I have recently been feeling my heart beat, which when you are not used to feeling it, tends to feel quite alarming. When I check my pulse, it is clear that my heart rate is not incredibly high, nor even elevated most of the time. Elevated pulse/heart rate happens during exercise and sympathetic nervous system arousal, e.g. anxiety, stress, frustration etc.

I have to say, I don’t much like the feeling of feeling my heart beat, but in combination with mindfulness (non-judgemental acceptance in the moment) that this is what it is like in this instant but that it will change, I am OK with it. When my heart rate is elevated, I accept that it is and then question; am I stressed or angry or frustrated or anxious? I cannot distinguish between these without analyzing the context. Once I work that out, I accept that I can either remain in that emotion or I can change how I am thinking / reacting to the context that provokes that emotion.

For example, recently I was driving to work and a large expensive car cut in-front of me without indicating,m requiring me to slam my brakes on. My initial reaction seemed to be panic, as my heart was racing (confirmed by smart watch) and my hands shaking. However, I reassured myself I was not hurt, the car was fine and took a few deep breaths whilst focusing on feeling my chest rise and fall. Knowing myself, it was likely that I would then get angry, but I chose to ask why the driver acted in that way in a more positive light. “Perhaps they are running late for work and are worried about losing their job.” This enabled me to let go of my negative reactions to the event whilst accepting it had been unpleasant for me.

If you are also on the autism spectrum, you will know just how hard it is for us to let go of things, but… mindful body awareness really can help us to do this if we use it in conjunction with deliberate strategies around positive thinking or minimizing instead of catastrophising.