Editor’s note – “Coherence is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation. It is a state that builds resiliency – personal energy is accumulated, not wasted, – leaving more energy to manifest intentions and harmonious outcomes.”
– Dr. Rollin McCraty, HeartMath Institute
“Know someone about to begin or continue college this fall? Naturally, you’ll want to offer encouragement and helpful advice for coping and succeeding in what is sure to be one of the more stressful ventures of his or her life. Think coherence. Even better, think quick coherence:
A newly published study assessing the efficacy of HeartMath’s Quick Coherence Technique® (QCT) found significant improvements in a group of students’ heart-coherence levels, as measured by heart rate variability (HRV). Study participants were undergraduates at the Universiti Putra Maylasia, in Pahang, Malaysia.
“Based on the results, the use of HRV-biofeedback technology and the QCT had helped to increase the levels of HRV scores and heart coherence of the participants,” the authors of the study wrote in a recent issue of Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities.
Students, Tools and Heartbeats
Twenty students at this public technical university between the ages of 18 and 22 participated in the study† by using the Quick Coherence self-regulation tool and HeartMath’s emWave technology while researchers collected their HRV data. (HRV indicates the time interval changes between the adjoining heartbeats, or more simply put, the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate.
First, the scientists measured a pre-QCT baseline coherence level, one of four stages in the experiment, for each participant.
Next, after the students went through the three stages of the Quick Coherence Technique: heart focus, heart breathing and heart feeling, their coherence levels were measured again.
“The results showed the positive effects of the use of the QCT on the increase of heart coherence among (the) university students.”
† Read the complete published study on HeartMath Institute’s website.
Reality of College Stress
College stress is not new. It likely has been prevalent for centuries or longer, but studies tracking it show a clear upward trajectory since the 1950s. Chances are good that something – whether you are a first-year or fourth-year student, are at it for two years or in it for four or more, think you have it together or know that you don’t – will cause you stress.
Whether you are leaving home for a campus dorm room and to be on your own for the first time, commute to school, have financial issues or experience mental block on exams, college can test you in ways you’ve not been tested.
- College stress not unique to four-year students. In a 2016 survey, the American College Health Association found that 34.4% of college students said stress had affected their schoolwork negatively over a 12-month study period.
- College stress not unique to U.S. students. Reporting in 2017, the National Institutes of Health published the findings of a sleep survey among university students in Luxemburg and Germany. The survey showed 45% of respondents indicated elevated stress levels.
Common College Stressors
The University of Minnesota, in an assessment of college stress, notes that “life events,” which are among the most common stressors outside of college life, are as likely to be found on campus as well. Following is a list it published of the most common ones:
- Serious illness or injury
- Serious illness, injury, or death of a family member or loved one
- Losing a job or sudden financial catastrophe
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Divorce or ending a long-term relationship (including parents’ divorce)
- Being arrested or convicted of a crime
- Being put on academic probation or suspended
Good News for College Students
The health-care community, especially the mental health sector, has developed solutions and made a plethora resources available to college students who are dealing with stress, both before it becomes a serious concern or after it has begun to take a toll. Moreover, nonprofit organizations like HeartMath, which has studied and developed tools, technology and programs for 27 years to combat stress, are valuable resources on which countless thousands of college students have relied.
What could be the most accessible, and certainly affordable, of these resources is the above-discussed Quick Coherence Technique.
“With all of the demands, pressure, anxiety and so many other stressors associated with college life, knowing you have a tool like the Quick Coherence Technique instantly available can be a tremendous confidence booster,” said Dr. Rollin McCraty, director of research at the HeartMath Institute. “Doing Quick Coherence for 60 seconds can help you re-center, gain clarity and re-energize mentally, emotionally and physically.”
Another free resource HeartMath offers is the College De-stress Handbook. It provides a thorough explanation of stress, how your body warns you, you are stressed and how it affects you. It contains a lot more besides, including three HeartMath self-regulation techniques and exercises, that students and their parents will find invaluable during the college experience.
Quick Coherence Technique®
Following is a modified version of this powerful technique taken from the College De-Stress Handbook.
Step 1. Heart-Focused Breathing
Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of the heart area or center of your chest to help you calm down and reduce the intensity of a stress-producing reaction. Take slow, deep breaths; inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds.
Step 2. Activate a Positive Feeling
Activate a positive feeling such as appreciation or care for a special person or pet, or you could recall an enjoyable occasion or special place that made you feel good inside. Try to re-experience that feeling now.”
McCraty, Rollin, Study Finds a Little Quick Coherence Good for College Students. HeartMath® Institute, August 2018, www.heartmath.org