Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Is Stress Your Enemy?

  August 02, 2017

By Carolyn Oleson, RN, BSN, Community Outreach, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center

Life is moving at a faster pace than ever before, and often we get caught in the middle, feeling stressed and at a loss for how to keep pace. One approach to relief is a new community class called SHIFT on Stress.

The SHIFT class, offered at Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center, examines how culturally we view stress as “the enemy,” the effect of stress on our health, and how we can adjust those effects.

Based on the research publications of Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist at Stanford University and author of the Upside of Stress, SHIFT on Stress teaches participants how positive emotions impact our physiology, leading us to optimal health and performance. HeartMath™ technology is used in this class to measure coherence and heart rate variability (HRV), both of which are impacted by positive emotions such as care, compassion, gratitude, and love.

Coherence is akin to being in the “zone.”  High coherence happens when the nervous system of our heart synchronizes with our brain. The electromagnetic energy from the heart is much stronger than that of the brain and because of this, is informing our brain of our feelings at a rapid rate. Think about walking into a room full of people. Generally, we can point to a feeling of a “good vibe” or a “bad vibe.”  Bad vibes drain us of energy while good vibes renew our energy. HeartMath™ measures this coherence and shows that you can make a difference in your physiology for the better when you generate positive, renewing feelings. Instant shifts can be visualized when using this technique.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a general, non-specific measure of health and fitness. Practicing coherence increases HRV for most people. A higher HRV can mean better long-term health.

Our emotional landscape is influenced by both our nervous system and our hormonal system. A balanced nervous system allows for flexibility between feeling a “fight or flight” stress response and being in a “relax and restore” mode. We need both to adapt to all of life’s constant stressors, so finding that balance is key. The same is true of our stress hormone system. Cortisol is well known as the stress hormone that, over time, wreaks havoc on our health. Don’t sell it short, as we need it to survive when “fight or flight” is upon us. Changing our stress mindset and generating positive, renewing emotions will allow us to produce hormones to even out the level of cortisol, resulting in greater health outcomes and performance.

SHIFT on Stress equips participants with options to practice coherence techniques including HeartMath™ sensors for measuring and tracking coherence and HRV. These technologies are available on many mobile devices. However, participants learn that the techniques work without the technology so everyone can benefit. The confidence from practicing the instant shift that comes with the quick coherence technique can be utilized in any setting to reset draining or demanding situations, allowing one to optimize their performance.

SHIFT on Stress class is offered monthly at the Advocate BroMenn Health and Fitness Center located at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington. You do not need to be a member to enroll in the class. Space is limited. For more information contact Carolyn Oleson at or visit
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August 02, 2017


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