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Stress management: Better living through technology

Meridith Levinson | Oct. 17, 2011
In 2005, at age 32, Dave Asprey realized he was literally working himself to death. Here is his story.

Thus, the blinking lights on the emWave show when an individual has reached that coherent state.

"This is technology, not a magic meditation machine with leprechauns inside," says Asprey.

Software that comes with the emWave (which costs $229 on displays your average heart rate in beats per minute, plots your heart rate variability on a graph, and shows on a bar graph the percentage of time you're in low, medium and high coherence.

The emWave alone won't teach anyone to better manage their stress. What makes the emWave effective--besides the instant feedback it gives via its blinking lights and software--is the "Quick Coherence" breathing technique.

The "Quick Coherence" Technique

HeartMath advises emWave users to begin each relaxation session by focusing their attention on their heart.

"When you're stressed, you're in your head," says Calarco. "You're not grounded. You need to shift your focus to your chest."

The next step is to take deep breaths, imagining each breath entering and exiting your heart. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain, enabling it to think more clearly. When you're stressed, you breathe shallowly.

The final step is critical: Conjuring a positive feeling, such as love or appreciation. Asprey says he thinks about the way his kids first looked at him right after they were born.

People should practice the breathing technique while using the emWave twice a day, in the morning and at night, for 15 minutes per session, says Calarco, adding that people begin to see the benefits of using the emWave after two to six weeks.

Calarco advises people to use the technique before or after a stressful or challenging situation, whether the morning commute, an argument with one's spouse, or a meeting with the CEO.

Practicing the technique before a challenging situation better prepares you to meet the challenge by getting you into that coherent state where your mind is focused and rested, and when you have the greatest ability to make sound decisions.

Practicing the technique after a stressful incident helps you recover from the stress response more quickly, says Calarco.

"When a stressful incident occurs, it releases over 1400 bio-chemicals in your system," she says. "That's a physiological tidal wave that is sustained for hours."

The breathing technique helps you recover more quickly by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and releasing positive hormones that counteract stress hormones.

"The HeartMath technique trains your heart to stay in that coherent pattern, so that you don't go into fight-or-flight mode," says Calarco.

Better Living Through Technology

Technology might have created Asprey's stress, but in the end it was also the remedy for it. It also allowed him to achieve his career goal without killing himself.


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