Stress Management and Biofeedback Training

2011 // Barbara Morrell, PhD, BCIAC, Updated May 2012, design by Loren Brown
Stress Management
 Stress Management is like learning to drive.
Our Stress Response, the Fight/Flight/Freeze Response, is like
an inborn gas pedal that revs up our mind & body in reaction
to stress as well as danger.
Our Relaxation Response is like
a brake we can apply to calm
down when we are speeding
out of control from stress.
What makes Stress Management so difficult?
Our inner gas pedal is automatic.
 We go from 0 to 60 in an
instant in response to any
 Our mind does not differentiate
danger from stress
Our inner brake is not automatic.
 It takes awareness and practice to
•Catch ourselves “speeding”
•Develop skills to relax “at will”
•Maintain appropriate cruising speed
•Make braking more automatic
Stress & the Mind / Body Connection
Resting or Working Mind and Body
Muscles: Contract as Needed, then Relax
Mind: Focused, Clear Thinking & Memory
Hormones: Regulating Normally
Heart Rate/Blood Pressure: Normal,
good circulation
Breathing: Smooth, Deep, Slow
Stomach: Digesting normally
Sweat Glands: As needed to cool off
Immune System: Protecting the body
Emotions: Manageable
Stress Response: Faster, Stronger for Survival
Muscles: Tense Up, Poised for Action
Mind: Instinctive; Higher thinking shuts down
Stress Hormones Released: Adrenalin, Cortisol
Heart Rate: Speeds Up to pump more
blood to muscles
Breathing: Shallow and Quick
Stomach: Digestion shuts down;“butterflies”
Sweat Glands: More active
Immune System: Shuts down to conserve energy
Emotions: Fear, Anger, Panic Nervousness
Stress & Modern Man
The fight or flight response becomes over-active and maladaptive in the
fast-paced modern world of constant psychological stressors
 The stress response impairs our concentration, working memory, rational
thinking and ability to function.
 Only humans carry our stress around with us:
 Much of our stress comes from our worries, fears, expectations, regrets, selfcriticisms, and negative perceptions
 Our stress level is determined more by our perception of the stressor than
the stressor itself
 What is supposed to be a burst of energy for survival results in chronic stress with
many consequences for health and wellness
Why *Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Anxiety, Insomnia. . ..
After they outrun the lion. . .
. . .they go back to grazing, playing, etc.
We need to stop running when
we are not being chased!
* See Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers, Robert M. Sapolsky, 2004
Stress & Performance
Peak Performance
Normal Fight/Flight/Freeze
Responses to Psychological
Stress Overload
Decrease in Performance
Poor Concentration & Memory
Anxiety, Nervousness
Feeling Overwhelmed (Freeze)
Avoidance of Tasks (Flight)
Giving Up (all or nothing)
Emotions: Bottled up, Erupt,
Yerkes-Dodson Principle
Robert M. Yerkes, M.D. and John D. Dodson, M.D, 1908
Roller-Coaster (Fight or Flight)
Depression, Hopelessness
 Notice the signs of stress
Mental/Emotional Signs of Stress
Physical Signs of Stress
Poor concentration/focus
Feeling Anxious
Feeling Upset, Irritable, Angry, etc
Feeling overwhelmed, helpless
Wanting to avoid or run from tasks
Mind racing
Muscle Tension
Pounding Heart
Chest or Stomach discomfort
Cold and/or Sweaty hands
Trembling or Shaking
Effective Stress Management = Effective Braking
Whenever we notice signs of stress,
especially stress overload, that is the time
to put on the brake
• Relaxation Skills
• Changing stress inducing
thoughts to stress reducing
• Physical Exercise
• Etc.
Relaxation Skills Training
They are called skills because they take
It takes only 10 minutes
practice like any other skill.
a day to learn the skills
Choose a time that fits into your routine:
At bedtime
Break from studying
Deep Relaxation
Bring the car to a complete stop for a
needed break from stress 10 or more
minutes once a day…
Conditions our minds and bodies to
more easily let go of tension and
Teaches skills to use as brief
techniques throughout the day
Protects the Immune system
Helps prevent or improve stress
related health problems
Brief Relaxation
Tapping the brake throughout the day as
needed to calm ourselves when stressed
 Brings us back to peak performance
 Can be used proactively to prevent
stress overload
Deep breathing every hour for a few minutes
Quick body scan every hour to prevent
tension build-up
 Once learned, any relaxation technique can be used as a brief technique.
Any kind of feedback from the body
- Biofeedback programs measure stress indicators in the body
- Biofeedback helps with awareness of stress and tension
- Biofeedback training can teach us to release tension and stress
EMG / TEMP / SR Biofeedback
Muscle Tension (EMG)
• We tend to brace against stress
• Constant muscle tension can cause tiredness,
pain, headaches, etc.
Hand Temperature (TEMP)
• The stress response pumps blood to the large
muscles to power us up
• This decreases circulation to the hands and feet
making them colder
• Hand temperature can range from 68◦ to 98◦
Sweat Gland Activity (SR)
• Sweat glands are the most reactive indicator of
stress in our body
• Known as the Galvanic Skin Response
• Measured as Skin Resistance or Skin Conductance
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Biofeedback
 Measures Heart Rate and Heart Rhythms
 Trains us to use diaphragmatic breathing and positive
mental/emotional focus to achieve calmness and mental clarity
 Teaches Autonomic Balance-- balance between our gas pedal and
brake--for peak performance
 One of the best ways to learn to “put on the brake”
*For more information see Introduction to Heart
Rate Variability PPT
HRV Fun Interactive Biofeedback Programs
• emWave: Learn diaphragmatic breathing
•Dual Drive: Calm breathing wins the race
•Relaxing Rhythms: Games & Activities improve
calmness, emotional balance, and meditation
Awareness  Practice = Effective Stress Management
How will we support you in using the KNOWLEDGE
and SKILLS you learn here in your daily life?
We will help you to choose
an Awareness goal and
Practice goal
We will ask you about your
goals, progress, stress, etc.
when you return
(examples on the back of the
practice form)
We will refer you to
appropriate resources
We will help you customize
your biofeedback and
relaxation training for your
stress issues.
Practice Resources
Website: google “BYU biofeedback”
 Downloadable relaxation recordings
 List of CD’s we use in the lab for checkout from
 Handouts for awareness, knowledge and
 Stress Management Tips
EZ-Air breath pacer
Download FREE for 30 days:
EmWave program and EZ-Air on computers in
Career and Academic Support Center, WSC 2590
Take ID to check out sensor
Two Ways to Access Biofeedback Services
Make an Appointment for One-on-One Biofeedback Training
Severe anxiety, depression, etc.
Headaches, sleep issues, etc.
Muscle tension, hand temperature, and galvanic skin response biofeedback
Personalized relaxation recordings
And/Or Come During Open Biofeedback Hours*
o Before and/or between biofeedback appointments
o Class assignments
o For typical college student stress management issues
o Fun Interactive biofeedback games on
individual computer stations
o Intensive Relaxation training
*See current schedule (link). The first three individuals are admitted each hour.

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