Pause and Reflect

I was spinning my wheels at work yesterday, mentally working on several projects and ideas but not making any tangible progress. A lot of my work is with data, and I collect data on myself too – I carefully track hours I work and wear a Fitbit and monitor my HRV. Sometimes to my detriment.

I can get caught up in accounting for time and effort and work and forget that the reason I work for myself is so that I can better see to my own needs, which have nothing to do with data management and measurement. I work for myself so that I can have space to work out what a healthy lifestyle looks like for me – because the companies I’ve worked for previously could not have cared less, and I’ve paid for it.

I bailed out of work and went for a hike.

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As much as that might be peaceful and relaxing for others, it isn’t as much for me. Exercise doesn’t have a calming effect on my nervous system, as much as I do like to be outside. I developed mild vertigo several months ago, and looking down while stepping around rocks and roots on downward slopes can be challenging. Sometimes I have an elevated fear response, sometimes the ground appears to shift beneath me, and I have to move slowly and cautiously. Late afternoon shadows can be somewhat disorienting now. But I went, and I enjoyed it, and I have some of the creative energy and forward motion I was hoping for.

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.