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Chronic Stress

Chronic Stress

We all have stress; it’s unavoidable. Why do some people bounce back while others feel plowed under by it? The difference is stress resilience, otherwise known as our ability to oscillate from stress to refresh, or our recovery time.

Fortunately stress resilience is something that neurofeedback and biofeedback excel at teaching your brain and body.

How do we teach your brain and body to recover quickly from stress? By working with the core of your stress response, your brain and body learn how to shift out of stress and into a recovery state with ease, with agility.
Brain Agility Under Pressure

Brain Agility Under Pressure

NASA at Langley Research Center measured the brainwaves of their pilot candidates. They found that all candidates shifted into beta (fast brain wave) states when they were asked to perform an aerial maneuver.

They observed that those pilots who stayed in the heightened beta state tended to burn-out, were unable to sustain their performance. Those who were able to down-shift into a relaxed alpha mode between maneuvers were able to sustain performance and endured over the long haul.

At first they screened the high beta pilots out of the program, but then discovered that they could use neurofeedback to train otherwise promising high beta pilots to learn how to do the downshift into alpha. It’s all about brain state agility.
The Neuroscience of Stress

The Neuroscience of Stress

The opposite of agility is stickiness. Centers for response to stress, especially in the right hemisphere of the brain can get stuck in a pattern of heightened alertness or being constantly vigilant or on-guard.

This heightened activation usually shows up as excess beta waves in the right hemisphere and is responsible for many of the stress symptoms we feel, muscle tension, tight stomach, or tension headaches and often contributes to high blood pressure or migraines.

Effects of Chronic Stress

The body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and the harder it is to shut off.

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Stress Symptoms

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Restless sleep

  • Difficulty Waking up

  • Excessive sleeping

  • Heavy use of caffeine

  • Nervous eating

  • Loss of appetite

  • PMS

  • Fatigue

  • Low energy

  • Disorganization

  • Decreased productivity

  • Procrastination

  • Weight loss/gain

  • Accident proneness

  • Increased conflict with others 

  • Muscle Spams

  • Neck aches

  • Backaches

  • Tight Shoulders

  • Leg Cramps

  • Headaches

  • Tight Jaw

  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

  • Muscular tension

  • Nervous Tics

  • Tremors

  • Hostility

  • Irritability

  • Anger

  • Sadness and/or crying spells

  • Discouragement

  • Temper outbursts

  • Fear

  • Frustration

  • Distraction

  • Poor concentration

  • Racing mind

  • Obsessive thinking

  • Forgetfulness, preoccupation

  • Racing thoughts

  • Confusion

  • Worry

  • Indecision

  • Weak memory

Your Body's Stress Response

When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action.

Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

Neurofeedback Training Retrains your Brain

Reset your brain’s activation level

sleeping womanWith constant stress, your brain doesn’t have a chance to reset back to an unstressed level.  It constantly stays in that “fight or flight” state which results in an over-activated brain.  You know that expression “you’re on my last nerve!” That’s a highly over-activated brain that can’t take much more. By lowering your brain’s activation level, you lower your stress set-point and increase your tolerance and resilience to stress. Most people find that this feels really good! 

Teach your brain how to shift into a relaxed state

  • We have lots of practice shifting into a stressed state, but who teaches you how to shift back down out of it?  We do! Our training is based on that designed to help NASA pilots shift back into a relaxed state between in-flight maneuvers.
  • We teach the brain how to shift by doing flexibility training with multiple shifts into the relaxed state. We then teach you how to hold the relaxed state so you can shift into it on demand and stay there as long as you want.  It is a much more efficient and productive way to operate and avoids “burn-out.”

Teach you how to read and increase control of your body’s physiological stress response through biofeedback

  • Biofeedback has a long established record of effectiveness in stress management.  It is recognized by the Mayo Clinic as a key component of their pain management and insomnia programs. 
  • We use computerized instruments to show you how your body responds to stress and how you can change it.
  • Our biofeedback program is based on research that shows a decrease in cortisol and an increase in DHEA (possible anti-aging hormone) over time when practiced regularly.

Stress Research

  • Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 2009 Oct 14
    An Exploratory Study on the Effects of Tele-neurofeedback and Tele-biofeedback on Objective and Subjective Sleep in Patients with Primary Insomnia
    Valck E, Arns M, Breteler MH, Cluydts R.

    Research Unit Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050, Brussels, Belgium. Insomnia is a sleeping disorder, usually studied from a behavioural perspective, with a focus on somatic and cognitive arousal. Recent studies have suggested that an impairment of information processes due to the presence of cortical hyperarousal might interfere with normal sleep onset and/or consolidation.

    As such, a treatment modality focussing on CNS arousal, and thus influencing information processing, might be of interest. Seventien insomnia patients were randomly assigned to either a tele-neurofeedback (n = 9) or an electromyography tele-biofeedback (n = 8) protocol. Twelve healthy controls were used to compare baseline sleep measures. A polysomnography was performed pre and post treatment. Total Sleep Time (TST), was considered as our primary outcome variable. Sleep latency decreased pre to post treatment in both groups, but a significant improvement in TST was found only after the neurofeedback (NFB) protocol.

