Overcome Anxiety with HeartMath [Podcast with Dr. Mark Halpern] - PCOS Diva
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Overcome Anxiety with HeartMath [Podcast with Dr. Mark Halpern]

If you can get your heart rhythm into a nice coherent, relaxed state, you can start doing that to the centers of your brain that deal with decision-making, pain, sleep, and stress.
– Dr. Mark Halpern

Anxiety is often a common state for women with PCOS. If your diet is good, you exercise, and you’re doing all the right things and still struggling with stress, you may need to go deeper.

In today’s podcast, I speak with Dr. Mark Halpern. He is a chiropractor, author, lecturer, and certified HeartMath practitioner, and the author of a new book called Coherence Revolution.

We talk about how HeartMath can help you overcome chronic stress and anxiety.

If you are new to HeartMath, let’s start by defining what it is:

“The HeartMath system empowers people to self-regulate their emotions and behaviors to reduce stress, increase resilience, and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making more effective choices. This enables people to break through to greater levels of personal balance, creativity, insight, and health.”

Dr. Halpern takes HeartMath one step further in his movement Coherence Revolution.

Listen is as we explore:

  • The origin of chronic stress: fight/flight/freeze
  • Heart rate variability or HRV
  • What is coherence and how do you get more of it
  • How to create a daily coherence schedule for yourself
  • How to join his Coherence Revolution today

All PCOS Diva podcasts are available on:itunes-button

Resources mentioned:

HeartMath
Coherence Revolution 2022

Complete Transcript:

Amy Medling:

On today’s PCOS Diva podcast I am really excited to have Dr. Mark Halpern. He is a chiropractor, author, lecturer, and certified HeartMath practitioner and the author of a new book called Coherence Revolution. And I am really excited for him to share ways for PCOS Divas to help control our anxiety and chronic stress. So thank you, Dr. Mark. Halpern for coming onto our show today.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Oh, thank you for having me. Real happy to be here.

Amy Medling:

So I stumbled upon your book. I’m not really quite sure where, somewhere on Amazon when I was doing some searches on how to help control anxiety, and you have a really compelling story about dealing with chronic anxiety for years and finding a solution for yourself. And now you’re sharing that in your new book. So I was wondering if you could just give us your personal story and testimony.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Yeah. I just turned 50 a couple months ago and it really has been a journey really through the eyes of anxiety, of what my life has gone since about the age of 12 or 13. I think I was fairly normal. I had a happy childhood. There was nothing negative to report about my family or even my friends, but starting, I would say sometime around the age of 12 or 13, as people were going through what I would call normal high school angst or going through puberty, I believe that I just started developing these really bad thinking and feeling habits, where my mind would start to race and I would start to get anxious about any number of teenage type of issues.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Over time I just kept ruminating on them and ruminating on them, and over several years, I think I just developed these really bad thinking habits. And as you start developing these thinking habits, the way you think starts to produce the chemicals of stress, and as the chemicals of stress start being produced, you start thinking and feeling in different ways and things that you feel are just small, become bigger and bigger, and they become habits. I believe that I became addicted to anxiety, because as you start to think a certain way and produce those chemicals over and over and over again, the chemicals of stress, then you start repeating those same patterns over and over again until you develop these triggers. And the triggers can be with you for the rest of your life. Anytime little things happen, they set off certain thinking habits, would set off the cascade of stress hormones being released, and then you start acting and behaving in the same way over and over. And for me, that was anxiety.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

It got to a point where I really never felt any other emotion other than anxiety. I didn’t get angry at people. I didn’t get sad. I just got anxious and everything was about anxiety. And so this went through junior high and high school. I got into chiropractic when I was in my early twenties. It lasted all through that. And even as a practitioner and having kids in my thirties, anxiety was always the backdrop. And most people, if they weren’t in my inner circle, so to speak, they would have no idea because I never stopped going to work. I didn’t let it interfere with too many things, I just kept going. However, the backdrop of it was always anxiety.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Even as a young chiropractor, I would be with my patients one on one and feeling good when I was in their presence, because when you’re in the moment I think you get sort of zoned in. And then all of a sudden I’m on my own, a patient leaves the room and I break down because anxiety just overwhelms me. So I really had to try anything and everything to get rid of anxiety, and my approach as a scientist, someone who had a scientific mind and was a very good in school and scholastic, my approach was “let’s try everything.” So I did every approach from, let’s say, Eastern and Western that I could find, from psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy to energy healers and people that worked with the quantum field.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

