Measuring Stress Levels

Biofeedback explained

When we are under stress or excited, our bodies reflect this through...

  • Increased sweat gland activity
  • Increased skin conductance
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sharp and erratic heart rate changes
  • Rapid, irregular breathing

The role of biofeedback

Biofeedback uses visual displays of your stress levels to guide you in using paced, even, and relaxed breathing techniques to calm the "fight or flight" stress responses that remain even though the evolutionary days of clear and immediate mortal danger are long behind us. Biofeedback allows us to control our biology, and thus our stress levels.

BioFeedback

Biology and breathing

How does breathing affect heart rate? Breathing activates your vagal nerve, which descends from the brain in the carotid sheath all the way to your diaphragm. The vagal nerve slows your heart rate.

A stress response to anything such as a difficult conversation with someone, driving in busy traffic, or nerves before public speaking changes your heart rate independently of the breathing-related variations, leading to irregular changes.

In contrast, when the breathing is even, natural, and smooth, you get smooth heart rate waves which are associated with health and peak performance.

Optimal Breathing Rate in Biofeedback

Optimal breathing for relaxation

Your breathing affects your heart rate: As you breathe in, your heart rate naturally speeds up. As you exhale, your heart rate naturally slows down. Slow, relaxed breathing creates slow, smooth heart rate changes.

You can use many specialized breathing techniques to smooth your heart rate and relieve stress quickly. One way of building your skill at these techniques is through the use of a breath pacer.

In the way music students use a metronome to pace themselves, people can use a breath pacer to keep their breathing even and regular. Somatic Vision integrates breathing pacers into all Alive Games and Environments to help you with modulating your breathing.

Biofeedback for better living

The Alive Workshops and User Guide detail for you step-by-step ways to discover your optimal breathing pace and to work with breathing to relax your body and mind. With Alive, you learn abdominal breathing, advanced breathing, pursed-lip breathing as well as paced breathing.

Every person has a unique response to different stimuli, so Alive includes audio as well as visual tools for optimal, calming, healthy breathing.

Biofeedback for better living

By giving us an awareness of physiological information, biofeedback allows us to control "automatic" physical processes. In daily life, all of us — as well as people who have high-pressure jobs in security, public speaking, or sports — can use biofeedback to reduce the residual stress we feel on a day-to-day basis, limiting the impact that this stress has on our home life.

Many people who use biofeedback to help manage the demands of their careers learn to appropriately switch gears to better enjoy family life or the other rewards of their work.

Similarly, minors having difficulty adjusting to new circumstances beyond their control and to new responsibilities can use biofeedback to increase their ability to limit the negative impact these pressures are having on their decision-making and quality of life.