When Tim Ferris (author of 4 Hour Work Week) interviewed Adam Robinson (global investments guru), he asked Adam, "What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months or in recent memory?"
Adam replied, "Well, this purchase is not less than $100 but it is too close to pass up. The HeartMath biofeedback monitor. I enthusiastically adopted biofeedback HRV training, and in a few weeks, learned to quiet my mind, gaining the ability to achieve a Zen-like calm on demand."
So what is this HeartMath biofeedback monitor and HRV training about?
HeartMath is an internationally respected stress management system that uses simple heart-based techniques to reduce stress and shift our mind/body to a state of "coherence". When we're in coherence, a specific rhythmic pattern of our heart increases our emotional resilience, clarity and creativity. When we’re in coherence, we’re in an optimal state of mind/body balance, a state of grace, ease and flow.
Our ability to create and sustain coherence is determined by our ability to regulate our emotions, which can improve with daily practise. Biofeedback devices, referred to by Adam Robinson, are available to help train you to shift from a stressful state into coherence.
(Image used with permission from the HeartMath Institute)
I teach my clients, with or without a device, HeartMath techniques that effectively reduce stress. I encourage them to practise the following “Quick Coherence” technique every morning, every night before sleep and whenever a stressful event occurs.
Step 1: Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.
Try inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds, but most importantly, find a rhythm that feels comfortable.
Step 2: Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.
Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a companion animal, a special place, an achievement etc., or focus on a feeling of calm or ease.
Sustain that feeling and enjoy being in coherence.
Go to www.stockdalewellbeing.com to to find out more about the HeartMath approach to stress management.
About ten years ago, my marriage suddenly ended, triggering shock, grief and deteriorative life changes.
My new life was completely unaligned with my heart which caused prolonged stress. Unsurprisingly, 18 months later I was diagnosed with cancer.
Thanks to my support network, the surgeons and whatever other universal forces came into play, I survived the cancer. I also woke up to the importance of reacting carefully to the cards we are dealt.
As Epictetus said, “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” According to Admiral James Stockdale, who survived 7.5 years of torture and imprisonment during the Vietnam War, this philosophy underpinned his attitudes, actions and ultimately, his survival.
If I knew then what I know now about the link between stress and our health, I would have looked for effective ways to overcome depleting emotions (heart-break, grief, fear) that impair our immune system. By doing so, I would have gained more clarity and had a greater cognitive capacity to consider other actions that were more aligned with my heart and values. If I knew then, what I know now about the link between stress and our health, I would have made better decisions and my body may not have opened the door to cancer.
The good news is that there are effective ways to reduce stress and manage emotions. I teach them to clients in workshops and one on one, via video calls.
The first step is to determine whether you have too much stress. A small amount of stress can improve motivation and performance. Excessive, prolonged stress impedes your immune system and makes you vulnerable to illness- mental or physical.
Most people know when they're experiencing stress overload. Signs include: worry, muddled thinking, impaired judgement, hasty judgement, nightmares, insomnia, indecision, negativity, loss of appetite, over-eating, loss of sex-drive, alienation, depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of confidence, breathlessness, skin irritation, fatigue, muscular tightness, deteriorated posture and headaches.
If you're not sure whether your stress level is healthy or too high, you could try a free online stress test. If your score indicates that you have a moderate, high or very high risk, please take action to care for yourself.