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Natural Awakenings Healthy Living Magazine

Heart Rate Variability with Biofeedback for Chronic Stress

Chronic Stress is the result of prolonged engagement of the sympathetic nervous system, a branch of the autonomic nervous system often referred to as the fight-or-flight nervous system. All living organisms can tolerate short-term stress, and in many ways, acute stress can be beneficial to growth and evolution. But when we turn on stress and can’t turn it off, we begin to push the genetic buttons that cause disease.

            With heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB), individuals are coached in self-regulating breathing techniques while being monitored by a heart rate variability (HRV) monitor. The individual is then provided with a coherence score, which is a numeric output they can track to see improvement over time. Coherence is a measure of autonomic balance, harmony or order. When we are in a state of stress, we are incoherent, and as a result would see a lower coherence score. Developing the skill of creating and sustaining a state of coherence by using proven techniques and HRVB is an accessible way to reduce stress and the risk of stress- related disease and disorders.

            A meta-analysis of 881 studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in March 2021 concluded, “This systematic review shows significant improvement of the non-invasive HRVB training in stress related disorders like PTSD, depression and panic disorder.”

            According to the Stress in America Survey 2022, 81 percent of Americans that participated were stressed out due to supply chain issues; 87 percent were stressed due to the rising inflation in the country, up from 59 percent in August 2021 and 58 percent in June 2021. Eighty percent were tensed and stressed about possible Russian cyberattacks or nuclear threats; 69 percent fear that a World War III could break out. Overall, 65 percent responded that they were stressed about money and the economy.

            Pharmaceutical treatments of similar disorders such as PTSD and depression come with a list of health side effects, but the side effects of HRVB include appreciation, care and even love. Individuals that practice self-regulation become more communicative, more collaborative and more creative, because when we are in stress it's not the time to focus on communication, collaboration or creativity. It is a time to run, fight or hide.

Kennith James Scott and Jessica Mae Merwin are the owners of Transformation Coaching, located at 3788 Beitner Rd., in Traverse City. For more information, call 231-392-5813 or visit