Written on May 22, 2012 by Dr. Laurie
I have written about it before, but HeartMath is on my mind again. I am working with a number of clients who are dealing with stress. They have stress from work, their illness, and sometimes, just life itself deals them a hand full of stressful events.
They don’t have to be negative – even events like getting married, or moving to a wonderful new job bring that cascade of stress hormone surging through the body. Often we don’t “feel” stressed – because we’ve adapted to that level of demand, or because the demand isn’t high enough to cross a certain threshold. But our body knows it, and reacts accordingly.
We can’t sleep well, or we are incredibly tired, or we don’t want to eat, or we eat all the time. We may not feel our heart racing, and our pulses skittering along, but the reverberation in the body takes its toll.
Often the response is just to grit their teeth and “muscle through.” ‘This will pass” we tell ourselves.
But there are other ways to help our bodies manage and deal with the physical/emotional toll that stress takes.
The Heartmath research introduces a set of exercises meant to bring “coherence” to our heart rate, and through that to bring calm to the nervous system.
Coherence is a slow warm heart rate that can fill us with a sense of well-being.
It is described in contrast to “chaos” which is when our heart rate skips around.
In his book, The Instinct to Heal, Dr. Sevan-Schreiber describes the process and the science behind it in some depth.
I want to pull out one exercise that can help you begin.
Sit upright in a comfortable position. Take two slow deep breaths. As you breathe, let your worries flow out with your breath. (so this may take more than two!).
If we were doing an eastern meditation, the next instruction would be to “empty your mind. Let it go blank.”
But for heart coherence, begin to bring your memory and attention to something that makes you happy. We are looking for ordinary events or memories. A glance at someone you deeply love while they are sleeping. Your pet looking up at you and brushing against your legs. The flowers growing outside your window.
Bring this picture to mind, and let it permeate your senses. Enjoy it. You can feel your heart slowing down, and your mind relaxing.
The practice is to bring this to mind several times a day. To enjoy these memories and let that enjoyment bathe your nervous system. When left to its own devices, our mind likes to jump to worries, problems, and “issues.” This practice begins to strengthen our hearts and their connection to our brains. We become calmer, and better problem solvers. We also become healthier, and maybe even a bit happier.
Our stress levels go down a bit.
All that for a little breathing and memory work!
Let me know how it works for you.