Students seeking to alleviate stress and anxiety or improve their athletic or artistic performance have access to a new resource available through the Wellness Center: a Biofeedback training program.
Biofeedback is equipment used to study psychophysiology, a branch of psychology which examines the relationship between physiological and psychological processes, including stress and anxiety.
Starting this fall, students, especially performers and athletes, can improve their physical and emotional well-being by participating in this program.
“Biofeedback training is a technique in which people are taught to improve health and performance by using signals from their own bodies,” said Erin Buenzli, the director of wellness and recreation.
According to Licensed Professional Councilor Deborah Wetzel, students participate in biofeedback training by having their heart rate variability measured by a sensor in their ear.
Then, this reading is programmed into a computer software program. The software reads the heart rate rhythm in a number of ways and displays a variety of information through different graphs and animation.
After getting a baseline HRV, the students can then do different breathing and visualization activities that alter their breathing techniques and heart rates. This aspect of the training helps students understand when their bodies react positively or negatively to external stressors.
Biofeedback training is beneficial for both athletic and artistic performers. Anyone who suffers from performance anxiety, nervousness or hyperventilation can participate in biofeedback training in order to understand how to control biological reactions to stress.
Buenzli believes that Biofeedback training will provide students with a clear stress management and performance enhancing skill.
She believes that the goal is to be able to control our autonomic nervous system response to stress and allow us to be calm, present and able to perform at our top capabilities in any situation.
For example, if a performer suffers from stage fright prior to a show, he or she could use biofeedback training to see exactly what elements of the performance causes the most anxiety.
With the sensor on, the performer could visualize his or her performance while the software program computed the HRV. By noticing changes in the HRV, the performer and trainer could figure out which specific areas cause the most problems, and how the student can make these moments less stressful.
Similarly, an athlete who experiences particularly stressful events or nerves during a game can also participate in biofeedback training.
For example, recalling certain moments in a game while hooked up to the sensor and software would reveal when and how severely an athlete experienced anxiety, which may have created a negative effect on his or her overall performance during the game.
According to Wetzel, “Many professional athletes are using biofeedback to enhance their performance.”