I tried medications and did all different types of reading and books and courses and you name it, and I tried it. And over the years, I always thought that I’d find the thing, I’d find the tool, I’d find the answer and I’d get rid of anxiety and then I would just move on, as if it was something that I could just get over and never experience again. However, when you start developing these patterns, it doesn’t really work like that. There was never a time where I just figured it all and it went away. And so as my life developed, if we fast forward all the way to two years ago, when the pandemic started, I was sent home. I remember it was March 15th, 2020, and I was sent home because our chiropractic clinic was closed and we had to go home and we didn’t know how long we’d be going home for.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

I knew this was not going to be a good situation for me if I were to just sit at home and wait the uncertainty of it all. I knew myself and I knew my triggers, and I thought, this wasn’t going to be good. So I essentially went through every course, every book, every solution that I had ever tried for anxiety. And I started to figure out what worked for me, what didn’t work for me. And that’s really how the Coherence Revolution started, was I figured out all the things that worked and all the things that didn’t work. And I just realized that that would probably be very valuable for people going through the same thing. And that’s really where the book came about and the live course, so that I could help teach people these things. And at the heart of it all, pun intended, was a technique called HeartMath, which I learned and I’m certified to teach, and I think it will help people who deal with constant stress and anxiety.

Amy Medling:

Yeah. And I will vouch for you that as you go through the book describing all of the different courses and techniques, many of them I’m familiar with and I’ve tried myself, but you’ve gone above and beyond with all of different breath work that you’ve tried. And I think what attracted me to you and your work was your work with HeartMath, because I found that that is a really powerful tool for myself. Years ago, when HeartMath came up with their little iPhone app and their little tool that you would put on your ear lobe, and it would monitor your heart rhythm and you sync your breath with it. I found that it really helped me get out of fight or flight, and I’ve recommended it to one-on-one clients over the years, but I’ve never really covered it in depth in a blog post or a podcast. So I thought you would be a perfect person to explain to PCOS Divas what HeartMath is and how that could really help us, how we could add that as a tool to our toolbox.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Sure. If I take a step back and you and I talked a little bit before about the stress response itself, we all have a stress response, which is we call the fight or flight system. And now it’s actually called the fight, flight or freeze system, but it was designed very perfectly thousands and thousands of years ago, because as humans, when we were in danger, we needed our body to protect us. And we needed to be able to have a state that we’d be able to get into to keep us safe. So for instance, if a lion was chasing you, you needed to have all of the blood flow go from your digestive system, immune system, your inner body, you needed the blood flow to get to your muscles as quick as possible, so that you could use those muscles to run away from the lion or the bear or whatever was chasing you.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And the idea was that you would be able to get into that cave, get away from the danger, and then within a few minutes, that system would calm down and kick back into more of a relaxed state. However, fast forward thousands of years, and that system of ours is now not being only triggered by danger from a lion chasing us, but literally from our boss yelling at us, or getting into interactions in our social life, or whether it’s your personal life or at home, it’s always being triggered by our stressors and inappropriately so, and so much that we can’t turn it off. And so we’re stuck in this chronic state of fight or flight. Most of us don’t know how to get it out of that state, and that is not a state to be making decisions. It’s not a state that you’re going to be your best at.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

You’re not going to have a good conversation with someone you’re in fight or flight. And so really, instead of trying to deal with life in that state, the idea is to get into a more balanced state, which we call coherence, so that you can make these decisions and be in a more resilient state. And so HeartMath, they started doing their research, I think it was in the early ’90s, where they started measuring the rhythm of the heart and finding how breath work can affect the heart and affect the brain. And when they first started doing their research, they really had nothing. They started from scratch and they made some really incredible discoveries. One of them is that if you can get your heart rhythm into what’s called a coherent rhythm, which looks like a sign wave, if you can get it into a nice, relaxed rhythm, you can start to entrain your brain.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

The heart’s rhythm is approximately 40 times stronger than the brain’s rhythm, so if you can get your heart rhythm into a nice coherent, relaxed state, you can start doing that to the centers of your brain that deal with decision-making, that deal with pain, that deal with sleep, that deal with stress. So now you would have a powerful tool through your heart to actually start to change the way the brain functions. There’s a concept that HeartMath talks about called heart rate variability, HRV. And it’s actually fairly simple. When you breathe in, your heart rhythm goes up, it speeds up and when you breathe out, your heart rhythm slows down, so you can use that. The greater your heart rate goes up to the lower it goes down. So let’s say that you breathe in and your heart rhythm goes up to 90, and then you breathe out and your heart rhythm goes down to 70 beats per minute.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

