When you raise your hand to wave hello to a friend, or lift your knee to take another step on the Stairmaster, you control these actions. Other body functions — like heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure — are controlled involuntarily by your nervous system. You don’t think about making your heart beat faster. It just happens in response to your environment, like when you’re nervous or excited.
One technique can help you gain more control over these normally involuntary functions. It’s called biofeedback and this therapy is used to help prevent or treat conditions including migraine headaches, chronic pain, anxiety and high blood pressure.
The idea behind biofeedback is that, by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what’s going on inside your body, you can gain more control over your health and even workplace performance.
During a biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin. These electrodes send signals to a monitor, which displays a sound, flash of light, or image that represents your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweating, or muscle activity.
When you’re under stress, these functions change. Your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, you start to sweat, and your breathing quickens. You can see these stress responses as they happen on the monitor, and then get immediate feedback as you try to stop them.
A biofeedback therapist helps you practice relaxation exercises, which you fine-tune to control different body functions.
Several different relaxation exercises are used in biofeedback therapy, including:
As you slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and ease muscle tension, you’ll get instant feedback on the screen. Eventually, you’ll learn how to control these functions on your own, without the biofeedback equipment and you will achieve greater peace of mind, achieve personal goals and create a stronger sense of wellbeing.