we make a practice of doing this regularly, it lowers the effect of stress on our bodies, and helps our minds stay calm and focused which is good for body, mind and spirit.

I assumed that I was pretty good at this – after all, I meditate, and am told I give off a calm energy. That must mean I am calm, and not stressed, right? But how could I tell?

I decided to order the emWave, a small gadget that you hold in your hand. It  measures your heart coherence and records it on your computer, or simply shows you by flashing lights. The graph or lights indicate if you are “in coherence.”

It was shocking to discover how little coherence I really had. It took effort and practice to get in the zone – and it was difficult to maintain.

What was even more surprising was that though I assumed I could get to this place of calm and steady energy by doing some gentle breathing, that didn’t really move the needle. What changed the color of the lights (how you tell if you are becoming less chaotic and more coherent) was what I was thinking..

You could assume that I, who preach the power of our thoughts on a regular basis would get this. It turns out, in our own lives it is harder to put into practice!

And practice is what it takes. Regular systematic practice with this little machine helping me, reminding me, that I tend to think stressful thoughts more than happy and enjoyable ones… The thoughts aren’t necessarily negative. They tend more to be busy, or neutral. But those thoughts do not help me defuse the stress in my body.

What I have found is that thoughts of people I love, or places, or events – thinking about them, savoring them, helps my heart calm down and ease. It is a fun practice – with great payoffs.

The emWave is fairly expensive, so you may want to try a simpler version that comes in an app called “GPS for the Soul.”

Developed by the Huffington Post and Heartmath folks, this little app uses the camera aperture on the back of your phone to measure your blood pressure and also gives you a reading on your coherence.

While less accurate than the emWave, it is still useful – even as a reminder that your thoughts matter. It brings me back to balance when I practice it, and offers a quick check-in during the day or when I am on the road.

You may not be a “gadget-y” type, but finding some way to help yourself keep track of what you are thinking, and remembering the effect this has on your body and soul will go a long way to easing that tension and stress that you carry.

As always, interested in your thoughts and reactions!