How to Stress-Proof Your Relationship

By Aviva Engel in Research on February 20th, 2009 / No Comments

A recent survey shows that stress due to money and the economy is taking a significant emotional and physical toll on Americans. If unmanaged, the intensified stress can poison a once healthy relationship. HeartMath® has explored human emotions extensively for the past 17 years, using heart rate variability, or heart rhythm patterns, to measure inner emotional states and stress levels.

Stemming from this research are innovative techniques and technologies that utilize the heart’s powerful rhythms to intercept and manage stressful emotions. Couples around the world are using this scientifically validated heart-focused approach to deal more effectively with today’s heightened stress, fear and anxiety and to revitalize their heart connection.

Better Communication Comes from the Heart
HeartMath’s research uncovered that negative or stressful emotions lead to disorder in the heart’s rhythms which impairs our ability to think clearly and reason; our actions become reactive and our decision-making and communication skills are much less effective than when we are in a calmer state.

Conversely, this research also shows that positive emotions like love and appreciation can change the heart rhythms to a “coherent,” smooth and ordered, pattern. As the brain and nervous system synchronize to the heart’s coherent rhythm, emotional stress is released. In this coherent state the capacity for communicating and making decisions is enhanced, we’re more intuitive and more sensitive.

Saving our Marriage
Tammy and Reynir Jonsson were on the brink of divorce. Despite their efforts to save their marriage, the stress of finances, raising teenagers and the pressures at work was destroying it. Their biggest issue was strained communications. When Tammy and Reynir would try to communicate it was impossible for them to get past their feelings of hurt, judgment, anger and blame.

Tammy says, “Reynir was always angry and I always felt hurt and unappreciated. Whenever we’d try to talk it would end in a screaming match. It got to where we felt like not communicating because we knew we’d never see eye-to-eye or resolve anything. This went on for years.”

Psychologist Deborah Rozman, Ph.D. says, “During these difficult times stress can be extreme and communication is vital to keep our relationships strong. Couples can easily learn how to shift their heart rhythms into coherence, to intercept their stress response and reset their emotional physiology. The benefits are more open-heartedness, better communication and enhanced problem-solving abilities – all of which we need right now as we navigate through these challenging times.”

Nurture your Heart Connection:
Dr. Rozman offers some simple strategies to help couples get their hearts in-sync.

The Quick Coherence Technique® is a scientifically validated three-step exercise. This deceptively simple technique will help you adjust your heart rhythms into a coherent pattern.

  1. Heart Focus: Shift your attention to the area of the heart and breathe slowly and deeply.
  2. Heart Breathing: Keep your focus in the heart by gently breathing – five seconds in and five seconds out – through your heart. Do this two or three times.
  3. Heart Feeling: Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Focus on the good heart feeling as you continue to breathe through the area of your heart.

Additional practices to help revitalize your relationship:

  • Set a few minutes each evening to connect with your partner. Share about how your day went, your concerns and fears related to work, finances, etc. The act of sharing with someone who cares about you helps to revitalize feelings of being connected.
  • When your partner is talking, practice listening without interruption. Listening from a place of genuine care, even if the issues aren’t resolved yet, can provide tremendous release.
  • Take a few quiet moments before bed to focus on something about your partner, or something they did, that you really appreciate. In the morning share with your partner what it was that you appreciated about them. You and your partner will both benefit as you engage in feelings of appreciation at the start of your day. Keeping an appreciation journal is also a great practice.

Ray Varlinsky, a licensed California Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Gottman Couples Workshop Leader, says, “One of the things I suggest to the couples I work with is to use emWave Personal Stress Reliever (PSR) whenever they feel stressed. Based on HeartMath’s research, the concept behind this technology is to engage the heart’s rhythms to transform stressful emotions.

I ask couples to use the emWave PSR to calm themselves down, self-soothe and reconnect with a positive feeling and with their relationship. When the heart rhythms are coherent, they can talk about what triggered the feelings that came up and how it made them feel. Being in a coherent state helps ensure success at working through the issues that arise.”

Case in Point
“All these years we’ve been saying similar things but couldn’t hear each other because of the negative emotions we carried around with us. Nobody teaches you emotions 101. The emotions would stack and the stress would accumulate and that’s what entered every conversation we would have,” says Tammy. “Now, before a communication we each take a couple minutes to get in coherence. We adjust our heart rhythms, we release the stress, we get our attitudes right and then we communicate. It’s amazing what you hear from the other person when you do this.”

Reynir added, “Before learning to use the HeartMath tools and the emWave PSR I had a very difficult time managing my anger. Now I’m a lot happier in my life. I’m calm and I feel much more in control. My interactions with my wife and my kids are a lot smoother. Now we can do things together we couldn’t do before because we’d be fighting. What we’ve learned is so easy anyone can do it. But if you don’t know what to do you end up a victim of your emotions.”

Tammy and Reynir suggest taking a couple minutes throughout the day to pause and get in coherence. This has significantly reduced their daily stress and enhanced their quality of life. The added benefit, according to the Jonssons, has been a rekindling of their romance. Tammy says, “Reynir sends me sweet text messages and calls me on his lunch hour. Reopening our hearts to each other feels so good.”

During the month of February HeartMath is offering their “Improving Relationships” e-booklet free of charge. You can download it at HeartMath founder Doc Childre’s “De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times” is always available for free download at To learn more about the emWave Personal Stress Reliever please visit

About HeartMath®
HeartMath LLC ( is a cutting-edge stress solutions company providing a range of unique services, products, and technology to improve health and well-being while dramatically reducing stress. Their emWave Personal Stress Reliever technology won the Last Gadget Standing People’s Choice Award during the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show.

For 17 years HeartMath clinical studies have demonstrated the critical link between emotions, heart function, and cognitive performance. HeartMath’s work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals such as American Journal of Cardiology, Stress Medicine, Preventive Cardiology, and Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

HeartMath’s organizational clients include Duke Medicine, Mayo Health System, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Sutter Health. Cisco Systems, Boeing, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, as well as dozens of school systems and thousands of health professionals around the world.

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