By Deborah Rozman
When a crisis happens, our stress tolerance level depletes from the shock and emotional pain. We become overwhelmed, which inhibits our capacity to cope. Yet, it's completely understandable why we would feel the way we do. And during a rough time, sometimes people doubt themselves and avoid sharing what they're going through with somebody else for fear of being judged. But the need for connection doesn't go away if we ignore it -- emotional stress still accumulates. And you can't run away from it, because it's running you. At some point, we have to reach out and connect with the hearts of others.
Some years ago, I was in a meeting with three coworkers. They were talking about a problem they were having with another coworker and feeling I hadn't handled the situation as well as I could have. I felt misunderstood, then began questioning whether they were right and found myself going around in my head. Even while I was going about other work, my thoughts and feelings were churning and draining my energy. I had to do something or I would stay stuck there. It was scary. I didn't want to be wrong. I knew I needed to open up with someone, so I shared with someone at work who I felt would hear my heart and wouldn't judge me. She used HeartMath's intuitive listening tool, reflecting back what I said and acknowledging my feelings. I felt so cared for, so seen. Something let go inside me. Yes! Then I was able to share with the other three coworkers why I handled the problematic situation the way I did. They told me that they understood where I was coming from and said it would have really been helpful if I could have shared that in the meeting at the time. I realized it had been a safe place after all, and was able release it all and move on.
The good news is that you can create a psychological turnaround and increase your ability to cope effectively during a crisis if you work through your challenges with the help of others. One of the most important things you can do is to communicate your feelings to someone. Talking to those who care about us when we're struggling allows us to get out of the swirl inside our heads, releases us and allows room for fresh perspectives and insights.
At the onset of a crisis, it's normal for some of our heart feelings to shut down, especially during the initial shock, fear and focus on survival and safety. It's understandable to experience this, and it's really helpful to re-open our heart connections with others as soon we can. This deeper connection and communication helps to keep our hearts open to intuitive guidance for the most effective next steps to take. Connecting with others can't eliminate all stressful situations, but it can add a quiet comfort along with increasing our stability within the experience. It also provides a collective, heart-based strength to move forward in moments when it seems we can't.
Easier said than done for some, right? It helps to start by communicating in a connected way within yourself. HeartMath's Inner Ease Technique helps to align your mind and emotions with your heart feelings. Ease is an inner attitude of slowing down our internal and external systems so we can create flow rather than turbulence. Here's how:
- Notice what you're feeling. Be what we call at HeartMath "heart vulnerable" -- be honest with yourself about how you feel right now. Admit that you're sad, scared or whatever is true for you. Don't judge it as good or bad. Emotions are just energy.
- Do the Quick Coherence Technique.
- As you get into Heart-focused Breathing as part of the technique, draw in a feeling of inner ease, balance and self-care.
- Affirm, anchor and maintain your state of inner ease.
- Be kind to yourself. Watch the self-judgments. Just go to your heart, release them and move on. Be casual about it. When your inner attitude is casual and unstrained, your emotions respond to challenging or disruptive situations with flow and ease. This reduces stress and clears the way for better choices and outcomes.
- Ask yourself what's under the radar that is keeping you isolated. Is it fear of being judged?
- Give yourself a "Compassion Soak." Find a place inside your heart that feels soft, warm or gentle and relax and soak in it for a while. Assign whatever issue or draining feeling you have to soak in compassion and let the negative energy release. This is balancing and soothing to the nervous and hormonal systems.
Now you're ready to try to connect with others:
- Have the courage and commitment to your well-being to reach out to somebody. Even a pet can be helpful.
- Ask for their support and to just listen. They don't have to fix anything.
- Tell them how you feel. Allow them to witness your authenticity and vulnerability. Most people feel honored to be trusted like that. The connection you create when you do this creates greater coherence for both of you.
Another effective way to reopen our heart feelings is by offering kindness and compassionate support to others or volunteering to help others in need, though we are in need ourselves. Acts of care, kindness, gratitude and compassion can make a big difference. These acts of care are behaviors of our spiritual heart and provide a wholeness benefit to ourselves and others. Research has shown that care, compassion and authentic connection with others reduce stress and release beneficial chemicals that balance and revitalize our systems: mental, emotional and physical. Practicing these and other behaviors of the heart should be at the top of our stress-maintenance intentions.
Engaging in caring about others and offering emotional support especially helps to reopen your heart, which increases your fortitude and emotional balance. Whether you laugh together or cry together, there is often tremendous beneficial release. When people gather to support each other, the energy of the collective whole multiplies the benefit to the individual. It's known that collective energetic cooperation can increase intuitive guidance and effective solutions for problems at hand. When a group of people are "in their hearts," and not just their minds, the collective support helps to lift their spirits, which in turn releases stress buildup and anxiety overload. When the heart reopens, self-security and confidence can gradually return.
Be patient with the process. Even small acts of kindness and compassion can make a big difference. During the holiday season is a good time to consciously manage your energies. Focus on developing more sincere connections with others above all else. It can make the difference between a harried and stressful season and the most heartfelt holiday ever.
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Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., is president and CEO of HeartMath LLC, located in Boulder Creek, California. HeartMath provides scientifically-validated and market-validated tools and technologies that activate the intelligence and power of the heart to dramatically reduce stress while empowering health, performance and behavioral change in individuals and organizations. HeartMath's award winning emWave® technologies monitor and provide real time feedback on heart rhythm (HRV) coherence levels, an important indicator of mental and emotional state. HeartMath also offers training and certification programs for organizations, health professionals and coaches, and a self-paced online personal development program called HeartMastery for individuals.
Dr. Rozman has been a psychologist in research and practice, entrepreneur and business executive for over 30 years. She was founding executive director of the Institute of HeartMath, and now serves on the Institute's Scientific Advisory Board and Global Coherence Initiative Steering Committee. She is co-author with HeartMath founder Doc Childre of the Transforming series of books (New Harbinger Publications): Transforming Anger, Transforming Stress, Transforming Anxiety and Transforming Depression. She is a key spokesperson on heart intelligence and the role of the heart in stress management, performance and wellness.