What is Biofeedback?
Bio means body, therefore Biofeedback literally means feedback from the body. Thus, one of the objectives of Biofeedback training is to help a person become more aware of his/her internal environment.
As a student, you spend most of your day interacting with, and attending to, your external environment as you go about your daily tasks and activities. As a result, you may not be aware of the “alarm bells” your body may be activating (such as a headache or muscular tension), indicating that you are putting too much pressure on yourself. These “alarm bells” or “distress signals” are your body’s way of getting you to pay attention and to slow down. If you do not attend to these distress signals, your body will continue to magnify them until they interfere with your daily activities.
Through regular use of Biofeedback and relaxation techniques, you can become more and more in-tune with your internal environment. In this way, you can become aware of when you are pushing yourself too much and then take corrective action to reduce that pushing tendency by slowing down, getting more sleep, or taking on fewer responsibilities. In this way, you can take care of and neutralize your stress symptoms in the early stages – before they neutralize you and you become sick, for example.
What is Stress?
“A particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
Experiencing stress for extended periods of time can cause your immune system to become depleted, resulting in vulnerability to illness.
According to Doctor Hans Selye (1982), there are two types of stress: good stress (eustress), and bad stress (distress). Good stress is the type of stress you experience when you are preparing for an enjoyable event, such as a wedding, family reunion or fun game.
Bad stress is stress that is associated with factors like a demanding relationship or unrealistic expectations, such as expecting an “A” for every exam.
What instruments will I be hooked up to and what do they do?
You may be hooked up to one, two, or more of the following instruments:
- EMG (or, Electromyograph). This instrument measures the electrical activity within the skeletal muscles. Both nerves and muscle cells produce minute amounts of electricity. Nerves send electrical impulses to muscles, instructing them to contract or relax. The EMG will give a reading of muscle tension in the form of microvolt numbers. A high microvolt reading is an indication of high muscular tension.
- THERMAL FEEDBACK. The word thermal refers to temperature. Emotions such as anxiety or anger causes the tiny capillaries in the fingertips to tense and become tight, which restricts the peripheral blood flow. The thermal feedback instrument measures skin temperature – a low skin temperature is an indication of tension. By observing your hand temperature, you can recognize whether you’re becoming more or less relaxed during the session.
- HEARTMATH (Freeze-Framer). Stress can affect heart rhythms. The heart communicates with the brain through the two branches of the autonomic nervous system – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. Emotions are reflected in beat-to-beat changes in heart rhythms (HRV). Negative emotions lead to disorder in heart rhythms (incoherence). Positive emotions create balance in heart rhythms and nervous system (coherence). By correlating patterns on the screen, you find physiological coherence.