Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

The Last Time I Looked, My Mind & Body Were Both at Starbucks

May 3, 2013

The question of mind-body relationship was never really questioned until Rene Descartes came up with the theory that that consciousness resided somewhere — and intelligence resided in the brain. None of us know exactly how he concocted the idea that the two were distinct from each other, and none of us know  if the argument was developed one Friday evening over a beer.

Nonetheless, traditional medicine tries to dissuade us from even thinking that our blood pressure could possibly be impacted by how we think of our kids, how we worry about our jobs, or how we approach a blind intersection. Nope. The body is on its own and the mind cannot be found anywhere. At least, nowhere that double-blind studies can sample it, test-tube it, or replicate it.

You may know that I am a harpist. Trust me, my mind is fully connected to my fingers as I pluck strings and respond to each unexpected outcome. And your mind is connected to your ears and to the part of you that melts into the most luscious of symphonies, ballads — or is completely startled when a door slams.

HeartMath has been developing relevant research for over two decades. looking at the mind-body relationship as indicated by heart rate variability, usually measured by a pulse-oximeter. HeartMath looks at heart-centered living as being the alignment of the mind and the body, which coalesce at the heart.

Therefore, the studies do not merely measure heart rate. Rather, they look at the impact of emotions on heart rate variability.  This means, as I observed in a workshop with Robert Browning of HeartMath and Dr. Jean Watson, of the Watson Caring Science Institute, that if I go up to you, hand you a microphone, and tell you to sing “Happy Birthday” in front of hundreds of people, you may have a significant physiological response.

Now, you may refuse my request to sing, but the thought alone may trigger the “fight or flight” response. It is this phenomenon that offers lots of room to reclaim control over our own responses to stress, and to how we pre-emptively react to what may or may not happen on a day-to-day basis.

Basically, the question is not whether your body goes to Starbucks and leaves your mind at home — or your mind is at home, but your body somehow divorces itself from the situation.  They are inseparable.  If the mind experiences fear or anxiety, the body follows with heightened blood pressure, increased heart rate, tension that can be felt everywhere from the neck to the feet.

The relevant question here is how do we respond to daily stresses, some ordinary some extraordinary, and how do we recover to a point when we are in balance with our work life and who we are.

HeartMath offers training and education to healthcare organizations and staff as well as the rest of us to help us do just that. Healing HealthCare Systems and HeartMath have now entered into an alliance to bring the benefits of our work together for healthcare organizations.  We each have been working with many of the same organizations, but now will look to join the work to amplify the benefits that each of us bring.

On May 14-17, in Aptos, CA, HeartMath is hosting its 2nd Bi-Annual Best Practices Conference. I am pleased to be a keynote speaker, along with Dr. Jean Watson, and am thrilled to be working with HeartMath and its team. And, I am looking forward to the richness that this new alliance will yield.

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