90 minus 70 is 20, and that would be a 20 HRV heart rate variability. What they found is that the greater your heart rate variability, the more adaptable you are to life, the more resilient you are and in fact, the longer you live. There has been mortality studies that show you can increase the length of your life simply by increasing your heart rate variability. So as you start to use that knowledge of changing your heart rate variability and the rhythm of your heart, and you start to add in some visualization, and then you start to add in some emotional response, now you can get yourself into what’s called a physiological coherent state. Athletes know this state, because if an athlete’s ever told you they were in the zone, that is coherence. That’s a coherent state. When you walk in a room and you’re just attracted to someone across the room, there’s something that’s pulling you towards them, you’re in coherence with them.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

When you’ve just eaten really good food and your body is now purring and your cells are all resonating at a high level and you’re feeling amazing, that’s a coherent state. So we can use not only our breath, but we can use our world around us, each of our senses, to start to get into a more coherent state at any time of the day. And that’s really what the Coherence Revolution is about, is teaching you how to get into a more coherent rhythm and more coherent state using HeartMath, using your senses, using the world around you.

Amy Medling:

I think that’s what makes your book and your approach so unique is that you’re taking that idea of coherence that was introduced with HeartMath, and you’re expanding that into other areas like you mentioned, sleep and eating and exercise, taste. Pretty much the second half of your book goes into in detail about all of these different ways you can build coherence in your life. And so that would be at bringing your body, mind, and spirit into a state of coherence, that is getting us out of that fight or flight mode. Would you describe it that way?

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Yes, absolutely. Not only is it getting you out of the fight or flight mode, it’s bringing you into the moment. And one of the things that I realized was, and obviously my mentors, I’ve learned from a lot of great teachers as well, but when you are in the moment, when you are here and now, there is no anxiety and there is no depression. Anxiety, if I’m going to generalize, is when you’re thinking about the future, the things that haven’t, the uncertainty. And depression generally happens when you’re starting to think about what was, what happened. But in the present moment, when you’re truly in the moment, you don’t feel anxiety or depression. So in the book, I actually detailed some of the more extreme things I did, whether it was scuba diving or jumping out of an airplane or cliff jumping or doing extreme skiing or any of these things.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

The reason I did them is because they put you in the moment. There was nowhere else for you to be, but you had to be so focused and in the moment. When I was in the moment, I felt no anxiety, so it was very powerful for me to find ways of getting in the moment. So if you can use the world around you, for instance, if you’ve got a desk and it’s facing a window, well, if your window is facing an electric field with all kinds of wires, that’s a heck of a lot different than if you’re facing a mountain and able to look at these beautiful vistas all day. And all you have to do is look up and you get a feeling of relaxation just by looking out your window. So you can use your visual landscape, or you can use your smell. Think about in the morning, there are certain smells that might make you more alert and more ready to go to work.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Whereas when you come home after work and you want to relax, maybe that same smell that’s going to lift you up is not appropriate for that moment. Maybe in that moment, you want something that’s going to relax you. So being coherent doesn’t always mean being relaxed. Being coherent means that you’re in a pure state. It means that you are in the here and now, you’re in the moment, and that your body is essentially in tune, your brain and your heart rhythm and your digestive rhythm and the mood that you’re in, everything is coherent or in balance with where you want to be in that moment. So you can use the world around you, and the idea is to do the self inquiry.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Most people don’t take the time to figure out what smells can affect them in different ways, what tastes can affect them in certain ways, what visual landscapes will affect them. And the idea is that you build your toolbox so that once you’ve done the self inquiry, then you can literally create a schedule or a life plan for yourself, where you know what can do in the morning, or at lunch, or in the evening to change your physiological state. It might be a taste, it might be a smell, it might be speaking to a certain person and it might be sitting down and practicing HeartMath. But the idea is for you to have so many tools that you know you’ve got it, and you’ve got enough tools that you can change your physiological state literally on a whim, change your emotional state on a whim simply because you choose to.

Amy Medling:

