It was a blustery, snowy morning the day I met Elena. There was a rawness in the air as the snow fell in huge wet flakes. Our ranching community of 100 Mile House was in a vast acreage of wind and cold. I was finishing notes on neuroscience research as I listened to the wail of the feathery drifts of snow against closed windows. The dim light from my retro cowboy lamp was one of the many pieces of western decor in my office at the Mental Health and Substance Use Clinic. Beside the lamp was a painting by a local artist of a cowboy and his horse on a hill overlooking the rolling golden hills of the Cariboo. He was gazing in awe and admiration at the beauty of the land.
My door creaked open, and the motion caught my attention. On cue, a smile lit up my face, as I waited to convey warmth to the person on the other side. My door dragged intermittently to a pause halfway open. Then the moment hung, and my whole being gravitated towards meeting the face behind it. Unknowing to me, it would be one of the longest moments of Elena’s life; the woman trapped on the other side of the door with anxiety symptoms. Her indecision held her in place, reverberating in shudders through the door to which she clung.
“Hello Elena,” I said, smiling.
The door to my office stopped midway with a creak. Nothing happened for several seconds.Then a mane of dark hair came into view again, as unruly as a lioness. She looked like a racoon with doe eyes with rivulets of mascara ran down her cheeks. She drifted cautiously, so that when she crossed the threshold, she hid her face from me.
“Would you like a glass of water?” I asked. She didn’t reply.
Rocking back and forth in her seat, her knees remained tight at her chin. She shook her hair so that tangled brown hair fell over her face, concealing her doe eyes, the mascara making tracks down each cheek. It was a defence mechanism that was getting in the way, and I imagined her face with the hair pushed away, listening intently. I sought to establish trust gradually with every word.
The Restorative Power of Heartmath
Elena was one of many clients with whom I introduced the restorative power of HeartMath. I saw how it changed her life and how she morphed into a strong, resilient and composed woman.
It was the tools of Heartmath that gave Elena room to calm herself when dealing with difficult emotions. The exercises helped to regulate her heart rhythm and gave her the mental space to reflect and assess situations without responding impulsively. The progress was gradual but sure, allowing her to tackle her anger, anxiety, frustration and self-doubt.
10 Minutes Twice a Day To Relieve Stress
Elena did ten minutes of heart focused breathing twice a day and did them during those minutes it triggered her during stressful events. This helped her to make better choices. One of the many gifts of the process was the carefree joy that was restored to her life and a tremendous increase in her self-esteem. Elena was an example of someone who had replaced her darker side with lightheartedness, resilience, and compassion. A trio that had affected her life and relationships positively.
“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” Benjamin Franklin
Resilience And Calm is a Practice
Seeing this progress in her after years of dedication fills me with a wholeness that cannot be replaced. I believe that resilience and calm in the face of adverse events and difficult emotions is a practice for mental and physical health. We must adjust as we go with the changing conditions of life, which is often uncertain. By learning flexibility, openness to change, and practicing the tools that work for us, they can equip us for any challenge that comes our way.
This technique treats the emotional turbulence quickly and works to ease stress through the heart’s intelligence. The exercises interrupt negative patterns by training us to change our heart rhythm.Shifting us away from our stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, we can then lean toward our feel-good biochemistry of serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins. With practice we create a new healthy baseline pattern to stay calm and balanced in the face of daily stressors. Follow your heart’s intelligence, rather than listen to the constant misleading chatter of your mind. The cognitive part of your brain gets bombarded with information and confused with false assumptions, ideas, and judgments. By pressing the delete button on that chatter and asking what your heart says and feels, you receive an uncomplicated answer. The wisdom of your heart is a powerful assistant that allows you to feel peaceful despite life’s uncertainties.
This is a simple yet powerful technique to release stress, bring more coherence into your heart rhythms and build resilience. Once you’ve learned the technique, it only takes a minute to do. There are three steps:
1) Put your hand on your heart.
2) Imagine your breath is flowing in and out through your heart.
3) Continue to breathe through the area of your heart. As you do so, recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside. This could be a feeling of appreciation and love toward a person or a pet, a place you enjoyed, or an activity that brought you joy. Allow yourself to feel this good feeling. If you can’t feel anything think about what you appreciate with a photo or video. Once you’ve shifted to a positive feeling try to maintain it by continuing to breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for the count of 4 and hold for the count of 4. With daily practice, instead of anxiety, you will have a new baseline pattern of relaxation and calm.
About the Author
Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters, which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences and harness the power of psychological wellness.