Posts tagged ‘heart rate variability’

March 22, 2019

#564 – Live Better with RA – Tip #1


If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you are no stranger to its marauding gang of symptoms: aches, pains, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, and stiffness, to name just a few. When you take care of your mind, body, and spirit, you might just find that your RA symptoms improve.  You can live better with RA with these 10 tips, which will be posted one at a time.

Tip #1 – Transform Stress

My journey with RA is definitely better since I’ve become Auntie Stress (AS), almost 13 years ago. I often joke that I am my own best client. However, neither RA, nor stress, are jokes. When I transform my stress, I am better equipped to manage my life.

Self-care becomes easier when your system isn’t flooded with stress hormones, which have a tendency to move you further away from what you want.

The Why

If you want to live well, it’s imperative that you learn strategies that help you break out of the stress cycle. Stress and RA have a direct influence on each other. Stress can increase inflammation. RA can increase stress.

If you’ve ever driven with someone who is stepping on the gas-brake-gas-brake-gas-brake, you’ll know how distressing that is. The 2 branches of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) – sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system, are operating in a similar fashion. Go-stop-go-stop-go-stop – it’s not a good feeling. This type of action tends to wear out the nervous system and sets up the scene for worsening health. Your system is disorderly and you pay the price.

Instead onboard techniques that can bring your nervous system into balance.

The When

Anytime. Anywhere. The beauty of these techniques is that they are not dependent upon waiting for a quiet room, after work, after school or a retreat. You can do them anytime once you know what to do.

The How

Employ a mindful, deliberate approach and use your feelings to help you navigate out of The Stress Zone. When you learn to manage your thoughts and feelings, you gain invaluable emotional management techniques that allow you to shift out of the Stress Zone. A change in perspective can result in an internal change.

For example, last week I awoke with a number of stiff and swollen joints – something I haven’t experienced in quite a long time.

Before AS

I would immediately jump into “Oh no, is this the start of a major flare? What am I going to do? What if…?” That sort of fear-based thinking put me into The Stress Zone. The Stress Zone triggers a cascade of hormones that are designed for flight or fight. Additionally, it also triggers the inflammatory response.

After AS

I regularly address and undress my stress. I am my own best client, after all! For example, last Friday, I awoke unusually stiff. I had rusty hinges for knees. My fingers were about as useful as sausages – they looked like them, too. Apparently I had marbles in my slippers – at least that’s what my feet felt like.

I knew that panicking, wondering and worrying if this was the start of a flare, especially since I hadn’t experienced this in quite some time, was not the best route to take. So, I started with a session on the Inner Balance. While I was doing that, I had ice packs and heat packs. I followed up with an easy swim, since exercise can help reduce inflammation. It didn’t take long and I was moving as well as I normally do.

Heart rate variability (HRV), is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. Learning to improve my HRV and regularly practising it has made a difference in my health and well-being.

Here’s what Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School’s blog, has to say in Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being:

 If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.

People who have a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and be more resilient to stress. HRV may also provide personal feedback about your lifestyle and help motivate those who are considering taking steps toward a healthier life.

Here is how technology (Inner Balance) helps me improve my HRV:


I use this device on a daily basis to assist me in living my best life with RA. The techniques can be done without the device, however, there is power in having proof that I am in high coherence.

Are you curious about what this is showing you?


There are four challenge levels. As you build coherence within your system, you are encouraged to move up into the next level, which is more challenging to do. In level one and two you can move into high coherence by changing the way in which you breathe. Level three and four require a willful letting go by changing your feeling state. 


Coherence indicates synchronization between your cognitive, emotional and physiological systems.  When you are able to move out of low coherence into medium and/or high coherence you enjoy greater feelings of well-being, as well as increased immunity, and other physical and mental health improvements.

Coherence Over Time

This shows a real time picture of what is happening with the two branches of your ANS.

You can see where I dropped from high coherence to medium coherence at about 2:25. This is when my thoughts shifted to an ongoing family issue. That’s an example of how our ANS is influenced by how we think and feel.


HRV is the beat to beat way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. The smoother the rhythm, the more harmony within your system. Your heart is constantly speeding up and slowing down. When you take your pulse, or when you use the heart sensor on gym equipment you are getting an average, rather than your HRV.

I was unable to capture the entire session on my phone, but you can see the speeding up/slowing down rhythm of my heart.

Another Look

On The Language of Stress you can see a different picture of my use of technology. This time it’s the emWave, a desktop unit that I like to use before I sit down to do any writing.

I do have some specials on these. If you’re interested in the DIY of stress transformation, or stress coaching, please send me an email.

