Our Heart: Pump, Emotions, Stress, Energy

Our Heart: Pump, Emotions, Stress, Energy

Just like our brain, we all have a heart. We know our heart acts like a pump to circulate blood throughout our body. We know that we can have heart attacks and other cardiac diseases.

Something many do not know is that the heart and brain communicate and that the heart communicates with the brain more than the brain communicates with the heart.

When you are feeling stressed, your heart is involved along with your brain. Our emotions influence our hearts and brains. The heart is an electrical system. This shouldn’t surprise you because the ECG (electrocardiograph) that traces our heart rhythm is tracing the electrical rhythm of our heart. The functioning of the brain can also be examined using an EEG (electroencephalograph), which measures the electrical functioning of the brain. Muscles are also measured electrically. We are made up of electrical energy.

Enough about the electricity for now. Next, a bit of information about how our heart and brain work together when we are experiencing stress.

What is stress and how do you know if you are experiencing stress? Definition of stress:

In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response, a complex reaction of neurological and endocrinologic systems.

Definition of stress:

Stress affects many areas of our body. Remember too, that all areas of the body are connected. We cannot separate our mind and mental health from our body and physical health. Our emotions affect our brain, mind, and mental health which in turn affect our body. Stress can lead to physical illness and physical illness can lead to stress. A bit of a vicious circle.

Researchers have discovered that our emotions are a result of our hearts and brains working together. Neurocardiology (a specialty of how the brain and heart interact) research has determined that the heart is a sensory organ. The heart can learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions that do not involve the cerebral cortex. (2003. McCraty, R. energetic-heart.pdf  Institute of HeartMath.)

Our emotions drain our energy. Think about it, when you have had a disagreement with someone, you will often feel tired and make poor decisions. Afterward, we are apt to say to ourselves (maybe even to others) ‘what was I thinking?

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
— Hans Selye

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health

The HeartMath™ System (programs, techniques) includes methods of mental and emotional self-regulation and energy management techniques that lead to a restructure of neural (nervous system) circuits. The techniques assist in the alignment of our mental, emotional, and physical systems. All the techniques affect several areas of the brain: amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and thalamus and improve the synchronization of the heart-brain, hormonal balance, the autonomic nervous system, and vagal pathways. Breathing is a vital component of the HeartMath™ systems. But HeartMath™ is much more than breathing. Remember, our heart and head are communicating with each other.

One of the goals of drelaineleadership.coach and HeartMath skills is to guide you to increased internal awareness. Everyone deserves to have a beautiful life that includes self-awareness and limited stress. You can be in control of your emotional responses.

Stress often leads to us adopting poor coping behaviours that can increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. Some poor coping behaviours include smoking, alcohol, drugs, overeating, absence of physical activity, unhealthy diet. Being overweight, and not taking your prescribed medications as per your doctor’s instructions are also symptoms of stress.

Stress can show up in your body as a headache, back strain, painfully tight shoulder muscles, and stomach pain. Other things that stress can do to you include zapping your energy, create sleep problems, and adding to crankiness, forgetfulness, and not being as in control of yourself as you would like. A chain reaction begins:

Stress > release of adrenalin and cortisol > increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure

You are prepared to fight or flee even though there is no physical danger, no lions, or tigers, or bears.

There is a large body of information and research about stress and ways to manage our emotions. I will continue to share information about stress, emotions, the heart-brain connection and how to take control of your emotional reactions in future blogs. But just a little bit at a time.

What is Your Mindset?

