Elevated heart rate can be a common concern for individuals who use stimulants or those who experience panic attacks. An increased pulse can become a trigger for an unsuccessful experience not only in the case of stimulants, but also with other substances. The knowledge of how to lower heart rate by improvised methods and without medicines can save the evening, get rid of unnecessary worries (literally) and must be in arsenal of a person who care the health and interested in harm reduction.
The Importance of Heart Rate Control
- Indicator of Health Status:
The heart rate is a critical indicator of cardiovascular and overall health. An optimal heart rate reflects efficient heart function and better cardiovascular health.
- Prevention of Cardiac Complications:
Maintaining a controlled heart rate can help in preventing arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and reducing the risk of heart complications like heart attacks and strokes.
- Stress Management:
A regulated heart rate is often a sign of good stress management. High heart rate can be a symptom of chronic stress or anxiety, leading to long-term health issues.
- Enhancing Physical Performance:
For athletes and those engaged in physical activity, heart rate control is vital for optimizing performance and recovery.
- Mental Health Correlation:
There is a strong link between heart rate and mental health. Anxiety and panic disorders, for instance, are often accompanied by increased heart rate.
Understanding the Heart Rate Increase
- Stimulants: Stimulants, including caffeine, amphetamines, and cocaine, increase heart rate by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. They cause the release of adrenaline, leading to increased cardiac output and heart rate.
- Other Substances: Sometimes a strong and sudden experience or an inappropriate situation can cause a person to have a whole range of conditions that, by natural mechanisms, increase the pulse rate. For example, taking cannabis is accompanied by a short incoming tachycardia, also taking psychedelics can increase the heartbeat.
- Panic Attacks: During a panic attack, the body’s fight-or-flight response is activated, releasing adrenaline. This response increases heart rate and can cause palpitations.
- Emotional Stress: Emotions like anxiety, fear, or excitement stimulate the release of adrenaline, raising the heart rate.
- Medical Conditions: Conditions such as hyperthyroidism, arrhythmias, or heart disease can cause an elevated heart rate.
- Environmental Factors: Extreme temperatures, dehydration, or high altitudes can lead to an increased pulse.
- Medications: Certain medications, including decongestants and some asthma inhalers, can cause a temporary increase in heart rate.
- Physical Activity: Exercise or any form of physical exertion naturally increases heart rate to meet the body’s increased demand for oxygen.
I have analyzed some methods and techniques in detail in the article How to Deal With Panic Attacks? so I will not dwell on this in too much detail.
Breathing Techniques for Heart Rate Control
Breathing techniques are effective tools for regulating heart rate, particularly useful for individuals managing stress, anxiety, or the effects of stimulant use. Here’s an overview of three key techniques:
This super simple method can be used by almost anyone in almost any situation. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing heart rate.
How to Practice: Slow, deep breaths through the nose, holding for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly through the mouth.
Also known as belly breathing, this technique involves deep breathing that engages the diaphragm, allowing for full oxygen exchange. Diaphragmatic breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure, making it particularly beneficial for stress relief and calming the nervous system.
How to Practice:
- Lie down or sit comfortably.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, ensuring that your diaphragm (not your chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in your lungs.
- Slowly exhale through pursed lips.
4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, this technique is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It’s simple, takes very little time, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere. This method is said to help people fall asleep, reduce anxiety, and help manage cravings, particularly effective in rapid calming and heart rate reduction
How to Practice:
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, for a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle up to four times.
Rhythmic or paced breathing involves breathing at a steady, even rhythm. It can be particularly useful during physical activities or relaxation practices. Rhythmic breathing can help synchronize the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, leading to increased physiological coherence and a sense of calm.
How to Practice:
- Find a comfortable sitting or lying position.
- Begin to breathe at a regular rhythm, such as inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds.
- Continue this pattern for several minutes.
Remember, while breathing techniques are powerful tools for heart rate control and stress management, they should complement, not replace, professional medical advice and treatments, especially in the context of managing conditions like panic disorders or substance use.
Psychological Strategies for Heart Rate Control
Psychological strategies can be effective in managing heart rate, particularly useful for individuals experiencing stress, anxiety, or dealing with the effects of stimulant use. Here are three valuable techniques:
Visualization, or guided imagery, involves creating calming and peaceful images in the mind. It’s a powerful way to evoke a relaxation response. Visualization helps shift focus away from stressors and can lead to a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. It’s beneficial for inducing relaxation and reducing anxiety.
How to Practice:
- Find a quiet, comfortable space.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Imagine a serene setting or scenario, engaging all your senses. For example, visualize a tranquil beach, hearing the waves, feeling the sun, etc.
Also known as progressive muscle relaxation, this technique involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body. This method is effective in reducing physical tension, which is often linked to high heart rate and stress. It’s also useful for improving awareness of bodily sensations and promoting overall relaxation.
How to Practice:
- Start at your feet and work your way up to the top of your head.
- Tense each muscle group for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds.
- Pay attention to the contrast between tension and relaxation.
Positive autosuggestion involves repeating affirmations or positive statements to oneself, influencing the subconscious mind. This technique can help in reshaping negative thought patterns, reduce stress and anxiety, and has been found to positively influence physiological states like heart rate.
How to Practice:
- Choose affirmations that resonate with you and your goals, such as “I am calm and relaxed” or “My heart rate is steady and normal.”
- Repeat these affirmations silently or aloud, particularly during times of stress or before sleep.
