Heart Math For Stress Management

Heart Math for Stress Management and Better Health

 I have been a student of meditation for many years dating back to college.  I have used it on and off since then, but have been practicing more consistently now over the past few years.  What I find is that it is still not easy.  It is still challenging to get and keep your mind from wandering and focus just on the breath or a mantra.  It is a constant refocus, which makes me wonder how much benefit I derive from it.  When I ask my patients if they have tried meditation, they seem to struggle with it as well or have just given up entirely because it is too hard to keep focused.  For some, it is anything but relaxing.  The health benefits of meditation are well documented and far-reaching, yet many of us just cannot seem to do it

After much researching, I finally found something that’s effective and easy to do with measurable results. Perhaps, it is the Physical Therapist in me that likes being able to measure something to see if it is working or not.  The technique and evaluation tool is called Heart Math.  It helps to reset the nervous system and bring it into balance without having to drop into a subconscious state or keep your mind blank.  It is based on the concept that emotions are central to the experience of stress.  Emotions relay messages in the body even before the mind recognizes it.  It is why we can feel “unsettled” or “ill at ease” before we really know what is (cognitively) bothering us.  It is by focusing on new emotions that generate feelings of gratitude, appreciation, or love in combination with a breath pattern that we can help bring the (autonomic) nervous system, brain, hormonal systems, and heart into balance.


The heart communicates with the brain and the rest of the body through biochemical, neurological, and energy systems.  With Heart Math, we can measure Heart Rate Variability using various types of biofeedback devices.  The goal is to bring these systems into “coherence,” or into balance, providing a new baseline, so you respond to stress in a more productive and relaxed manner. The stressors may never change, but how you respond to them can.  We can measure Heart Rate Variability by using biofeedback and then treat by applying these techniques.


What are the benefits of using Heart Math techniques?


Here are some, but not all, of the possible benefits:

Reduce stress and anxiety

Regain Vitality by stopping energy drains that deplete health

Mental and Emotional Resilience

Leverage the ability to think clearly and discern appropriate solutions to problems

Coherent, effective communication skills

Self manage feelings

Reset or bring balance to the autonomic nervous system

Improved Sleep


How is this different from relaxation or meditation?


Relaxation or meditation is a low energy state in which the individual rests both the body and mind, typically disengaging from cognitive and emotional processes.  In contrast, practicing Heart Math and getting into more coherence, involves the engagement of positive emotions.  Psychologically, coherence is experienced as a calm, balanced, yet energized responsive state that is conducive to everyday functioning and interaction, including the performance of tasks requiring mental acuity, focus, problem-solving, and decision making, as well as physical activity and coordination.


How does it work?


When you are stressed, your body is out of sync.   Negative or depleting emotions we feel when stressed such as anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, and worry lead to increased disorder in heart rhythms and the nervous system.  In contrast, positive or renewing emotions like joy, appreciation, care, and kindness create harmony in heart rhythms and the nervous system. Other bodily systems sync up to this rhythm, a process scientists call coherence. Because coherence leads to more mental clarity, creativity, and better problem-solving abilities, it is easier to find solutions and better ways of handling stressful situations.

Measurements and progress can be tracked by using a clip that is placed on the ear lobe or a finger sensor and then plugged into your PC or Mac or other iOS device.

If you would like more information about this or would like to set up a session with me to be evaluated and learn some of these simple techniques, feel free to contact me at annelemonspt@gmail.com.   And, for those of you long distance, you can still easily learn the techniques and gain better control over the stress response even without the biofeedback measurement tools.  

Anne Lemons