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Working with Stress, Anxiety, and Self-Regulation

HeartMath Heart Rate Variability & Coherence Biofeedback

In working with anxiety, resilience is the key to success in addressing anxiety. Anxiety is not

something to get rid of because it is a necessary part of our physiology. Anxiety is a warning

system, a call to action due to perceived threat. Resilience is our ability to address the threat and return to a more normal state. Our bodies have built-in systems that activate the warning and then de-activate, or return to a more relaxed state. Difficulties can occur when the anxiety is overwhelming or chronic. Also, sometimes the cause of the anxiety is coming from deep within our physiology below the level of conscious awareness.

The HeartMath organization, known for their scientific research into all aspects of the heart and heart functioning, has created a biofeedback system to help people reduce stress and anxiety and improve self regulation. The key to this program is HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and Coherence.

We normally think of heart rate as being quite steady except during times of exertion. However, our heart rate is constantly varying even in resting states if only in minute amounts, registered in milliseconds. This variability is actually seen as a good thing and has even been recognized as an indicator of overall health. In fact, a low HRV number can be a predictor of sudden cardiac death and all-cause mortality. Because of this, more and more people are now tuning in to their HRV as a general health indicator.

HRV & Coherence

Because HRV is also an indicator of our ability to adapt to our constantly changing environment, it also enables a way to improve HRV and thereby better manage stress and anxiety. In addition to HRV the HeartMath program analyzes coherence between the heart and brain. The heart has four different ways of communicating with the body, and the brain in particular. It turns out that, contrary to what might be expected, the heart is the emperor in the process, with much more information going to the brain than the other way.

Coherence in this process can be thought of as the efficient interaction and coordination of all the body processes. The greater the coherence between the heart and the brain, the better health and regulation of the entire body will be. It would be something like an orchestra getting all the instruments in tune and the timing together as the conductor directs for a more effective job of creating the musical presentation as best possible. The real driver of this process is our emotions.

However, only positive emotions such as love, compassion, joy, and empathy will create a positive effect on coherence. Not only does this improve our physiology, but there is a noticeable improvement on our experience of stress and anxiety. Also improved is self-regulation, such as impulse control. This program has provided benefit for a wide variety of mental, emotional, and behavioral patterns. The program can be used as a standalone procedure for milder concerns or as an adjunctive procedure for more complex cases.

Stress affects the body physically, mentally and emotionally. What can we do about it?

When we are stressed, our body is out of sync. Depleting emotions like anger, frustration,

anxiety and worry, lead to disorder in our nervous system. Renewing emotions like appreciation, care and kindness create order, which is called Coherence, an optimal physiological state that results in increased mental clarity, self-security, and resiliency. research has shown that when we intentionally shift to a positive emotion, our heart rhythm immediately changes. This shift in hear rhythm creates a favorable cascade of neural, hormonal and biochemical events that benefit the entire body.

The HeartMath program is designed to transform your stress and create better health and

resilience. You can, with this biofeedback system learn to reduce your stress and anxiety,

develop self-regulation skills and build mental and emotional resilience.

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