Solutions for Major Stressors

Solutions for Major Stressors


HeartMath Institute’s long years of scientific research and clinical trials have helped improve thousands of people’s lives worldwide. Whether you, a friend or loved one is seeking help for job stress, anxiety, fatigue, sleeplessness or another stressful condition, you will find proven, easy-to-use and free solutions here.

Each of these pages describes a major stressor, scientific research on its underlying causes and triggers, and a HeartMath Tip with a tool for immediate and ongoing relief. Included on some pages are a tool’s benefits and what people are saying about their experiences with HeartMath resources. Be sure to look for the recommendation on each of the Major Stressors pages for special resources such as e-books and technology for additional relief.

Major Stressors

Solution for Stress
You rush from place to place to keep up with obligations at home, school, work and socially. Life keeps moving faster and faster.

It’s a lot and it’s exhausting! While your energy and resistance are being drained, your stress level is going up. You probably experience this as anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, sleeplessness, depression or other serious problems.

At the HeartMath Institute, we understand the toll it might be taking. Do you want more energy and resiliency? Do you want to feel better mentally, physically and emotionally more often? HeartMath can help.

Researching Stress
HeartMath understands stress because we’ve researched it in depth – for more than 23 years. While many researchers today hold that it is our perception of events, not the actual events themselves that cause most of our stress, HeartMath goes further. Our studies show that it is our emotional responses to our perceptions of events that cause much of our unhealthful stress levels.

With minimal time, you can understand your own stress and learn some simple and effective ways to reduce it, increase energy and resilience and renew the joy of life.

Coherence is an important state you should know about. Raising coherence helps you feel, think and sleep better, do better at work and school and improve communication skills. Learn how your heart, emotions, stress and coherence all relate and how your heart is as smart as your brain and affects almost everything you do.

Feeling Stressed, Feeling Positive Emotions graph
A HeartMath Tip:
Several times a day take 5 minutes to follow these simple steps adapted from HeartMath’s Attitude Breathing® tool.

Focus on your heart while breathing in.
Concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude while breathing out.
Lock in this new feeling and continue to breathe it in and out through your heart area.
Gradually, as you become adept at this, choose new feelings to help you de-stress as needed.
Breathe “appreciation” as you start and end your day. It’s a wonderful way to flow through all your daily activities — and sleep through the night.

How much will your life improve when you learn to control your stress? A lot, according to the science of the last several decades. Following are some of the most important benefits of reducing stress.

Helps eliminate unnecessary energy drain.
Maintains stored resiliency.
Impatience, irritability, anger decrease.
Improves physical and mental health.
Greater access to intuition.
Memory, focus, other brain functions improve.
More energy in daytime, restful sleep at night.
What others are saying?
“I find the HeartMath tools and technologies to be my favorite strategies in day to day clinical work with kids and teens.” – Timothy Culbert, M.D., medical director, Integrative Medicine Program, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
“Since being trained on HeartMath techniques, my students are surprised at how quickly their emotions can change and teachers and counselors alike have reported that the students are ‘calmer’ and ‘less angry and distracted.’ ” – Mary Walsh, Phoenix Academy, San Rafael, Calif.
Take a Stress Test
Knowing how you’re managing stress, adapting to the changes and stressors in your life and whether you are maintaining adequate energy reserves and resiliency is simple, quick and free with Well-Being Survey™.

This science-based tool measures your 5 Aspects of Well-Being – Physical Vitality,Emotional Vitality, Social Connectedness, Spiritual Connectedness and Overall Well-Being, then gives you personalized suggestions for getting into your Zone of Performance.

This survey is designed to analyze the state of your heart, mind and emotions and how you how well you’re doing at home, work, school — even in your relationships and finances.

Solution for Anxiety
Everyone worries occasionally, but constant worry could signal unhealthy stress and anxiety levels. HeartMath Institute understands that when anxiety becomes an ever-present condition it’s time to take care.

Excessive or chronic anxiety can be paralyzing, though maybe not in the normal sense. People typically can go about much of their daily routine, yet always with an unsettling feeling of anxiousness, urgency or even fear just below the surface.

Whether it is generalized or specific, as in test and performance anxiety, HeartMath’s research and experience has helped thousands of people achieve sustainable improvement.

