Online Edition - May 2000
Issue Highlight - The
Heart Challenges Brain In
Battle Over Stress
-- Is it all in your head? Not anymore. New discoveries on the critical connection between the heart and brain have led to breakthroughs in human performance, productivity, intelligence and overall health in the business workplace. HeartMath, Inc., training and consulting firm in Boulder Creek, Calif., has found the heart to be more powerful than the mind in reducing stress and improving the ability for success.
-- Over 10 years ago, Patricia Chapman, 57, was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia, a variation in the normal rate of the heartbeat. Physicians said she was at a high risk for sudden death because her heart was beating 700 extra times an hour.
-- It was 1994. Chapman sat in commuter traffic driving home from work in Silicon Valley. Suddenly, Chapman, an investment professional working for a Fortune 100 high-technology company, felt her chest start to beat rapidly. She began to sweat as the stress took over her body. She was experiencing ventricular fibrillation, a condition that prevents the heart from functioning properly. This condition usually brings death unless emergency measures are taken.
-- "I choose life. I choose health," Chapman whispered as she drove herself to the emergency room. She reached the cardiologist in time to save her own life. Physicians say she was lucky to have survived. After several surgeries and a four-month leave from work, she became frightened to do anything. She had always been an adventurous person, whether skydiving or mountain biking, but this experience was very dramatic. "When I first went back to work, I thought I was going to drop dead anytime." This woman who had described herself as adventurous, now compared herself to a coach potato.
-- Then, she heard about the HeartMath Inner Quality Management program. She attended their weekend seminar and the results were "amazing." In the past, she had adrenaline rushes throughout the day; on Monday morning, after the weekend seminar, she woke up and experienced one. This time, she stopped and practiced one of the techniques she had learned at HeartMath. It took only two minutes for the adrenaline rush to stop.
-- The difference at work was night and day. Even her co-workers noticed the change. The months following the seminar, Chapman continued to use the stress reduction techniques and her physicians drastically reduced her stress medication. "I credit the techniques I learned at HeartMath for saving my life," Chapman said.
All Stressed Out
-- With the challenge of keeping employees productive and focused, many Fortune 500 companies are looking to HeartMath for the answer. The HeartMath techniques are different from other stress reduction methods. (See box below for the five-step technique.) Employees do not have to wait until they leave work to reduce stress by exercise or yoga; they use the techniques as soon as the stress-like symptoms surface. In addition to productivity, stress reduction may lower turnover rates and reduce health care costs for employers.
-- Three groups of employees (managers, engineers and factory workers) at Motorola examined the impact of HeartMath's Inner Quality Management on productivity, health, communication and job satisfaction. The study showed significant and beneficial shifts in the participants. Before the HeartMath program, 25 percent of the study participants had high blood pressure levels. After only six months of using HeartMath techniques they all had normal blood pressure levels; no conventional medical interventions had been used. Bruce Cryer, President of HeartMath LLC, says, "Our programs are effective because they address the root cause of incoherence in organizations-helping individuals and teams become more balanced and productive."
Inner Quality Management
-- HeartMath research indicates the heart carries intricate messages that affect people's emotions, physical health and quality of life. A pilot study, involving 161 individuals, revealed that after the HeartMath program, there was a 75 percent decrease in the number of people reporting feelings of depression often or most of the time. This reduction in feelings of depression is a definite improvement in the quality of life. In the same study, the number of participants who reported they feel energetic most of the time increased significantly after the HeartMath program.
-- The HeartMath program uses simple stress management tools to increase productivity and energy levels. "They were so simple, I thought I was doing it wrong," Chapman said about the ease of the program. The most popular technique, Freeze-Frame, has been compared to a time-out that is used to discipline children, only for adults. This technique is used anytime an individual feels overloaded, angry or frustrated. After the individual recognizes the stressful feeling, they freeze it or take a time-out to think about it. The ultimate goal of the Freeze-Frame technique is to develop a different way to handle stress.