In times of uncertainty and extreme stress, our heart rate increases. It’s a natural, biological response to the increased stess we are experiencing. Although it’s natural, it isn’t something we often notice or ask each other. Instead when we check on each other, we ask “How are you?” eliciting a response from our brains rather than our bodies.
Dr. Perry and Oprah Winfrey talk about this response in their book, “What happened to you?” They relate that more and more of us are experiencing prolonged periods of stress and increased heart rate as we attempt to weather this pandemic. For some of us who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, this increase in heart rate signals and triggers our survival instinct making us feeling like we are about to crawl out of our skin or make us feel like we are floating above our lives rather than being present in our lives.
We can’t change the stress that is surrounding us, but we can change the way we respond to what’s going on in our bodies asking ourselves “How’s your heart?” Is your heart rate increased? Are you experiencing palpitations? Are you having trouble settling and resting?
When we stop to notice what’s going on with our heart, we can then work to regulate or balance the stress we are experiencing. We know (because our heart is telling us) that we need more of the things that make us feel safe and warm and secure. We need more candles, more cozy socks, more blankets, more warm drinks, more time to stretch and move our bodies in nature. In extreme times of stress, we need more of the things that bring our bodies and minds back together.
How’s your heart?