Living with PTSD: Tracking My HRV

I started tracking my HRV a few weeks ago, and it’s turned out to be a helpful tool. There isn’t really a target range that I could justifiably set for myself (especially since I’m not a medical professional), but I learned that the app I’m using has an average user number of 59 or so, and I was pretty sure that the research I’d listened to indicated mine would be lower.

It was.

For the first few weeks I was in the high 30s and low 40s most of the time. The app I use has a Morning Readiness reading that I do when I wake up, and it measures my HRV right after I finish sleep and there hasn’t been external stressors yet. I adopted and attitude of observing and learning, and watched my initial numbers steadily drop, and the readout pretty consistently tell me that I might need less stress, might need to do breathing exercises or otherwise manage my body’s sympathetic response. I noticed how I was feeling, noticed what the number was each day, and paid attention to whether I thought the two matched. Turns out, they often do.

This week my numbers have been in the 50s, which freaked out my app at first because that is suddenly much higher than normal. The readout cautioned me that I might be recovering and to maybe take it easy. I was! I’ve gotten consistently higher numbers this week, and have the energy and feel-good to match.

I don’t think tracking HRV is necessary, but I do think that having a way to check in with myself at a level that is available to me through technology is helpful, especially as I practice observing how I feel and responding by giving my body what it needs.

100 Days of Healing – Day 8

I spent the entire Summer Solstice inside, and most of it in a dimly lit room. I’m grateful that I have so much room for improvement. Yoga was not helpful yesterday, it was activating. So I stopped.

I started listening to Brené Brown’s book The Power of Authenticity yesterday. She’s a shame researcher and a delightfully authentic human. In her work she’s found that we experience shame the same way we experience trauma, and I want to heal from shame as much as I want to heal from trauma. I’m starting to understand why they often go hand in hand.

I wanted to do a yoga session and thought that would be within my bandwidth today. 11 minutes in, I realized I was getting activated on my way to a trigger, I was hot and sweaty but not in an “I’m exercising” way, I wasn’t enjoying it and was actually starting to be rather miserable.

I wanted to push through, because yoga is supposed to be a good thing, it isn’t supposed to be activating, it’s supposed to help me connect to my body, I didn’t want to be a quitter, it wasn’t even a hard practice…also I am too fat to get into some of the poses, I can’t believe I can’t do this right now, I’ll never be able to get my life on track…

Ah. The shame gremlins she talked about. The thoughts that make me = bad and wrong and not good enough.

I stopped the session. Yoga wasn’t right for me yesterday. Maybe because I was in the process of learning about shame and realizing how much shame I feel about my body. Maybe because I needed more rest (I hiked for two hours the day before). Maybe because I needed to experience recognizing what is good for me and what is not good for me and acting on that for myself, not because someone else said that was the way to do it.