Our mindset can lift us up, tear us down, gives us a positive attitude or a negative attitude. Much of our mindset has been instilled in us since childhood. The views of our parents, grandparents, teachers, and other important figures in our life influence us, whether we are aware. Our philosophy of life directs our life experiences. Some people, fatalists, believe that no matter what they do the outcome will be the same. What about you? Do you think you have some control over outcomes? Let’s think about that – if you do not study for exams will the outcome be the same as if you do? Does your diet influence your health? These examples seem obvious. Let’s look at some other ways mindset could possibly influence our life. If you are generally a happy person and find an opportunity or something positive in most situations you have a positive mindset. Those with a positive mindset focus on positive results and good outcomes. For many of us, we prefer to be around people with a positive attitude or mindset. A positive mindset also has health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are attributed to a positive mindset: – Increased life span- Decreased rates of depression- Lower distress levels- Increased resistance to the common cold- Better psychological and physical well-being- Better heart health and decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress. Considering these positive connections, I encourage the development of a positive mindset. Among the ways to build a positive mindset are:- Identify negative thoughts – that’s right – identify the negative, you need to be aware of your thoughts, identify your negative self-talk. – Focus on positive thinking and positive self-talk. Even negative thoughts and self-talk can be turned around to positive thoughts and talk. (Give me a shout, I have some tools for this). Laugh, find the humor in situations (laugh at yourself, not others), surround yourself with positive-thinking people, schedule a couple of times during the day to assess how you have been talking to yourself, and if your thoughts are positive or negative. Remember – what isn’t identified can’t be changed. Can you think of some negative thoughts that can be reframed into positive thoughts? Negative Thoughts Positive Thoughts can’t do that; I’ve never done it before. A great opportunity to try something new. That’s too complicated. I will approach that from a different perspective. I don’t have all I need to do that. I will be creative and workaround or substitute where necessary. I’m never going to get any better than I am now. I will take a chance and try some new things, some self-development courses. That won’t work. That is far out, let’s give it go.No one talks to me, so I never know what is going on. I will make an effort to engage others in conversation and show interest in what is happening. You might also consider watching less news, more comedy, or forget about tv and read positive material. Listen to upbeat or relaxing music. Spend some time outside enjoying nature. If you don’t care for nature, try just a few minutes when the weather is your favourite kind (for me sunny and warm). You can also try meditation. Or try taking a few moments to identify the things in your life for which you are grateful – a roof over your head, food to eat, a job, a family, health, life, your pet. Start a list of these things for the times when you can’t think of anything positive, and you can refer to your list. When you first wake up, or when you are brushing your teeth take a minute to take 3 – 5 deep, slow breaths, and then focus on something positive for another few breaths. It can’t hurt anything, and you might just find yourself feel more positive. I have a variety of strategies for you to try if you would like to feel more positive; direct message me and we can talk.

Self-Care & Self-Leadership

What does self-leadership have to do with self-care? For that matter, what is self-leadership?

Self-Care is pretty straightforward, it is taking care of yourself.
Self-Leadership might not be quite as straightforward, but it is about leading yourself. What does that look like?

I believe we need self-leadership to be effective at practicing self-care.

Self-Leadership starts by taking a good look at yourself. Not just the outside, but dig deep to discover what you are really made of, what is important to you. Have you examined your personal values & beliefs? These are essential components of self-leadership. There is a great deal more involved & I will share those in future messages.

Self-care involves the day-to-day things we do; eat, sleep, exercise, or at least be active. In addition, you need to include your work, family time, hobbies, committees, community, & whatever else you do that is important to you.

If you honestly consume a healthy diet, get 7-9 hours of sleep, get regular exercise then you have a good start at self-care.

How much do you do for others? Are you chauffeuring your kids, parents, &/or spouse? Who is doing the house & yard work? Have you read a book recently? When is the last time you & your partner or friend spent some quality time doing something you both enjoy? This is a little more challenging with the current pandemic, but there are lots of ways to be social & safe.

Do you meditate? Do you practice mindfulness? What about your spiritual or religious beliefs? Do you spend the time you want in these areas?

As you spend your time working or caring for others, take just 1 minute & consider what you will do for yourself? Go for a walk, enjoy the sun & fresh air. Look at the clouds, see what shapes you can pick out. If you have a fireplace, light a fire & just sit & watch the flames. What relaxes you & revives your energy? That is what you need to do to care for you.

If you are leading yourself, you know these things are important & you will already be practicing at least some of them. Remember that what you do has an effect on everyone else – make sure that is a positive effect.