    Furthermore, sleep logs at home showed an overall improvement only in the neurofeedback group, whereas the sleep logs in the lab remained the same pre to post training. Only NFB training resulted in an increase in TST. The mixed results concerning perception of sleep might be related to methodological issues, such as the different locations of the training and sleep measurements.
  • Biofeedback Self Regul. 1982 Jun;7(2):223-35..

    he treatment of psychophysiologic insomnia with biofeedback: a replication study
    Hauri PJ, Percy L, Hellekson C, Hartmann E, Russ D.
    Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, Eberhard-Karls-University, Gartenstr. 29, 72074 Tübingen, Germany.

    To replicate a previous study, 16 psychophysiological insomniacs were randomly assigned to either Theta feedback or sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) feedback. Evaluations by home sleep logs and by 3 nights in the laboratory were done before biofeedback, immediately after biofeedback, and 9 months later. Results from this study replicate previous findings. Both Theta and SMR feedback seemed effective treatments of insomnia according to home sleep logs. According to evaluations at the sleep laboratory, tense and anxious insomniacs benefited only from Theta feedback but not from SMR feedback, while those who were relaxed at intake but still could not sleep benefited only from SMR but not from Theta feedback.
  • Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1981 Jul;38(7):752-8.
    Treating psychophysiologic insomnia with biofeedback
    Hauri P.

    After evaluating 165 insomniacs, 48 psychophysiologic insomniacs were randomly assigned to one of the following four groups: electromyographic (EMG) feedback, combined EMG and theta feedback, sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) feedback, and no treatment (control). Sleep evaluations by home logs and in the laboratory were done before and after biofeedback and nine months later. No feedback group showed improved sleep significantly more than did the controls. The amount of feedback learning correlated significantly with sleep improvement for the SMR group but not for the other groups. Initial tension of the insomniacs correlated positively with sleep improvement for the EMG group, but negatively with sleep improvement for the SMR group.

    Those treated with the biofeedback that seemed appropriate for their specific deficiencies showed significant sleep improvements, while those who received inappropriate feedback did not. Appropriate biofeedback methods may be effective for specific types of insomnia, but these procedures offer no panacea for all poor sleep.
  • Neurofeedback with Anxiety and Affective Disorders
    by Hammond DC Ph.D. ABEN/ECNS

    Compelling evidence exists for a neurophysiologic basis for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A large number of positron emission tomographic and single photon emission computed tomographic studies have found increased blood flow and metabolism in the mediofrontal, anterior cingulate, right frontal, or orbitofrontal areas [1-14], which implicates a cortico-striato-thalamocortical network. Functional abnormalities also have been documented in a large number of quantitative EEG (qEEG) studies [15-22] and evoked potential studies [23-27]. OCD seems to be somewhat heterogeneous, however, with at least two qEEG subtypes that have been found [17-21].
  • Clin Electroencephalogr. 2000 Jan;31(1):1-6.

    A review of EEG biofeedback treatment of anxiety disorders.

    Moore NC1.

    Alpha, theta and alpha-theta enhancements are effective treatments of the anxiety disorders (Table 1). Alpha suppression is also effective, but less so (Table 2). Perceived success in carrying out the task plays an important role in clinical improvement. Research is needed to find out how much more effective they are than placebo, and which variables are important for efficacy. Variables needing study are: duration of treatment, type and severity of anxiety, number and type of EEG waveforms used, pretreatment with other kinds of feedback, position and number of electrodes, and presence of concomitant medication.
  • Science. 1978 Jul 7;201(4350):79-81.
    Anxiety change through electroencephalographic alpha feedback seen only in high anxiety subjects.
    Hardt JV, Kamiya J.

    Subjects who were either high or low in trait anxiety used alpha feedback to increase and to decrease their electroencephalographic alpha activity. The alpha changes were tightly linked to anxiety changes, but only in high anxiety subjects (for whom anxiety was reduced in proportion to alpha increases, and was increased in proportion to alpha suppression). Low trait-anxiety subjects were superior at both enhancement and suppression training, but their alpha changes were not related to anxiety changes. In both groups, anxiety changes were generally unrelated to either resting levels or changes in frontalis electromyograms and respiration rate. These results suggest that long-term alpha feedback training (at least 5 hours) may be useful in anxiety therapy.

    PMID: 663641 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  • Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 12, #2, June, 2007, p146-151
    Biofeedback treatments of generalized anxiety disorder: preliminary results.
    Rice KM1, Blanchard EB, Purcell M.

    Forty-five individuals with generalized anxiety (38 with GAD as defined by DSM-III) were randomized to 4 treatment conditions or a waiting list control. Patients received 8 sessions of either frontal EMG biofeedback, biofeedback to increase EEG alpha, biofeedback to decrease EEG alpha, or a pseudomeditation control condition.

    All treated subjects showed significant reductions in STAI-Trait Anxiety and psychophysiologic symptoms on the Psychosomatic Symptom Checklist. Only alpha-increase biofeedback subjects showed significant reductions in heart rate reactivity to stressors at a separate psychophysiological testing session. Decreased self-report of anxiety was maintained at 6 weeks posttreatment.
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