Researching Anxiety
HMI’s research has found that a highly effective method for alleviating anxiety is engaging the heart’s intelligence to increase heart coherence. A practical way to this in minutes is establishing a smooth and balanced heart-rhythm pattern. A simple technique like HeartMath’s Heart-Focused Breathing® can help you to naturally create a smooth pattern.

You can build your coherence even more while breathing by putting a positive spin on how you feel about and perceive your thoughts and the situations in your life. This is as simple as intentionally focusing on a positive emotion such as appreciation, compassion or caring.

These two easy exercises help to synchronize the branches of the autonomic nervous system and heart-brain interactions. In simpler terms, they create a calming emotional shift.

Our repeated clinical trials with participants of all ages show improvements almost immediately and sustainable benefits with regular practice.

HMI Frustration – Appreciation Heart Rhythm graphs
Reducing Test Anxiety and Improving Test Performance in America’s Schools
Read the executive summary of this eight-state U.S. Department of Education-funded study on test anxiety and proven solutions for overcoming it. Click to view or download

Effects of Heart-Rate Variability Biofeedback Training and Emotional Regulation on Music Performance Anxiety in University Students
Read the research paper that explores the nature of this common type of anxiety and how a group of student study participants found relief. Click here.

A HeartMath Tip:
You’ll be amazed at how much calmer and relaxed you feel after trying these three quick steps adapted from HeartMath’s Notice and Ease™ Tool.

Notice and admit what you are feeling.
Try to name the feeling.
Tell yourself to ease as you gently focus in your heart, relax as you breathe and ease the anxiety out.
Greater ease is within every individual’s reach.
The State of Ease in HeartMath Institute’s Articles of the Heart blog tells how to achieve yours. Click for Inner-Ease Technique.

Learning to control anxiety can be truly life-transforming. The following, which incorporate years of research, are among the key benefits of reducing anxiety.

Stress hormones decrease.
Energy level increases.
Stronger, more satisfying relationships.
Decrease negative thinking and projections of worst-case scenarios.
Overall quality of life improves.
What others are saying?
“I used to get ready for work in the morning in a totally preoccupied state ,running a steady stream of thoughts about what was going to happen that day,” says Janice (last name withheld).
After Janice began using Attitude Breathing, she said, “Now,as soon as I get up… this is my time to love and appreciate life. I tell myself,‘Breathe love and appreciation’ and negative thoughts and feelings aren’t allowed.Only love and appreciation. … “Most of the time,it’s just a soft, gentle feeling, but a good one.”

Solution for Overwhelm
There’s so much to do! I can’t possibly get to it all, but I know I have to. It’s really important. If only I had more time….

With all our obligations in today’s world and so much we’d like to do, life can be very challenging. Especially for those who, in addition to managing busy lives, have their sensibilities frayed by the constant blitz of information from news events, email, cell phones and more.

Millions of people today have reached the point at which everything has become too much. Overwhelm, as HeartMath Institute terms it – combined feelings of futility, anxiousness and hopelessness – can settle in for weeks, months or longer, disrupting our own and others’ lives. HeartMath has gained the experience and tools needed for managing overwhelm and would like to help.

Too Much Significance, Not Enough Ease
HMI researchers found in trials that one of the primary contributors to participants’ feelings of overwhelm was the amount of significance they assigned to the projects, situations and encounters in their lives. Rather than the challenges they were facing, it was this significance/importance that was causing them so much frustration and internal energy drain. (Overwhelm also is commonly experienced when we provide care to others for illness or injury or during the end-of-life stage and assign so much significance that our care turns into overcare.)

The natural solution, researched concluded, seemed to be for people to learn how to take the significance out, so our researchers worked with people experiencing overwhelm. They determined that shifting their emotions helped greatly.

Study participants experiencing a negative emotion such as frustration, fear or anxiety in relation to something in their lives were instructed to intentionally replace it with a positive one such as care, compassion or love. For most participants, this produced immediate benefits, especially relief and internal ease. Sustaining this emotional shift and benefit, of course, is a matter of practice, which many thousands of people have been doing for years.

Science of The Heart: Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance – Click the title of this signature HeartMath work for a greater understanding of how the heart, brain and emotions interact to form your perceptions of the challenges and experiences in your life.

