I think this is whole “singing my stress away” project is going to be absolutely necessary this month, if yesterday is any indication of how the rest of October is going to go.
If you’re just joining me now, then this won’t make a lot of sense until you read yesterday’s post and then head over read to my blog-karaoke partner in crime (who happens to live in the Netherlands, so consider this virtual blog-karaoke)’s in-depth post on why singing is a great cure for stress. She and I are going to sing at least one song every single day for the month of October, and we’re going to see the effect it has on mood, stress, chronic pain, and fatigue.
I’m no doctor and I don’t have a lot of fancy biohacking equipment, but I figured I’d at least try to measure something besides a general sense of wellbeing, so I decided to use Heart Rate Variability as a means of tracking my ability to adapt to stress as the month goes on.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Heart Rate Variability, I can’t claim to be an expert, but I can give you a basic rundown:
HRV measures the pattern of your heart rate, not the average pulse rate. Most people don’t have a 100% steady pulse rate–ie 60 beats per second averaging out to 1 beat per second. A true heart rate would be .98, 1.02, .97, 1.01, 1.03, etc. *
HRV matters because it measures, among other things, how well your body responds to stress. Your heart rate is controlled by the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems: the sympathetic speeds up your heart rate, and the parasympathetic slows it down. The higher your variability between your heart beats, the better your heart is at dealing with stress.
Like I said, I really can’t pretend to be an expert; however I am going to do the layman’s n=1 and show you my results as I go through.
So, I was sitting in Starbucks (my “Coffice,” since I’m currently telecommuting), and Ella came on over the speaker system. I found myself humming** along…and then she came on again, and again (thank goodness my Starbucks has good taste in background music!), so I went hunting for my iPhone and pulled my “Simply Ella Fitzgerald” compilation off of iCloud. I only intended to sing one song…but there’s something about the standards that just gets me going.
– It’s All Right With Me
– Easy to Love
– So in Love
– Someone to Watch Over Me
– You Do Something to Me
October 1 was a bad day. I’m not going to go into the details, but no matter how I tried to keep my cup half full, somehow, it kept coming up empty. Lack of sleep, a product launch at work, and some bad news made all of the little annoyances and imperfections of the day seem like mountains instead of molehills.
Ankle-wise, things were not bad. I woke up with pain and went to bed with pain, but in between, I was mostly okay.
Singing didn’t make my problems go away, but for the several minutes that I was swinging along with Ella, I at least felt like there was a reason to smile. I’m interested to see if this whole project really helps me lower my stress response long enough to realize that my cup is more than half full–it’s overflowing.
*For more, check out this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast. It’s not for the un-geeky, so be prepared for some complicated science talk! 🙂
**Okay, I was singing. Under my breath, but actual words. Not sure my fellow Coffice-ers were thrilled, so I took my singing to my car when I drove home.