Back in December of 2021, I’d made an appointment to go donate blood, something I’d not done since college. In part because I still don’t know my blood type, although I’ve a vague recollection from three decades ago that it was O-Positive.
In the end, it didn’t happen because my heart rate was outside the bounds of 50-100 BPM. They measured it twice. The environment wasn’t especially calming, so there was an anxiety response happening, but also earlier that morning due to being stuffed up I’d taken a full dose of Afrin, which can mess with your heart rate.
Fast forward to this week, when I’d set up an appointment at a mobile donation site a few blocks from my apartment. As I sat at home beforehand having lunch, I was curious about my heart rate. It clocked in at about 87 BPM. My typical resting heart rate is around 66 BPM, and I’ve previously determined that a basic anxiety response kicks that upward by 15-20 BPM, so that 87 wasn’t surprising.
Having walked over to the parking lot of the grocery store where the bus was set up, I was curious what my anxiety response plus the effort of the walk over would produce. Answer: my heart rate was a whopping 140 BPM.
This got me thinking about my cardio recovery numbers, at least according to my Apple Watch. Checking the Health app for the records now, later in the day, it’s actually telling me that my cardio recovery has been steadily declining since getting the watch and having heart rate data, from a high of 31 to a current low of just 17.
At the time, standing in the parking lot before I’d checked these numbers, I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d be able to return even to my anxiety response levels of around 87 BPM. Seeing them now, I doubt I would have gotten down into the acceptable range of 50-100 BPM.
It didn’t matter anyway, because the moment I stepped into the bus two things immediately were clear: the space was way too cramped, and the jostling noise of the generator was way too loud. My sensory thresholds would not have been able to withstand the pressures. I had to apologize, cancel, and turn around and leave.
Just less than an hour later, as I’d been sitting outside my regular coffeeshop to read over a decaf latte for about half an hour, I was curious about my heart rate again. The result: 99 BPM.
This surprised me.
My near-daily trip to read over coffee while sitting outside in downtown St Johns is something I do to relax and to not to be cooped up in the apartment. It’s possible there was some lingering anxiety response in there, but my anxiety response doesn’t hit 99 BPM. It seems clear to me that despite feeling subjectively comfortable in this regular activity in a familiar space, the sensory environment of sitting on a busy street nonetheless was prompting some degree of physiological response.
Sitting here writing this, I’ve clocked in at 88 BPM, which is right in my anxiety response wheelhouse and makes some sense since I’m writing up a series of anxious moments.
The end result, then, of the day is that I still do not know my blood type, but I apparently now know that even some of my comforting routines might be having an impact upon my sensory processing, which is showing up in my heart rate. I’ll be curious to see over the next week or two if my heart rate always lands somewhere between my anixety and my exercise rates when I am just out reading over coffee.