Yeah. I love that idea of the toolbox. I know for me, one of the things in the afternoon before the craziness ensues, when kids get home from school and all the evening activities, is to make a cup of tea. And I love Earl Grey tea, that citrusy scent of the bergamot helps to, I guess brighten my mood a little bit, and then just the process of making the tea, having to wait for the water to boil and the leaves to steep, gazing out the window at the snow covered landscape right now. It really does help to create coherence. And I never really understood this concept of coherence until I read your book, but things are clicking for me now. And you’re right, it’s creating these little habits, I guess, throughout your day. I would love to hear some of your habits that you could share with us that might help some women listening to create coherence in their day.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Well, I think one of the things that I do in the book and in the live course, obviously you can jump into it a little bit more deeply, but you design a life schedule for yourself. And what I mean by that is I know I get up at 6:00, 6:30 every day, I go to bed 11:00 or 12:00. And so everything in between, there are people that make plans or a daily schedule, and I like to take it a step further. The idea is that once you’ve done the self inquiry and you know what works for you, start to design your life. So you know on certain mornings, this is what your schedule is, and this is what you’re going to do in the afternoon. And this is what you’re going to do in the evening.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And you plan out your social time and you plan out your business time and you plan out all the little things you have to do, your chores and all of that. But then you have this schedule and you see what you have to do on a timeline basis. But the step that most don’t do is how do they want to feel during those times? Because without knowing it, most people are practicing anxiety. They’re practicing the stress, because they’re going over and over and over, every day, the same emotions, the same thought process, the same triggers. And so what’s really helped me is to identify the emotions that I want to feel specific times of the day, and then whether I feel them or not, to practice those emotions. And the idea is that you start to practice your dream life and the more you practice your dream life, the more you practice the emotions that you want to feel, the more familiar those emotions become to you, the easier they become to elicit.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And before you know it, the dream life that you thought you wanted, you’re starting to live it, you’re starting to feel it. So for me, things like HeartMath, where you’re literally practicing an emotional state and you can do it anywhere at any time, two, three minutes at a time, is enough to change your physiological state. So I have made HeartMath a part of my life. I’ve made meditation at least once, maybe twice a day, but I’ve also made sure that in my life I’ve got times to go and do social. I’ve got times that I am with my patients. I’ve got times that I’m seeing my family. I think you hear the term balance quite often in creating a balanced life. Well, if you truly want to live without anxiety, then you need it to be a balanced life. Because if you feel like you’re always depriving yourself of things, then you’re always feeling this lack, and as soon as you’re feeling lack, that’s where the anxiety can take hold.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

So I believe in creating a process for yourself and that’s what’s worked for me, not a destination mindset, a process mindset, meaning that if I follow the process I’ve set up every day, even if I fall off the bandwagon and I have a couple of bad days, I don’t have to get back to any sort of destination. I just have to get back onto the process that I’ve set up for myself and start doing the things that help me, so that you’re back on your process. And I have felt that creating a process mindset has been so much more helpful because I’m not trying to get anywhere. We always prolong our happiness. You know, I’ll be happy when. I’ll be happy when I get my first job or I get married or I get my first million dollars or I get my first house, or all of these things that I’ll be happy when, and then you realize that 30 years has gone by and you’ve never been happy.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

So by creating a process to live by, a schedule that identifies what’s nourishing your soul, then you get up every day and you just follow your process. And if you need to change it, change it. But the idea is that you’re following a process that keeps you focused on the things that resonate with you and make you feel gratitude and love and fulfilled every day .

Amy Medling:

Yeah. I think you’re so right on about the gratitude, doing things that nourish your soul, feeling like you are enough and in a place of abundance, rather than … I know a lot of women with PCOS, because it’s really a direct attack on your femininity, your fertility, you start feeling like you’re not enough. And then that creates the anxiety. The other concept of getting in touch with the feelings that you want to create, I was introduced to that idea from Danielle LaPorte. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her work.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

I have heard of her, yeah.

Amy Medling:

