Is stress your enemy?
Life is moving at a faster pace than ever before, and often, we get caught in the middle, feeling stressed and at a loss for how to keep pace. As a nurse and wellness educator, I am always looking for new ways to find balance in my life.
I recently began teaching a class called Shift on Stress. It examines how culturally, we view stress as “the enemy” and how we can adjust the effects stress has on our health.
Based on the research publications of Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist at Stanford University and author of the Upside of Stress, I teach participants how positive emotions impact our body and can lead us to optimal health and performance. I use HeartMath™ technology to measure coherence and heart rate variability (HRV), both of which are impacted by positive emotions such as care, compassion, gratitude and love.
Coherence is akin to being in the “zone.” High coherence happens when the nervous system of our heart synchronizes with our brain. The electromagnetic energy from the heart is much stronger than that of the brain, and because of this, is informing our brain of our feelings at a rapid rate. Think about walking into a room full of people. Generally, we can point to a feeling of a “good vibe” or a “bad vibe.” Bad vibes drain us of energy while good vibes renew our energy.
HeartMath™ measures this coherence and shows that you can make a difference in your physiology for the better when you generate positive, renewing feelings. Instant shifts can be visualized when using this technique.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a general, non-specific measure of health and fitness. Practicing coherence increases HRV for most people. A higher HRV can mean better long-term health.
Our emotional landscape is influenced by both our nervous system and our hormonal system. A balanced nervous system allows for flexibility between feeling a “fight or flight” stress response and being in a “relax and restore” mode. We need both to adapt to all of life’s constant stressors, so finding that balance is key.
The same is true of our stress hormone system. Cortisol is well known as the stress hormone that over time wreaks havoc on our health. But, don’t sell it short, as we need it to survive when “fight or flight” is upon us. Changing our stress mindset and generating positive, renewing emotions will allow us to produce hormones to even out the level of cortisol, resulting in greater health outcomes and performance.
Shift on Stress equips participants with options to practice coherence techniques including HeartMath™ sensors for measuring and tracking coherence and HRV. These technologies are available on many mobile devices.
The confidence from practicing the instant shift that comes with the quick coherence technique can be utilized in any setting to reset draining or demanding situations, allowing one to optimize their performance.
About the Author
Carolyn Oleson, RN, BSN is a wellness nurse specialist for Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. She has over 30 years of experience as nurse and has enjoyed her roles in pediatrics, obstetrics, occupational health, wellness, and care management. In her spare time she keeps current on health and wellness issues and is involved with her church. She enjoys staying active by biking and spending time with her husband and three grown children.