“I am bad at meditation,” is something I often hear when patients and I discuss stress. Luckily, there are many tools to aid in stress management – journaling, yoga, exercise, art, biofeedback, music, loved ones. Each patient needs a unique combination of tools and techniques. HeartMath may be one beneficial tool to assist with managing stress, by promoting coherence and increased heart rate variability (HRV).
What is HeartMath?
HeartMath combines biofeedback technology with self-regulation skills to modify stress physiology and promote wellbeing through a state of coherence. Biofeedback is the electronic monitoring of bodily processes to achieve control of a physiological function. The self-regulation skills practiced alongside the technology have been shown to increase emotional awareness, vitality, wellness, cognitive flexibility and problem-solving. In addition, negative symptoms from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD may decrease.
Coherence and Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
In this context, coherence is a state of physiological frequencies oscillating in rhythm. The systems being entrained to be in coherence are primarily breathing rate, heart rhythms, and brain waves. When these physiological systems are synchronized, it is like a well-orchestrated symphony of wellbeing.
HRV measures changes in heart rhythm from one heartbeat to another. It is an overall marker of health and wellbeing. Its primary clinical uses have been to predict sudden cardiac death and all-cause mortality, assess fitness level, look at sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous system balance, and assess autonomic system (ANS) changes due to mental/emotional state changes.
Level of coherence and HRV can be observed while using the biofeedback technology. When paired with self-regulation skills, the body can be trained to go into a health-promoting state of high coherence.
The HeartMath Process
The process contains an initial 60-minute intake evaluation to obtain baseline measurements. Your health and stress management goals will be assessed. From there, biweekly to monthly 30-minute check-ins will objectively monitor and track your physiologic changes with biofeedback technology, gauge level of coherence, provide self-regulation skill education, and monitor goal progression. Biofeedback technology (HeartMath Inner Balance Trainer) is available at our office for rent or can be purchased online. Lastly, supplements, additional health coaching or supplemental yoga sessions may be added on for extra stress management support.
What to Expect
Appointments will be spent discussing your progress with the goals outlined from the intake evaluation. In addition, you will be connected to a finger and ear probe, which will be recording your HRV and coherence in real-time. From this information, we will be able to see physiological changes and improvement. Additional education on self-regulation techniques and stress management skills will be discussed according to your needs. As always at the IMC, we adjust our treatment protocols to be patient-specific and tailored to you.
Brooke Kollman is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach and a Registered Yoga Instructor. She is also a certified HeartMath practitioner. Brooke was drawn to the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) because the center holds the same philosophies as she does. Each person is unique, dynamic, and multi-faceted, thus requiring a personally tailored approach to health and wellness.Call (970) 245-6911 to schedule a complimentary consultation or for more information.