How a local nonprofit plans to put an end to stress
Whether it’s taking a test, preparing for work or dealing with relationships, stress is a dominant emotion in today’s busy society. Unfortunately, the tools for managing these ever-present stressors are not taught in school and are not often readily available at home—but one local nonprofit is on a mission to change this.
The Institute of HeartMath (IHM) has been researching the physiological implications of stress since its inception in 1991. With the help of its researchers, IHM has been able to connect stress to the heartbeat and brain activity, creating tools and techniques that assist in minimizing stress.
IHM founder Doc Childre began the nonprofit research facility, located in Boulder Creek, after years of studying the effects of stress on human perception, health and performance. According to Dr. Deborah Rozman, current board member and founding executive director of IHM, as well as president and CEO of IHM’s sister company, Quantum Intech, Inc., IHM was born from the need to associate stress with physical factors.
“One of the most important aspects of HeartMath is the research breakthrough that links emotions to the heartbeat,” says Rozman. From this breakthrough, the heart can be monitored and stress can be pinpointed based on the irregularities of the heartbeat. Stress is recognized as having a physical effect on the heart, which, in turn, affects the brain. The heart is now understood as a physiological indicator of emotions rather than a mere symbol.
From IHM’s research, HeartMath, LLC. and Quantum Intech, Inc. have emerged to license and sell technologies to reduce stress. The emWave Stress Relief System is software that “is designed to prevent, manage and reverse the negative effects of anxiety, fatigue, depression and more,” according to a report issued by the company.
The emWave gives real-time heart rhythmic feedback that sends out alerts when the heartbeat becomes erratic due to stressors. Users of this software, as well as other technologies HeartMath, LLC. offers such as the Personal Stress Reliever and the Program for Stopping Emotional Eating, are trained to recognize situations and emotions that arise from stress and create positive change. When this is achieved, decision-making becomes quicker, physical coordination is enhanced and emotional balance is easier to sustain.
IHM also offers an array of free services that assist in reducing daily stress. One of these programs is the Resilient Educator Program that is currently being used by the Santa Cruz City School District. The goal of this program is to teach parents, students and educators emotional tools that they can use to gain clarity and mental resilience in stressful situations.
Michael Watkins, county superintendent of schools, believes there is value in IHM’s research. “If you look at issues that effect all kids in these fast paced times, we all need time to step back and reflect,” he says. Santa Cruz City Schools is enrolling some teachers in the IHM Resilient Educator Program so that they will be able to pass along their training and techniques used to “step back and reflect” on to other educators as well as their students.
Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant and Bar, located at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, is doing its part to help de-stress Santa Cruz educators by holding fundraisers for IHM’s Resilient Educator Program. Owner Sheri Moise became interested in IHM because she felt “IHM is the best way to support and focus on local causes.” With school age children, she hopes to help local students and teachers with stress by raising money to put at least one teacher (but “hopefully two”) through the IHM training program.
Johnny’s Harborside’s “Raise a Glass” program is donating a portion of its proceeds from Ventana Vineyards Wines to the Resilient Educator Program from Sept. 10 through Jan. 1. They are about one-third of the way to raising the funds to enroll one teacher in the training program and are asking the community to help them reach their goal of funding the training for two teachers.
“After six weeks of being in the program, there are noticeable behavioral changes,” Dr. Rozman says. Based on the research IHM has committed itself to, they hope understanding stress, dealing with it and living happier and healthier lives can now be attained.
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