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April Benefits Newsletter

By April 9, 2024Newsletters

What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

and Why Does It Matter?

Researchers at the HeartMath Institute have revealed a pivotal connection between emotions and physiological well-being: genuine feelings like love, care, and gratitude trigger a state called heart rhythm coherence. This coherence, measured through Heart Rate Variability (HRV), synchronizes brain waves, enhancing emotional balance, mental clarity, and intuition. Fostering coherent heart rhythms through sustained positive emotional states activates “cortical facilitation,” boosting energy, flexibility, and foresight.

Conversely, negative emotions like anxiety and frustration disrupt heart rhythms, leading to “cortical inhibition” and increased stress.

Understanding this link reveals the importance of nurturing positive emotions for overall well-being. By cultivating love and gratitude, individuals promote emotional health and unlock greater mental acuity and resilience.

In essence, the HeartMath Institute’s research underscores the profound impact of emotions on physiological processes and behaviour, highlighting the significance of intentionally experiencing positive emotional states for holistic well-being and optimal functioning. (HeartMath Inc., 2022)

HRV and Clergy

Here’s a study that shows how clergy members benefited from learning HRV emotional self-regulation techniques. There were notable improvements in well-being and stress management.

About the Author

Sharon is a board-certified health and safety professional and certified HeartMath® trainer who helps leaders build the capacity to prevent burnout and stress-related illness from undermining their performance. Through coaching and training centred on the HeartMath system, Sharon shares practical, evidence-based emotional self-regulation techniques that improve mental and physical health and support sustained behavioural change. Drawing from her own lived experience with burnout while working as an RCMP officer and in underground mining, Sharon offers invaluable insights and practical strategies tailored specifically for her clients. Pop by the GSI display at the MNO Synod Convention to meet her and, if you wish, to have her measure your HRV. See Countdown to Conventions below to find out when you can meet a HeartMath® practitioner at your Synod gathering. 

HeartMath is a registered trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc. The banner image for this article does not show using HeartMath equipment to measure HRV, but the HeartMath device is similar.

Should You Consider Purchasing Optional Life Insurance?

Recently, a Plan Member we will call “Pastor Noah” called the GSI office to check on his benefits coverage. Noah’s dad passed away a few months ago, and the process of settling the estate got Noah thinking about his own state of affairs.

While the basic life insurance (included in the LifePlus bundle) has a generous benefit of three times annual Salary, Noah was now thinking about what exactly this would cover.

Why Might Extra Insurance Be Useful?

Funeral expenses and any existing debt are usually the first things to be paid from an estate. Pastor Noah also wanted to ensure that his children would have adequate financial resources for post-secondary education. These may not be your individual priorities, so it is important to list your own goals for your life insurance and determine whether your insurance coverage will be sufficient to achieve those goals.

During his call, Pastor Noah learned about the optional life insurance plan that is available to members of the ELCIC Groups Benefits Plan. He ended the call with plans to discuss his options with his spouse and his financial planner.

About the Plan

Here’s what Pastor Noah was told about this insurance:

  • Coverage is available starting at $10,000 up to $200,000
  • Insurance can be purchased not only for the Plan Member but also for their spouse
  • To qualify, the application form (provided by GSI) would have to be completed, including medical information
  • Pastor Noah, as the Plan Member would pay the premium for this coverage by payroll deduction
  • If the Plan Member stops paying the premiums without having used the insurance, coverage ends immediately, and no refund will be given

The optional life insurance plan is just that – voluntary. Members who are interested in this should reach out to GSI to start the process.

How Much Does It Cost?

Premium rates vary according to factors such as the covered person’s age, gender, smoking status — and the amount of coverage desired. Here are some sample rates that illustrate how changing variables can affect the rates:

Sample Optional Life Insurance Premium Rates

Age of Person CoveredGender / Smoker StatusCoverageRate per $1,000Monthly Premium
male / non-smoker
female / smoker
male / smoker
female / non-smoker
male / non-smoker

GSI at Your Synodical Gathering in 2024

2024 is a year for Synod Conventions/Assemblies, and GSI will be there! Staff and Board Directors are planning to be present and are looking forward to meeting you and other Plan Members there.

As part of our ongoing effort to promote wellness in the ELCIC, we will be having a HeartMath® practitioner at our display. The HeartMath Institute has done research to show how heart rate variability (HRV) is tied to your health, your biological age, and your stress levels. Using special equipment, the practitioner will be able to measure your HRV and explain what this tells you about your health and emotions.

If you’re a Plan Member, you are invited to check out the display (and pick up a cool GSI packable shopping bag!) whether or not you are a delegate to the convention/assembly.

Learn more about the science of HeartMath on the HeartMath Institute’s website.

HeartMath® at Your Synodical Gathering

Dates are probable but subject to change. It is anticipated that the person will be at the display from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm.