A HeartMath Tip:
Tool: Take the Significance Out

Assume objectivity about an issue or feeling, as if it were another person having this problem. One of the first things you may notice is how much more compassionate and understanding you are toward this imagined person than you have been toward yourself.

Tell yourself with genuine heart intent, “Take out the significance.”
Breathe ease and calm while telling yourself to “take the significance out of whatever is going on.”
Dissolve the significance a little at a time. Imagine you are soaking the significance in the warmth of your heart.
Just the intent will bring you new power to take the significance out of inefficient emotional reactions so you can see new options and act on them.

Benefits of taking the significance out
Greater clarity about what you can accomplish.
Experience feelings of relief and calm.
Become more understanding – of yourself and others.
Appreciation for what matters most.

Solution for Burnout and Fatigue

As each of us goes about our daily routines and responsibilities we typically don’t think about the possibility that we might simply wear out one day. Activities in the community, entertainment, keeping up with email, social networking, etc. We just keep going.

There are, however, millions each year who, whether because of fatigue brought on by shear physical exhaustion or burnout in the workplace, find it nearly impossible to keep up the pace.

Days off and vacations aren’t enough for some of us, and HeartMath Institute understands the importance of doing more to stay engage, happy and healthy. That is why teaching thousands of people each year to re-energize, rejuvenate and raise their resilience through self-care is central to our programs, services and mission.

Internal Energy, Resilience and Self-Care
Each of us has a supply of internal energy available on demand for the smallest tasks and the most arduous endeavors. This assumes, of course, all of our mental, emotional and physical systems are functioning properly – and we are resilient.

HMI defines resilience as the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy. The resilient individual can bounce back and recuperate faster after a long day or week’s work, challenging situations or illnesses. Resiliency even gives us the capacity to neutralize and prevent some of life’s ongoing wear and tea, especially the kind that can weaken our immune system and lead to myriad health problems.

“Take care of yourself and the rest will follow.”
The ultimate aim of HMI’s scientific research since 1991 of stress, emotions and heart-brain interactions has been finding ways people of all ages can improve their lives through self-care. We’ve made some important discoveries. Our research shows, for example, two forms of self-care that can help people experiencing burnout or fatigue are creating more heart-rhythm coherence and self-regulation of emotions.

These are complex internal processes studied by scientists around the world, but achieving their benefits can be simple. All you have to do is practice some easily learned tools a few minutes a day.

New Hope for Correctional Officers
This HeartMath study shows how 88 correctional officers used coherence- and resilience-building tools to reduce stress and health risks in the workplace.

A HeartMath Tip:
Here’s a simple exercise adapted from HeartMath’s Cut-thru® Technique that can help achieve emotional coherence and has been shown to improve the efficiency of the body’s immune system. Simply tackle one issue at a time.

Cut-Thru® Technique
Be aware of how you feel about an issue at hand.
Breathe a positive feeling or attitude.
Be objective, as if the issue or problem is someone else’s.
Rest peacefully in this neutral state, allowing your heart intelligence to offer new perspectives and possibilities.
Soak and relax all resistances and disturbing or perplexing feelings in your heart’s compassion.
Ask for guidance and then be patient and receptive. While awaiting an answer from the heart find something or someone to genuinely appreciate.
Benefits of Cut-Thru
Less energy wasted on issues means more energy stored.
More hopefulness about the future.
Nagging problems won’t wear you down, weaken your immune system.

Solution for Sleeplessness
Adequate sleep on a regular basis is as essential to well-being as the air we breathe. Proper rest is necessary for maintaining cognitive sharpness, emotional balance and cardiovascular health as well as the efficient functioning and synchronization of all our physical systems. Conversely, inadequate sleep can be highly detrimental to health. HeartMath’s range of tools for achieving regular sleep – a challenge 50 million to 60 million people face in the U.S. – have been producing positive results for many years.

What’s Causing Your Sleeplessness?
Research indicates stress is a leading cause of abnormal sleep patterns and a common trigger for both short-term and chronic insomnia. Stress can result from health concerns, depression and anxiety among other causes. Especially common causes are today’s lifestyles and the rapid pace of modern life. Technology, world events and our ever-increasing knowledge about our world and the universe seem to have put time on a relentless treadmill. Keeping up wears out even the most determined and leads to worry, anxiety and fear, all of which can inhibit sleep.

