Most of the time, when we realize that we’re stressed out about something, it’s after the fact — when it’s over and we find ourselves relaxing. Of course, the best way to fight stress is to prevent it, which is hard to do when you don’t recognize the warning signs. Enter the ancient art — and modern science — of biofeedback.
The modern, high-tech approach to this very old idea of ‘mind over body’ starts with powerful biofeedback sensors that record your reactions to stress. The sensors measure your breathing, heart rate and rhythm, perspiration, brainwaves, skin conductivity, and more. They need this information into a computer that uses these measurements to tell you when you’re experiencing stress.
Once you can tell how your body reacts to stress, you can start to pick apart the signs before they result in full-blown crisis mode. Then, you can react to the first signs of an oncoming bout of stress by using relaxation exercises. According to George Rozelle, a Ph.D. with the MindSpa Mental Fitness Center in Sarasota, “Biofeedback training [is] a skill set that can serve you throughout [your] life.”
Biofeedback has successfully been used to treat all manner of disorder that stem from physical stress, chronic pain, and emotional troubles. Migraines, depression, anxiety, and even lower back pain have all been relieved by the use of biofeedback sensors and some counseling on how to react to the signs of stress.
“Left unchecked, everyday stress will manifest into other ailments, so you want to control it before it turns into a more serious health problem,” says Beth Golden, Ph.D, CBT, a board-certified biofeedback practitioner at The Therapeutic Body Center in St. Petersburg.
The four kinds of clinical biofeedback — SEMG, thermal, GSR, and EEG — each have their own kinds of biofeedback sensor and are each good for different reasons.
SEMG, or surface electromyogram, reads muscle tension. If your stress is causing headaches, backaches, neck pain, asthma, or ulcers, SEMG can help you to identify the moment and fight back.
Thermal measures the temperature in your extremities, which drops in response to stress. Thermal biofeedback is the best way to combat oncoming migraines.
GSR, or galvanic skin response, measures skin conductivity (usually increased by perspiration in response to stress.) GSR is good for beating back phobias, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, and so on.
EEG, or electroencephalogram, measures your brainwaves. EEG helps combat ADD and ADHD as well as assisting in stroke recovery.