Stress-Relief and Healthy Sleep: Return to the Heart

To skip the story and to go to the solution at once, you can scroll to the last alinea: Quick Coherence.

Neglecting the heart

During my recent vacation in The Netherlands and Spain I hardly had time to breathe. Visiting relatives and friends, and being submerged in old European culture, I didn’t remember to consciously connect with my heart. Last week I arrived home in Australia. For nights in a row I haven’t been able to fall asleep before 5 o’clock in the morning. Overwhelmed by the latest memories of emotional gatherings with loved ones, and visual information about the countless historical and cultural layers of the city of Barcelona, my mind couldn’t find rest – it couldn’t unwind, relax, and surrender to sleep.

This annoyed me so, that I went to the chemist and bought natural stress-relief and sleep aid. Melisse, hop and passion-flower were to – effortlessly – put me to a refreshing sleep of many hours. I spent $40 on these pills and homeopathic drops.

Evening fell and I took my pill, placing the oral spray on my bedside table in case I should still wake up in the middle of the night. I held high expectations of the natural miracle, and happily anticipated quick and wonderfully deep sleep.

Five hours later I had long lost my happy anticipation, and my high expectations had been deeply disappointed.

Return to the heart

Then, I finally remembered. I remembered to practice Heart-Focused Breathing, at last. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before! Me, who advises everyone always to practice Heart-Focused Breathing, had not thought of this for over three weeks! Involved in, and engaged and consumed by emotions as I had been, I had totally forgotten about it.

This is what happens. My clients report forgetting to practice their so needed exercises when a lot is going on in their lives. It happens to me. It happens. It’s only human.

I turned on my back. I put my hands on my chest, over my heart. I focused all my attention on my heart-space. I began imagining to be breathing through my heart. Instantly I became quieter. Although I have known for a long time that this exercise is very powerful, I managed to again feel amazed by its effect. As if I was doing the exercise for the very first time, I felt surprised by its simplicity and instant result. And then I felt surprised by feeling surprised! I know this. I teach this. I live this. How could I have forgotten?


Emotions, whether welcome or unwelcome, are powerful. They can easily overwhelm us and take control, making us believe that they are in charge and that we are but puppets to obey their will. We have to have the desire to change something in order to wake up and realise that things can be different. In my case I felt so annoyed with not sleeping that I frantically began to scan my brain for options, until it helped me remember the breathing exercise. I then remembered that emotions are but sensations that come and go, and don’t have to hold any power over me at all. Emotions are like the water of the sea – like waves they come and go. I am the observer who witnesses my feelings without having to be affected by them.

Quick Coherence

Heart-Focused Breathing was first developed by HeartMath Institute. They have now developed this further into the Quick Coherence exercise:

Step 1: Heart-Focused Breathing
Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.
Suggestion: Inhale 5 seconds, exhale 5 seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable). Putting your attention around the heart area helps you centre and get coherent.

Step 2: Activate a positive or renewing feeling
Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.
Suggestion: Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, a special place, an accomplishment, etc., or focus on a feeling of calm or ease.


‘Personal coherence, also known as psychophysiological coherence, refers to the synchronization of our physical, mental and emotional systems. It can be measured by our heart-rhythm patterns: The more balanced and smooth they are, the more in sync, or coherent we are. Stress levels recede, energy levels increase and our brain and what HeartMath calls the “heart brain” work together. It is a state of optimal clarity, perception and performance.

Global coherence refers to the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the greater community of human beings acting in concert with their own hearts, each other and nation to nation in harmony with the living earth. HeartMath believes coherence is highly achievable globally when large numbers of people focus heartfelt intentions on a common goal.’ From: HeartMath Institute

I fell asleep soon, and sound. I was blessed with three hours of deep relaxation and dreamless oblivion when the alarm clock rang and welcomed me into this new week. Tonight I won’t need any remedies except this one: remember to return to my heart.

To coherence! To stress-relief and healthy sleep!

Miriam Aziz

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