Coherence, Energy and Better Sleep
HMI researchers say stress creates incoherence in our heart rhythms, and when the heart is out of sync normal sleep patterns can be disrupted.

Coherence, also known as heart-rhythm coherence, is a state of mental, emotional and physical synchronization and balance. Coherence not only helps us renew and sustain energy, but also is linked to significantly less fatigue and exhaustion,improved mental abilities – and better sleep. Coherence allows all of our systems to function properly and improves our ability to take charge of energy distribution and conservation in our daily activities.

Thus, HMI researchers say, it’s not the depletion of internal energy that helps us achieve beneficial sleep or even necessarily fall asleep. Rather, the ability to replenish, sustain and efficiently manage energy ultimately increases the capacity to reset our system for better sleep. For a U.S. Centers for Disease Control article about the detriments of insufficient sleep, click here.

A HeartMath Tip:
The Quick Coherence® Technique will help you increase heart-rhythm coherence, which is vital for regular, beneficial sleep. Practice these simple steps a few times daily, especially in the morning and before bed.

Step 1. Heart-Focus Breathing
Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.

Step 2. Activate a Positive Feeling
Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.

Benefits of Restful Sleep
Wake up refreshed, ready for new day.
Increased mental awareness, concentration, focus.
Body energized and alert; less potential for accidents.
Improved memory.
Reduced risk of illness, disease.
What others are saying?
“If I wake up in the middle of the night thinking or worrying about something so I have trouble getting back to sleep, I take out myemWave® and use it. By using the Quick Coherence Technique,my heart intelligence will tell me what the real cause of the upset is and often, valuable information about how to resolve it.Sometimes use of additional HeartMath techniques … are indicated. But I always feel so much better, more resolved and at ease and ready for sleep and then the next day ahead.”–Melinda D. CorporateControlle

Solution for Energy
Beyond taking care of yourself through diet, exercise and proper rest, are you also paying mind to your quantum nutrients? These are what HeartMath Institute calls the heartfelt positive feelings that fortify our energy systems and nourish our bodies at the cellular level.

Many researchers say our thoughts and feelings are as important as the food and drink we consume, that our mental and emotional diets determine our energy levels, health and well-being more than we realize.

We know you want to wake up every morning feeling refreshed and energized and to feel great at the end of the day too. So, start nourishing your life with more of those quantum nutrients. It’s easy and HeartMath can help.

Researching Your Energy System
Your body is an amazing energy system, constantly expending, replenishing and storing energy. Ideally, you want lots of it – for the things you have to do and the things you want to do. What you’ll need is a well-maintained energy system.

Again diet, exercise and rest are critical, but HMI research shows you can take your energy system to a new level of efficiency by taking control of your emotions and creating heart-rhythm coherence. Our studies in which participants’ heart-rhythm patterns are monitored while they intentionally feel negative versus positive emotions reveal striking contrasts in their patterns.

Negative emotions such as anger and anxiety or negative thoughts such as “I hate working” caused erratic or imbalanced heart-rhythm patterns. The patterns of participants who activated positive, sincere feelings like compassion, appreciation or love quickly became smooth and balanced. They were actually raising their heart coherence, an optimal mental, emotional and physical state.

All those negative thoughts and feelings drain our energy, sometimes severely. Most people can relate to how worn out prolonged negative thoughts and feelings make them feel. That’s because they sap the energy out of so many of the bodies’ processes, especially the immune system, thus putting your health at risk.

Compare that to how a simple act of compassion, performing a kindness for someone in need, or appreciating a loved one makes you feel. You can practically feel the new energy building inside. These emotions along with care, love and courage among others are called the heart emotions. The positive energy they create can be exhilarating. Scientists and doctors today even are amazed by their healing qualities.

Psychophysiological Correlates of Spiritual Experience
Read what researchers say about the effects of heartfelt positive emotions on spiritual energy and experiences.

