What is biofeedback?
Before reading about how biofeedback works, the first principle to understand is that the mind-body connection is a two-way street. How we are in our minds can affect our physical health. Conversely, how we are in our bodies can influence our minds and how we experience the world around us. By training different aspects of your own physiology, it is possible to significantly decrease anxiety, high blood pressure, stress-related digestive disturbances, sleep problems, and so on. Learning how to regulate your physiology can create resilience to stress and also help optimize performance at work, in sports, or other arena.
Biofeedback is a form of mind-body medicine that helps re-establish balance in your autonomic nervous system, or the ANS. The ANS is responsible for all of the things that keep us alive that we don’t need to think about (breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, organ function, etc). The ANS is also responsible for regulating our automatic stress response. When we are stuck in a state of chronic stress, it is not possible for our bodies to function as they should.
Biofeedback trains your body to change and regulate things that are typically thought of as involuntary (i.e. breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, peripheral temperature). It uses sensors to show us what is going on in your body (bio) to provide us with information (feedback) in realtime. This feedback is crucial - it is a window into your inner physiological world and makes the invisible visible. Not only that, it helps reinforce the new skills that you are learning so that you are able to integrate them into your daily life.
There are several modalities of biofeedback, and the modalities that are chosen are specific to the individual. The foundation of all training at SoundMind Medicine begins with breathing and heart rate.
Respiration biofeedback, or breath retraining
Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback
sEMG biofeedback (muscle tension)
Temperature biofeedback (learning how to warm hands/feet)
Galvanic skin response (skin conductance) biofeedback
What can it help you with?
Biofeedback can help alleviate symptoms associated with many conditions that are either caused by or exacerbated by chronic stress. It is a powerful tool for those looking for a different approach to stress management. Additionally, learning how to self-regulate can help those looking to optimize their performance at work, school, in sports, or the performing arts.
High blood pressure
Digestive issues such as IBS
How does it work?
There are three vital parts of biofeedback training:
Gaining awareness of your own body's physical responses to stress
Learning and mastering new skills to help re-train your body and nervous system
Integrating your new skills into your daily life to help you move through the world with more resilience and freedom
Biofeedback is an active training, and therefore people who go through the process are gaining skills they can use throughout their entire lives. In addition to the personal goals people set for themselves, there are two over-arching objectives:
Increasing overall resilience to stress
Learning how to self-regulate in the moment and implement tools when they are needed
Under chronic stress, your body's nervous system often gets stuck in 'fight or flight' (sympathetic) mode, or it can immobilize. In biofeedback training, you will learn skills that help break the cycle of chronic stress. Over time, biofeedback training helps restore balance in your autonomic nervous system by shifting it out of constant survival mode to a more peaceful, resilient, and relaxed (parasympathetic) state.
In conjunction with biofeedback training and mind-body medicine techniques, Dr. Miller utilizes tenets of naturopathic medicine including botanical medicine, nutrient support, homeopathic medicine, and lifestyle changes when appropriate.
Though Dr. Miller's focus is mind-body medicine, it is naturopathic philosophy that guides her practice and treatment. Naturopathic physicians always strive to treat the whole person and root causes of illness, and honor the body's innate ability to self-heal. Naturopathy also recognizes the importance of the foundations of health, including clean air and water, sleep, good food, movement, and the surrounding environment. Breathing and being in our bodies are perhaps some of the most foundational of these aspects, as they are ever-present for our entire lives.