Zoe has finals next week and is feeling stressed out. One final is half her grade! Just thinking about it makes her heart beat faster, her palms sweaty, and her breathing irregular. But she doesn't notice any of these things taking place — she just feels anxious!

Anxious SpongeBob in class gripping a pencil.

Biofeedback can help Zoe (and you!) deal with stress. Biofeedback helps increase your awareness of reactions in your body so you can control them.

What is Biofeedback?

Train your brain to control your body's automatic stress responses with biofeedback.

Biofeedback uses technology so you can see how your body reacts to stress, such as a visual of your heart rate on a monitor, and teaches you how to control these reactions.

Biofeedback was originally used to treat different physical and mental health concerns like anxiety disorders and postpartum depression.

Now, it's available as a tool to cope with everyday stress.

In-Office Biofeedback Session

Graphic image of a doctor operating a biofeedback machine. Wires are connected to the brain of a silhouetted head.

Traditionally, biofeedback is administered by a medical professional using equipment to monitor:

  • brainwaves

  • skin temperature

  • sweating

  • heart rate

  • muscle tension

Electrical sensors are placed on your body, then hooked up to a screen so you can see your stress responses in real-time and practice controlling them.

A biofeedback therapist guides you through different relaxation exercises.

Personal Biofeedback Devices

There are many biofeedback devices you can use at home! These include:

  • Smart watches

  • Phone apps

  • Wearable devices like headbands

  • Virtual reality products, either standalone or paired with an app or game

Smart watch with fitness data Photo by Sabina on Unsplash

According to MayoClinic, the FDA has only approved one at-home device for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. As there is limited research into personal devices, they may or may not work for you.

Is Biofeedback Right for Me?

As with all medical interventions, there are pros and cons. Speak with your doctor or therapist to help you determine if biofeedback is a good option for you. Here are a few considerations:

Flaticon Icon Pros:

  • Noninvasive treatment — nothing pierces your skin or enters your body

  • Easy to do at home

  • Learn to control your mental health

  • No medication is involved

Flaticon Icon Cons:

  • Limited research on how effective it will be

  • Health insurance might not cover it

  • Inaccurate readings for people with certain skin or heart conditions

Review more pros and cons at PsychCentral to prepare for a conversation with your doctor.

Quiz

What can Zoe do to manage her stress about finals?

Take Action

You may not be able to avoid stressful situations like finals week, but you can notice and change your body's reaction. From simple breathing exercises to engaging in ongoing therapy, biofeedback can help you increase awareness and reduce stress.

Woman inhaling and exhaling

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This Byte has been authored by

MD

Marilyn Day

Empowering Adult Learners