Anxiety, IBS, hypertension. Sound familiar? In truth a huge percentage of the US population has at least 1 of the above. But how do these connect with one another? Anxiety, IBS, and hypertension are known as the biofeedback triad. These three health issues have a common treatment option that yields phenomenal results. What is this treatment? It is biofeedback which is a modality and a skill that utilizes either computer instrumentation or ones supercomputer (your brain) to visualize or feel different physiologic sensations that are occurring every moment such as your heart rate, breath rate, blood pressure, and even your brain waves (eg EEG). All of these processes are categorized under “involuntary” (air quotes!) meaning we can’t control them…but that’s just a half truth. We can control our breath rate, heart rate and blood pressure to some degree.
The First Step, The Constant Step, The Foundation
The first goal of biofeedback is to develop awareness. Are you holding your breath as you read this post? Quick! Check in to your supercomputer (your brain) and notice if you have been breathing for the past minute or have you been holding your breath? If you have been holding your breath, then you are in majority. We hold our breath ALL THE TIME in society; when we’re anxious, stressed, afraid. Sometimes holding our breath is a good thing, like when you’ve just been in a car accident and need to check your bumper for scratches, holding your breath to avoid breathing in exhaust is a GREAT IDEA (speaking from experience here). But holding our breath has consequences to our physiology, specifically our CO2, hydrogen ion, and oxygen concentrations. AWARENESS is key here. Without the ability to develop awareness we can not change anything in our current state of our life. If you’re unaware that you hold excess tension in your forehead and shoulders then developing this awareness is the first step. To develop awareness we need to provide instantaneous feedback about these processes and sensations. So right now, check in. Are your shoulders, jaw, and/or forehead holding excessive tension? If so what can you do right now to lower that tension by 1 point?
Biofeedback can be utilized in a variety of ways, tools, and settings. Step 1 is to develop awareness. Check back for step 2, Control.
Action Steps. To Increase your awareness consider the following:
1. Locate a MBSR class in your area. For Seattle click here
2. Utilize Audio-books- I love this one by JKZ