Why Not Give Biofeedback a Try?

Helping students manage stress.

February 22, 2023

As we all know, college can be quite stressful with its many transitions, responsibilities, and pressures to succeed. While a reasonable amount of stress is often just what students need to get activated and focused, sometimes it can get the better of them.

If left unchecked, stress can become the “normal” response to most things throughout the day, leading to burnout.  One way to learn to better manage stress is through self-regulation techniques, like biofeedback.

Do you realize that most of us have already used some type of biofeedback? Anytime we step on a scale or take our temperature, we are using a form of biofeedback. Biofeedback tools aim to increase control of involuntary stress related processes and improve something about our body’s condition.

Biofeedback at CWS is a non-invasive, computer-based training program. Our instruments provide immediate and useful information about responses to stress and anxiety, helping students recognize and influence the relationship between mind and body. With regular practice, they can learn to regulate their response to stressful events and optimize wellness.

Biofeedback has been shown to be helpful in reducing the negative effects of stress and improving mental clarity, self-regulation, and performance. It can help with various conditions, including but not limited to anxiety, headaches, muscle tension, and pain.

CWS offers the following types of biofeedback training:

  • Thermal biofeedback measures the temperature of your hands with the aim of teaching you to voluntarily create a relaxed stated. The more stressed we feel, the colder our extremities tend to get.
  • Surface Electromyography (sEMG) measures muscle tension and allows you to better influence the activation or relaxation of your muscles. It can be helpful in reducing tension headaches and muscle spasms.
  • Skin Conductance (SC) measures the sweat gland activity of the surface of the skin, which is sensitive to emotional and cognitive responses. It is useful for identifying stressors and learning to reduce their impact.
  • Respiratory Biofeedback involves the monitoring of breathing rates and patterns. It can assist you in learning to regulate your breathing.
  • Heart-Rate Variability (HRV) measures heart-beat intervals and provides feedback of heart rate patterns. It is helpful for increased self-regulation and the reduction of performance-related anxieties.
  • Interactive Mindfulness Meditation provides self-guided training options based on HRV biofeedback.

Typically, a student will meet with a biofeedback clinician for a few sessions. Each session can last up to 60 minutes. In the first meeting we complete an overall stress assessment and explore the student’s hope for change. The student will be connected to a biofeedback device via sensors that are attached to the body. These sensors measure, monitor, and record physiological responses. The clinician will guide the student through self-awareness exercises and teach techniques that are based on a set goal. Common techniques taught during biofeedback training include mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, breathing exercises, and/or progressive muscle relaxation. Biofeedback is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy that target patterns of thoughts and behaviors.

As with any skill, the more you practice the more you gain.

Biofeedback is generally considered safe but may not be appropriate for everyone. If your student is interested in biofeedback, encourage them to call CWS or stop by during our office hours (8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday) to schedule an appointment and get started.

Counseling and Wellness Services

225 Martin Hall

Phone 509.349.2366

Email: cws@ewu.edu