Physical Methods for Heart Rate Control
Physical methods can be highly effective in managing heart rate, especially for individuals dealing with stress, anxiety, or the effects of stimulant use. Below are three key techniques:
The Technique of “Freezing the Face”
This technique, also known as the “diving reflex,” involves immersing the face in cold water. It triggers an involuntary phenomenon known as the mammalian diving reflex. The diving reflex slows down the heart rate and diverts blood to the vital organs, creating a calming effect on the body. It’s particularly useful in acute situations to rapidly reduce heart rate and anxiety.
How to Practice:
- Fill a basin with cold water. Ice can be added to intensify the effect.
- Hold your breath and submerge your face in the water for 15-30 seconds.
Simple Stretches and Exercises
Simple physical activities, such as stretching and light exercises, can help in regulating heart rate, especially in sedentary or tense moments. These activities enhance blood circulation, improve heart rate variability, and promote relaxation. They are especially useful for gradual heart rate control and can be easily incorporated into daily routines.
How to Practice:
- Engage in gentle stretching exercises, focusing on major muscle groups.
- Incorporate light exercises like walking, slow cycling, or tai chi.
Like any health-related techniques, while these methods are beneficial, they should be used in conjunction with professional healthcare guidance, especially in cases involving chronic health issues, mental health concerns, or substance use.
Meditation and Yoga
Both meditation and yoga are practices that combine physical postures, breathing exercises, and mental focus to bring about relaxation and balance. Regular practice of meditation and yoga can significantly lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve overall cardiovascular health. They are particularly beneficial for long-term heart rate management.
How to Practice:
- Meditation: Find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, focus on your breath, and gently bring your mind back when it wanders.
- Yoga: Engage in yoga postures (asanas) in a fluid sequence, often synchronizing movement with breath.
Other Methods for Heart Rate Control
In addition to the physical and psychological strategies, there are other practical methods that can be employed to manage heart rate effectively. These include lifestyle and dietary adjustments. Here are three such methods:
Drinking cold water can stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps regulate heart rate. The body also works to warm the water, which can have a calming effect. Quick and easily accessible, this method can provide immediate, though typically temporary, relief in heart rate elevation.
Avoiding caffeine and other “everyday stimulants“. Stimulants like caffeine can increase heart rate and exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Gradually reduce the intake of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Be mindful of hidden sources of caffeine, like chocolate or certain medications.
Reducing or eliminating such household stimulants can lead to a more stable heart rate and lower overall stress levels. It’s particularly beneficial for individuals sensitive to these substances or those with anxiety disorders.
Regular Consumption of Green Tea. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can promote relaxation and counteract the jittery effects of caffeine. While green tea does contain caffeine, the presence of L-theanine helps in promoting relaxation and can aid in heart rate regulation. Green tea can be a convenient alternative for those who need some kind of stimulation in the morning or before work, but at the same time do not need excessive stimulation and stress on the heart. Green tea also rich in antioxidants, contributing to overall health. Incorporate a moderate amount of green tea into your daily routine. Opt for high-quality green tea to maximize the benefits.
Implementing Methods and Strategies
Adaptation to Individual Needs: Choose methods that fit your lifestyle and preferences. What works for one person may not be as effective for another.
Consistency and Routine: Incorporate these methods into a regular routine for maximum benefit, especially during times of stress or anxiety.
Balance and Moderation: It’s crucial to practice moderation, especially with the consumption of green tea or cold water. Excessive consumption of any substance can have counterproductive effects. Also, it’s important to balance physical activity with rest and not overexert the body.
Regular Practice: Like any skill, the effectiveness of these techniques improves with regular practice.
Integration and Holistic Approach: Combine these psychological strategies with physical and breathing methods for a more holistic approach to managing heart rate. It’s important to remember that while these psychological strategies are beneficial for heart rate control and managing stress, they are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive approach to health, which may include professional medical and psychological support, especially in cases of chronic anxiety, panic disorders, or substance use.
Consultation with Healthcare Providers: Especially for those with pre-existing health conditions or who are on medication, consulting with healthcare providers before making significant lifestyle changes is important.
The Value of Heart Rate Management Techniques
The techniques discussed for heart rate control — encompassing breathing exercises, physical methods, psychological strategies, and other lifestyle adjustments — play a pivotal role in maintaining cardiovascular and overall health. Here’s why incorporating them into everyday life is important:
- Enhanced Well-Being: Regular use of these techniques can lead to improved physical and mental health, contributing to a better quality of life.
- Stress Management: These methods are especially beneficial in managing stress and anxiety, common issues in today’s fast-paced world.
- Preventive Health Care: Consistent application of heart rate control techniques can be a preventive measure against potential cardiovascular issues and can complement other health practices.
- Empowerment and Autonomy: Knowing and practicing these techniques empowers individuals to take proactive steps in managing their health, especially in situations of anxiety or stress.
- Versatility and Accessibility: These methods are versatile and can be practiced in various settings — at home, at work, or even while traveling.
In summary, understanding and utilizing heart rate control techniques is an invaluable aspect of managing health and wellness, especially for those who associate their lives with psychoactive substances. These methods provide tools for immediate and long-term benefits, but they should be part of a comprehensive approach to health, ideally guided by professional advice and tailored to individual needs.
Sources for More
- Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation
- On Spectral Analysis of Heart Rate Variability during Very Slow Yogic Breathing
- Effects of sleep deprivation and 4‐7‐8 breathing control on heart rate variability, blood pressure, blood glucose, and endothelial function in healthy young adults