A HeartMath Tip:
A easy way to ensure a well-maintained energy system is to take an inventory of where you’re spending yours. Here’s a scientifically tested HeartMath tool you can use.
Asset/Deficit Balance Sheet

On the top half of a sheet of paper, write “Assets.” On the bottom half, write “Deficits.” As you make your lists, be prepared to consider the effects on family, work and personal balance, and the negative consequences of each event.
Under Assets, list the positive events, conversations and interactions of the last few days, things that made you happy and gave you energy. Write how each asset, including ongoing ones – the quality of interactions with your friends, family, working environment, etc. – made you feel.
Under Deficits, list issues, conflicts and events in the period that were negative or draining, including conversations and events that turned from good to bad, for whatever reason, and how they made you feel.
Now, step back and, from you heart, note which deficits could have been neutralized or turned into assets at the time and still could be turned into assets, look for repeating patterns and write your insights and conclusions.
Benefits of Positive Energy
Energy used for positive purposes replenishes itself.
Look and feel mentally, physically, emotionally healthier.
Slows the effects of aging.

Solution for Job Stress
List everything that could cause you excessive stress, and don’t stress over how incredibly long the list might be. Relationships, first day of school, redecorating the kitchen, global conflict, global climate, loss of a pet, caring for a dying relative. … You get the idea.

Ask 10, 100 or even 1,000 adults to do this and what likely will appear most often is job stress. In all the years HeartMath Institute has researched stress and its causes, stress in the workplace has most often topped or appeared high on people’s lists. That includes people seeking HeartMath’s help and hundreds of participants in multiple scientific studies through the years.

Learn more about job stress, how it’s affecting you or someone you know and what you can do about it in Stress Got You Down on the Job?, in HMI’s Articles of the Heart blog.

Researching “Job” Stress
Workers who say their jobs are stressing them cite heavy workloads, too few breaks, too many hours, co-workers, poor communication and job insecurity among other leading causes.

HMI’s research shows, however, that it is workers’ perceptions of workplace matters and their emotional responses to those perceptions that actually are raising their stress levels. Consider how an individual might perceive the possibility of losing a job: It would be awful; How will I support my family and me? Where will I find another job this good, one I like as much?

The person begins worrying constantly, fears what the future will hold, etc. Yet this individual is still employed. It isn’t “awful.” There’s no need to go job hunting. In fact, nothing has happened, except an increase in stress because of the emotional response to a possibility.

HMI has asked study participants experiencing a negative emotion – fear, for example – to make an emotional shift to a positive emotion. They could choose, compassion, care, love, any emotion as long as they felt it sincerely. Many have chosen appreciation – for a loved one, the good in the world, etc. That certainly would be appropriate in the above worker’s case. Say, appreciation for having a job you like.

As soon as participants intentionally shifted to a positive emotion, an amazing thing happened: Nearly everyone experienced an immediate sense of relief or well-being, or at the very least felt better than before the exercise. Most soon learned from researchers that whatever the new good feeling was, it corresponded to a marked change in their heart-rhythm patterns: Where before the patterns may have appeared erratic or unbalanced, now they were smooth and coherent.

Impact of a Workplace Stress Reduction Program on Blood Pressure and Emotional Health
A workplace stress-reduction study – Learn more about the causes of stress and a program HeartMath implemented to reduce stress-related blood-pressure spikes and improve emotional health.

Stress and the Field Environment
Did you know when a co-worker experiences elevated stress in the workplace, there’s a good possibility others’ stress will increase? Studies confirm a unique characteristic of workplace stress is that it’s contagious.

What’s more, worker surveys show job stress quite often doesn’t dissipate at the end of the workday. It surfaces in home life, interactions with our children and friends and in other areas of our lives.

The process that’s occurring applies to more than the workplace and to workers or anyone else. It can happen anywhere in your field environment. According to HMI’s research, each individual’s thoughts, attitudes and emotions emit energetic fields into their respective environments. These energetic field environments, as they are termed, not only influence you, but also can affect family members, friends, your neighbors – or anyone else within close proximity.

Learn more about how you are affecting the field environments in HMI’s blog article, Each Individual Impacts the Field Environment.

A HeartMath Tip:
Try this exercise before, during or after work to ease job stress.

Prep Tool
Take a few quiet minutes to become centered in your heart space.
See and feel yourself maintaining a balanced pitch in your meetings and interactions with people.
Ask your heart intelligence to cue you up if you start slipping into judgments, excessive drama or resignation.


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