MNO (Selkirk, MB): May 24
SK (Saskatoon, SK): May 31
Eastern (Mississauga, ON): June 21
BC (Vancouver, BC): June 21
ABT (Edmonton, AB): June 23

Measuring HRV only takes a couple of minutes, so no appointments are required. The practitioner will also be at the display during less busy times for those who wish for a more in-depth discussion about how improving HRV can reduce stress.

Some Claims Data from Manulife

Our Insurer, Manulife, has shared some interesting information about Canadians’ heart health, based on their claims data. Note that these statistics are aggregated across all Manulife clients — not just the ELCIC. This article summarizes the Heart Health Insights report that Manulife shared in February.

Trends in Claims Data

  • The prevalence of cardiovascular conditions (e.g., cholesterol and blood pressure concerns) among younger people is increasing; among the 18 – 24 age group, the number of people taking medications for these conditions has increased 35% between 2019 and 2023. Manulife suggests that this may be partly because obesity rates are increasing and partly due to reduced physical activity, poor nutrition, and more stress.
  • Over the past four years, “there was a 17.5% increase in the number of people being prescribed medications commonly used to treat hypertensive disorders in pregnancy” (11). This is probably due to increased awareness, such that a higher percentage of cases are caught. But also, Manulife suggests, increasing maternal age and some fertility treatments “can increase the risk of elevated blood pressure during pregnancy” (18).
  • The top two causes of cardiovascular-related short-term disability, across Manulife’s claims, are heart attacks and high blood pressure. For cardiovascular-related long-term disability, the top two causes are stroke and heart attacks. In both cases, the majority of claimants are male.

Tips to Improve Heart Health

  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Pregnant people who are experiencing hypertension or pre-eclampsia should work with a healthcare provider to treat and manage the condition
  • If you experienced hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, your risk of heart disease later in life is greater. Be aware of this and monitor so it can be caught early if it occurs.
  • Ask your primary care physician about regular screenings for cardiovascular disease
  • If you’re prescribed medications for a cardiovascular condition or for diabetes, take them as prescribed.

Know the Signs of Heart Attack

Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort is a well known symptom of heart attack. Women may or may not experience the chest symptoms. Many instead experience other symptoms, including:

  • shortness of breath, nausea, or fatigue
  • pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or upper belly
  • pain in one or both arms
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sweating
  • lightheadedess or dizziness
  • unusual fatigue
  • heartburn and indigestion

Unfortunately, many other non-cardiovascular conditions can cause these symptoms, especially after menopause. So it can be difficult to determine whether you are, in fact, experiencing a heart attack.

Since time is of the essence for the treatment of heart attack, men and women should get medical attention quickly if they experience these symptoms and sense that something may be wrong. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry!

Please note that this information is not intended to be expert medical advice. Please consult your primary care physician or other healthcare provider for advice pertaining specifically to you.

Specialty Drug Care Program Update

Manulife recently made an update to our Specialty Drug Care Program so that Plan Members who take specialty medications to treat serious, chronic, and often life-threatening conditions can fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy of their choice. Home delivery will also continue to be an option.

For more information, please visit Manulife’s Specialty Drug Care web page. An update will be shared once implementation of the automated process is complete.

Enhancements to Manulife Mobile App

Later this spring, Manulife will be introducing new features to the mobile app to bring an integrated digital experience that combines the power of health, wellness, and benefits together.

  • Personalized recommendations for programs to help manage existing conditions or reach a new wellness goal.
  • Content to help Plan Members better understand and use their benefits, so they can focus on their health.
  • Live chat with Manulife agents in real time.
  • Access to health products and services available through your benefits plan – without leaving the app.
  • Friendly competitions to help employees stay engaged and motivated towards achieving their health and well-being goals.

The look and feel of the Plan Member website will also be updated.

April Webinar: Sexual Assault Awareness and Support

Ask an Expert Concern:

sad girl thinking“One of my close friends has confided in me about a traumatic experience involving sexual violence, and I feel unequipped to provide support. What key aspects should I be aware of when it comes to supporting my friend, and how can I offer meaningful assistance during this challenging time?”

Date: Wednesday, April 17
Time: 12:00 – 12:30 PM ET

Description: Join CloudMD in this month’s Ask an Expert event as our expert Arvinder Lakhi guides participants on understanding sexual violence and providing support to those who have experienced it. This webinar aims to provide information on the effects of sexual violence, address myths, and correct misinformation — as well as equip participants with tools for navigating this sensitive issue. Register now to contribute to creating a safer, more informed, and more empathetic environment.

As always, the webinar will be recorded. You’ll be able to watch the webinar live or access the recording through the registration button below.

Have a Question for GSI?

We welcome your questions and feedback!

Information and resources can also be found on the GSI website.
GSI Website:
Winnipeg Residents: 204-984-9181
Toll Free: 1-877-352-4247

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