Watch for Tip #2.

Related Posts:

More in This Series:

With Gratitude

For Graham Shaw’s TED Talk video: Why people believe they can’t draw.

HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Institute of HeartMath.
emWave and Personal Stress Reliever are registered trademarks of Quantum Intech, Inc.
Inner Balance Trainer is a trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc.
February 14, 2018

#548 – Your Beautiful Heart


Under stress, your heart rhythm shows up as a jagged line – the two branches of your autonomic nervous system (ANS), are speeding up and slowing down. What matters is the quality of that rhythm. If it’s speeding up and slow down, much like a driver with his foot on the gas, then the brake, the gas, the brake, the gas, and so on, which is what happens under stress, it’s not doing you any favours. This wears out your nervous system, accelerates aging and sets up the scene for ill-health, along with a host of other things. Learning to activate the power of your heart changes your heart rhythm. As the rhythm becomes more balanced, you enter a more coherent state. How you think and feel is reflected in real-time in your heart rhythms.

For example, this morning, I recalled what it was like to be in a state of flow. I  went into high coherence; a stress-free zone. Then, a negative thought poked its way into my mind and I immediately saw red in the Coherence Ration window. That’s how our thoughts and emotions affect our heart rhythms. When you’re aware of this, you can make changes to benefit your health and well-being.

By regularly addressing and undressing my stress, I am able to decrease the amount of cortisol my body produces. I see the effects in my lab tests, too, with a lower value in my C-reactive protein (CRP). (If you have RA, CRP, a marker of inflammation, will be part of your regular blood work.)  Cortisol contributes to the inflammatory response, so anything you can do to limit the amount of cortisol that you secrete is a plus, especially if you live with rheumatoid arthritis.

My morning begins with a cup of tea and time on the emWave. Often before I start writing, I’ll do a 10-12 minute session. I do know how it feels when I am in a coherent state; I like the verification I get when I use the emWave. It keeps me on track and honest! 🙂

Since starting this program, over 10 years ago now, my life is better in so many ways. In fact, that’s why I became Auntie Stress. I noticed a change in how I moved through life and I wanted to help others do the same. Email me if you’d like to address and undress your stress. I have various options available at a variety of price points to suit your budget.

HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Institute of HeartMath. | emWave and Personal Stress Reliever are registered trademarks of Quantum Intech, Inc.

February 14, 2013

#399 – Your Heart, My Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Heart Day!


Learning to move from the jagged rhythms on the left to the smoother ones on the right have made a huge difference in my health and well-being. Plus, with the connection between RA and heart disease, this practice is something I will do for the rest of my life.

If you want to know more, please email or call 604-507-9970.

To get started, please see Your Stress Muscles or Wash that Stress Right out of Your Hair.

Speaking of voting, may I ask for your vote to move A Rheumful of Tips to the 1st page of’s Best Health Blog of 2012 contest. I appreciate your voting as frequently as you do. The contest ends on Feb. 15th. Thankfully! :)

July 7, 2012

The Joys and Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

As you know from my blog posts, here and here, I am a big believer in the joys of pet ownership, especially dogs. Not only do they serve as a Four-Legged Personal Trainer, but they provide invaluable lessons such as these:

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is another important benefit of pet ownership, as is discussed on Pet Owners Have Healthier Hearts.

I’ve written about Heart Rate Variability on both blogs. It is also at the core of what I do as  a stress coach. It is also what has made me healthier, have considerably fewer flare-ups and more time, especially since I’m not in the doctor’s office every month or so with an infection or some other complaint.

Simply put, HRV is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. With the use of educational technology and a coaching program, you learn how trudging through the murky waters of negative thinking and feeling affects your heart rhythms and your health, be it emotional, mental and/or physical. You see it. You also see how you can change the rhythm from one that is jagged to a smooth one with the regular practise of techniques that bring your nervous system into balance and your body into synch. (Hint! If you’re stressed, you’ll want to watch for a future life-improving giveaway 😉 )

As wonderful as it is to own pets, it is important to recognize whether owning a pet would cause you more stress. Ask yourself whether you are constantly worrying about the health of your pet or how you will look after your pet in spite of a chronic illness. Pets pick up on your stress, so it is important to transform it, not only for yourself, but for the health of your pet.

Your pet is a wonderful stress undresser. Whether it be stroking them, playing with them or watching their antics. Or even if they do nothing but luxuriate in the sun. Which reminds me of this humorous exchange.

How does your pet enrich your life?

Thanks to Christian Johannsen at Foot Solutions for originally tweeting the link to this article.

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