A key area of focus at the Army Wellness Center is stress management. Study after study confirms the connection between our emotions and our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that in 2050, one out of three of us will have developed Type II Diabetes.

Additionally, there is a lot of coverage in medicine and in the media about obesity in America. As many of us know, unmanaged stress is connected to weight gain. What a lot of us don't know is chronic stress is linked to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. So investing the time and energy in exploring the impact of our emotions and how they affect our physiology is paramount.

Studies have shown significant beneficial changes to the autonomic nervous, immune and endocrine systems when individuals learn to master stress management techniques. The brain and heart work optimally when we experience emotions such as gratitude, love and compassion. Our mission is to assist active duty, 18+ dependents, Department of Defense civilians, retirees and reservists on orders in this endeavor.

What is ISMT?

The Individual Stress Management Training program is a biofeedback program that emphasizes the role of the heart in resilience and overall well-being. Recent biomedical research has shown that the heart is much more than a simple pump. The heart sends messages to the brain that not only effect physiological regulation, but also can profoundly influence perception, emotion, behavior, performance and health.

ISMT combines biofeedback and relaxation techniques to assist you in establishing a healthier response to stress. People who have utilized these techniques report results that are sustained over time because the program helps create a change in your baseline emotional and physiologic response to stressors.

Mind-body impact of ISMT

ISMT shifts the focus from an illness-based model to one that emphasizes the mind-body connection. It is a self-empowering program that offers tools and techniques that blend increased self-awareness with emotional self-regulation skills. By learning to make intentional internal adjustments, individuals can self-regulate their emotional states to avoid poor behavioral responses, re-establish stability and improve health and relationships.

To quote Dr. Rollin McCraty of the Institute of HeartMath, "By learning to access the intuitive intelligence of the heart, we are better able to care for ourselves, our families, our community, and the world itself."

This is the potential power of ISMT.

Stress: The constant challenge

From a body-mind perspective, emotions are the main source of stress. Feelings such as anxiety, irritation and feeling overwhelmed are some of the descriptors we use when expressing that we are "stressed out." HeartMath research indicates that emotions, even more than thoughts, trigger the stress response. Thus, the key to optimal wellness is our ability to self-regulate our emotional experience. Simply stated, the emotions we label as "negative" do, in fact, negatively impact our health. Conversely, the emotions we see as "positive" positively impact our health. ISMT can enhance physiological functions, renew energy, and optimize the body's natural regenerative processes.

What's the goal of ISMT?

The ultimate goal of ISMT is to create a permanent shift in the physiologic and emotional response to stress. The immediate goal is to enhance your self-awareness. What is stressing you out? Why is this stressful? When are you most stressed out? When are you least stressed out? What relationships and activities bring you joy? Enhanced self-awareness is transformative in this work. Once stressors and strengths are clearly defined as they are, we can begin to work to improve stress management. During the session, changes in heart rate variance gives users immediate feedback on how their practice is improving their body's response to stress. Your health educator assists you in interpreting the data and adjusting your focus to improve what is known as coherence. Think of coherence as the harmony of mind and body.

What is a session like?

After baseline measures are taken, we work to change the pattern of signals sent to the brain from the heart. This is achieved through deep breathing, self-generated positive emotional shifts via mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery. Utilizing HeartMath emWave Technology to peer within your physiology in live time, we get immediate feedback as to your progress in heart rate variance training.

However you may respond when experiencing stress, the four modalities of ISMT (deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, and PMR) can help. During the session, it is quite common for unaddressed emotions to surface. Your health educator will walk you through how to use this experience as an opportunity to see first-hand the positive impact HRV training can have on your emotional state. Over time, participants report a sense of empowerment resulting from the ability to self-regulate previously unhealthy responses to stress and utilize new, more effective responses moving forward.

You can reach the Army Wellness Center-Schofield Barracks at (808) 655-1866 to schedule your first ISMT today.