We’re so used to tracking all sorts of information which tell us all sorts of health information – like blood pressure, number of steps, calories, heart rate, blood sugar. What if we could have data which tells us about our resiliency, behavioral flexibility, stress, anxiety and depression? Well Heart Rate Variability does just that, and we can do this stuff at home!

What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?

Heart rate variability (HRV), is simply the measure in variation between each heart beat. When we assess heart rate, we expect the time between each heart rate to vary a tiny bit. It’s not supposed to be completely the same from beat to beat.

graph showing heart beats

This variation is controlled by a division of the nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS helps with a lot of bodily processes which happen in the background without much though – such as controlling heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and digestion and more!

Day to day, your Autonomic Nervous system is constantly working with our environment to keep our system going. There are two divisions of the ANS – the sympathetic state and the parasympathetic state. These two virtually do the opposite, yet both are crucial and balance is key.

picture of brain

In the modern world people tend to lose that balance and drop into a state of fight or flight – the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive!

Heart Rate Variability and HeartMath are ways we can non-invasively measure the imbalances of the nervous system. We can use devices like chest straps or special wrist devices to measure Heart Rate Variability.

What Does HRV Tell Us?

Based on data gathered from many people, though good quality research trials, we find the following:

If the system is in more of a flight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats tends to be lower. So we say there is lower Heart Rate Variability.

If the system is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats may be higher.

People with high HRV tend to have greater cardiovascular fitness and may be more resilient to stress.

HRV 1
HRV2

Can We Use HRV to Impact Our Health?

HRV can then be used to guide personal lifestyle change and help motivate those who are starting off making changes – they can see objective data to back them up.

You may see a beneficial effect on HRV as you incorporate meditation, deep breathing and exercise into your daily regiment. You can measure how your nervous system responds the things you do daily [6].

Interested In learning More?

Our Registered Social Worker Joan Chambers is trained in Heart Math and works with her clients to employ these techniques to improve upon their mental well being along with the rest of their overall health.

Book online or call the clinic to book!

HeartMath and Absolute

References

Interested in learning more?

Read on in our series of articles on Mental Health Counselling!

About the Author - Joan Chambers

woman facing camera

Joan Chambers is a registered social worker with OCSWSSW who graduated with Honours from the University of Western Ontario – King's University College. Joan has been working in the social work field for the past 20 years in various roles.  Over the past 13 years, Joan has been working with families with a strong emphasis on adult mental health in Alberta. During her time in Alberta, she was a member of the team that assisted displaced families of the  Alberta Floods in 2013. During that time, Joan added new knowledge to her portfolio:  Skilled for Psychological Recovery, and certified as HeartMath facilitator transforming stress.

Joan continues to make learning a part of her practice. Over the years, Joan has acquired Child & Youth Care certification, trained in Dialectical Behaviour Techniques (DBT), studied Tradition of Caring Model, Neurosequential Model of Trauma (NMT), ASSIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills), and carries certification in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention.

Joan's passion for helping others comes from being a trauma survivor herself. She comes with a deep understanding of people and their needs, which led Joan to choose a career in this field.  Joan is compassionate and caring for others through her flexibility and effective listening.  Joan's approach is strength-based and takes on tasks with respect, professionalism, and competence.

To book in please call us at (519) 442-2206 or click here.

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