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Stress Management for Health Course

Biofeedback and Stress

   

"The IIS (International Institute of Stress) and I, personally, are highly impressed by the design, sophistication, and effectiveness of your GSR II (Biofeedback Unit).  I highly endorse its inclusion in any Stress Management Programme."

(Dr Hans Selye, Father of Stress Medicine)

 

Biofeedback is an electronic device that can measure our internal physiology.  It was developed in the 1960's.  It is not a relaxation technique in itself but is used to provide an objective measure of how relaxed or stressed we are.

There are a variety of biofeedback devices in use such as EMG units that measure muscle tension, EEG units that measure brain wave patterns, biodots and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) units.  When we are stressed we perspire more and this affects the electrical resistance of the skin.  GSR biofeedback units can detect and measure these changes in electrical resistance in our fingertips.  The units have an audible tone which gets higher and faster the more stressed we are.  The tone gets lower and slower the more relaxed we are.  There is also computer software available that can be used as biofeedback GSR to measure stress/relaxation levels. 

There are a number of biofeedback units on the market starting from approximately 60 for the GSRII by Thoughttechnology and sold in the UK by a company called

Aleph One Ltd

The price of biofeedback units range from a few pounds for biodots (these are cheaper but less accurate), 50 for some GSR Units, but can go into hundreds of pounds for the more expensive units.  In the UK a company in Scotland produce a small GSR biofeedback unit called the Serenitube, which is good value.  Details of where to purchase a Serenitube are given in the Resources - Relaxation section further on in this session.

Robert Holden in his book, Laughter, The Best Medicine, quotes research that reveals 7:10 people practicing relaxation didnt achieve relaxation. Research has shown that when you combine biofeedback with a relaxation technique you tend to get better results than if you practice relaxation without a biofeedback unit.

A research project published in the Lancet Medical Journal on 19th July 1975, compared the difference between Yoga relaxation methods combined with Biofeedback to relaxation without biofeedback, in clients who had high blood pressure.  Both groups managed to lower their blood pressure but the relaxation group without biofeedback only dropped their blood pressure from an average of 169/101 to 160/96 mm.; while the biofeedback and relaxation group dropped their blood pressure from an average of 168/100 to 141/84mm.  We call biofeedback electronic Valium.

Precautions

Biofeedback is a very safe technique but there are a number of situations where your doctor should be consulted before you undertake biofeedback training, such as if you have:

        A cardiac pacemaker

       Schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis

       Severe depression

        Diabetes, high blood pressure or epilepsy, as relaxation may require an adjustment in your medication.  Do not adjust your medication yourself but leave this to your doctor

 

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