Words of Wellness: Biofeedback



An extraterranean adventure in the biofeedback software “Alive”

Enjoy video games? Feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

Then check out this brand new JSC service, which is offered through collaboration between the Health Center and the Behavioral Medicine Research Lab! It has been sweeping the country and is being used by several universities and colleges and is now available to you!

Dealing with classes, assignments, friends, family, and extracurricular activities can make for a stressful time. When we don’t take time to recover from life’s stressors, stress can affect us both physically and emotionally. Students are especially vulnerable to many stressors.  Exams, time demands, financial pressure, changes in sleeping and eating habits, new responsibilities, increased workload, meeting new people, career decisions, and fear of failure and parental pressure are common for all students not only freshman.  Due to student demand exceeding current resources, such as counselors at colleges and universities, many students go on a waiting list and the college dropout rate for students on these lists is high.

Stress is often connected to emotional distress, gastrointestinal problems, migraines, heart disease, and low quality of life. Stress is something all of us feel at one point or another. College is often a very stressful period in which we go through many changes academically, socially, and personally. While stress can be positive and helps us feel motivated and focused, many students allow their stress to go unchecked, causing a negative experience. Unhealthy levels can often lead to headaches, muscle tension, sleep difficulties, anxiety and depression. Good stress management often means recognizing signs and symptoms of stress earlier rather than later. Once we are aware of how our body is trying to signal stress, we can begin to make changes to manage it before stress overcomes us.

Biofeedback is simply feedback on our biological systems. Biofeedback training is a way to help people become more aware of their internal physical responses related to stress and anxiety. Once we understand the physical mechanism for our natural stress response, we can change how we manage our stress. Once you can see what is happening inside the body in an instantaneous and uninterrupted way, it is possible to learn to control it. There is nothing mysterious about this. Much of what we learn is learned through feedback, from the time that we first find our mouth with our hand as a baby. Biofeedback simply involves applying these same learning methods that we use in putting on clothes or driving a car to inside-the-body events.

Biofeedback training, through the use of video games and relaxation environments, can be used as an innovative and potentially effective way to help college students practice and develop habits for relaxation and staying calm under pressure. Regular, short bouts of slow breathing with biofeedback are potentially feasible and effective means of dealing with chronic stress in students and student athletes. This kind of training has therapeutic effects that influence the body’s ability to regulate itself. The software used on campus is called ‘Alive’, and is an interactive, whole-body relaxation program designed to help increase overall physical and psychological well-being. The software teaches you to recover from the effects of stress through breathing and mindfulness workshops, and biofeedback environments and games. A unique feature of Alive is the optimal breath pacer that can help you pace your breathing at an appropriate and comfortable level for you. Over time, you can train your breathing to improve heart rate functioning.

“Where do I sign up?!”

Good question! Upon expressing an interest in the biofeedback service, participants will first be required to participate in an orientation session with an intern who is trained in diaphragmatic breathing and the use of biofeedback environments and video games.

The one-time orientation will be needed to learn about the equipment, and will take less than an hour. After that, you are free to use the equipment whenever it is available! Biofeedback stations will be located at Johnson State College in the Health Center and SHAPE. The equipment for each station will be located at the administrative assistant’s desk in the Shape facility as well as in the Health center. Once equipment is checked out, individuals will be directed to a room in either the Health Center or Shape facility, depending on where they check out the equipment, and are asked to use equipment in that space.

Each room is set up in a quiet space where the individual will not be bothered. The computer will act as your personal coach and will provide you with feedback on your progress of calming your mind and body.

Biofeedback is a tool that helps us observe the body’s physiological responses to everyday events. Once we are aware of these stress reactions, we can learn to change our body’s response through biofeedback training, which often results in greater relaxation, focus, and healthier coping strategies. Over time and with practice, you will learn how to consciously monitor, regulate, and change your body’s responses.

Each biofeedback session is your gift to yourself to relax! So Keep Calm and Carry On!!

Any questions, or feel like setting up an orientation session?  Email [email protected].