Yeah. And I will attest that that’s been really helpful for me, and just on those days where I’m feeling highly anxious, just trying to fake it until I can make it. You also talk in your book about raising your vibration when you are in this low sort of anxiety-ridden vibrational state and things that you can do to elevate your vibration. So for me, that would be like putting on some music that lifts my spirit. Sometimes it will be like taking an Epsom salts bath and let all of those anxieties wash down the drain. But again, it’s all clicking for me now, because it is these little tools and tips that I have in my life that I’ve created a process, in order to create coherence. And it really does help with the stress and anxiety.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Yeah. Creating your own process is so helpful, and then once you’ve got your process and you just continue to practice it, it becomes easier. And I talk about in my book, there’s an example of I was told many times to get rid of anxiety is going to take years or it’s going to take lots of therapy or just be patient and it’s going to happen. And I’ve had a few of these scenarios happen to me and I’m sure some of your listeners have, where you’re sitting at home and maybe you’re crying, maybe you’re anxious, maybe you’re in fight or flight and you’re almost frozen. And you’re at home alone, and then the doorbell rings and maybe you’re expecting a package or what have you, generally speaking, what you do is you go, okay, I got to go answer that door.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And it happens in a split second and you straighten up, you get a whole bunch of energy together because you stand up, you wipe your face, you wipe your eyes off, you get all of your energy together. You open the door and you open the door with a smile on your face and you greet whoever’s at the door. “Hi, how are you?” And in that moment, you’re not feeling anxiety. You’re not feeling depression. You’re not feeling any of it. You’re right in that moment with that person. Now, there may be a thing in the back of your head saying, get rid of this person because I want to go back and break down because I was a mess. But in that moment you probably feel pretty darn good because you’ve gotten rid of that anxiety in an instant, because the energy you applied to it was greater than the energy that was there.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And it is possible to do that without the emergency of someone getting the door. It’s always about matching the energy of the anxiety. Obviously your response has to be bigger than the anxiety. So that’s why when I used to do things to get into the moment, they were pretty extreme, but then I knew that the energy I had to put in had to be greater than the anxiety I was feeling, to overcome that anxiety. But nowadays, after practicing and understanding the way this process works, literally there’s this voice inside my head that says, “Okay, right now you’re in the middle of being panicked or anxious. What are you going to do in this moment to get out of it?” And because I’ve got a toolbox, it might be smell this, look at that, listen to this music or whatever it is.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And in the six-week course, I have this amazing exercise that we do, where there’s 15 different types of music from every different genre, from drums, from Japan, to pop music, to country music, to classical music. And I instruct people to get finger paints. And for a half an hour, everybody on the Zoom call is doing finger painting while listening to all these different genres of music. It’s a 30-minute track with all different types of music. And the idea is to see how your flow changes, based upon the music. And it’s amazing, the responses that you get people going through. Some people get angry with certain types of music, and then they feel light and relaxed. And the colors change that they choose to use during different songs. And you really see how you can affect your emotional state by using your senses. It’s a very powerful thing, once you start to understand you’ve got this ability to change your physiological state, but you just have to start to dive into it and see what works for you.

Amy Medling:

Your course sounds really interesting. Tell me more about what you tackle and how it’s structured and how people can find out more.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Well, it’s a six-week online course, it’ll be about an hour and a half each time. There’s going to be three or four dates announced on the website that you can go to. I’ll give you that link in a minute. What happens is each week you’re going to be learning some HeartMath techniques. At the very center, the very heart of this course is learning how to do HeartMath and learning all the different techniques and how to start changing and practicing your emotional state. And around that, we discuss each of the senses. We spend time diving into each sense. I give you a workbook and some worksheets that help you to dive into this. And so each week you go through a different sense. We talk about nature and how you can use nature to help you.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

And by the end of week six, you’ve now got a template and you’ve created a life schedule, what I call a daily time schedule for yourself. You’ve even put in all the different emotional states that you’d like to be in. And you actually literally start to practice. And on the course, there’s different breakout rooms and you start to practice your emotional state and you start to dive into these concepts with the other people on the course, so that you are not only learning this conceptually, that you’re developing the habits, you’re developing new patterns. So at the end of the six weeks, you should be able to have a new process for yourself that you can then go forward and know how to alter it and adapt it as you need. And so I think the six-week course will give you a lot of time to make the changes and do the self inquiry necessary.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

We just found that it’s been life changing for people. And I do want to give your listeners a chance A, to read the book and B, to go through the course. So if you go www.coherencerevolution.com/2022, that’s coherencerevolution.com/2022. When you go there you can actually get a free ebook. You can download the free ebook, that’s for you. And there’s a 50% off a code for the workbook and for the live course. So feel free to do that. And if you’re looking to get anxiety under control or just overwhelm, or even just to better your life and to live a more inspired life, then I think that you’ll enjoy this course, because it’s not therapy. It’s really for people who want to just dive into their life and create a process for themselves that’ll lead to more gratitude, more love, and more resilience in their life.

Amy Medling:

Well, I’m going to have to check that out because I will tell you, it would be a shortcut to learn from you, because you have literally done all of the programs that I’ve looked at. Dr. Joe Dispenza’s programs.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Yeah, he’s the best.

Amy Medling:

Yeah, Bruce Lipton. It’s really impressive what you’ve done and I’ve love to see how you’ve filtered all of that information into your own way of teaching. So I’m excited to check out your course and really highly recommend listeners to download that. It’s the ebook Coherence Revolution that you’re offering? Oh, that’s a great deal. So go and download Dr. Halpern’s book and check out his course and we will put all of that information in the show notes. So if you’re listening, you can go to pcosdiva.com/podcast and see the transcript and everything in the show notes. So thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Mark Halpern:

Well, you’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here.

Amy Medling:

And thank you all for listening. I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye-bye.

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