Using Biofeedback to Prepare for Midterm Stress

By Rachel Cessna

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One of the activity options for biofeedback is a relaxing meditation simulation.

The approach of midterms means an increase in stress and anxiety levels for students. The pressure can be difficult to handle, but there is a simple and free solution right here on campus.

The Student Counseling Service (SCS) is a counseling service that is available to all Iowa State students and most services do not have a fee for students to use. Some of the more popular services provided are counseling, mind-body and outreach services. All of these services can be used to help students handle stress, anxiety and other issues that come with being a college student.

Biofeedback is a mind-body service that teaches students how to channel their body’s calming and relaxation response in stressful situations. Some of the benefits of biofeedback listed on the SCS website includes reduction of stress and anxiety, better coping responses and a decrease of self-consciousness.

“I started using biofeedback last year a few weeks before finals because I was really stressing out about studying and getting stuff done and the change I noticed over the few weeks that I did it was crazy,” said Rebecca Haars, a sophomore in journalism.

Before beginning to use biofeedback, students go through an orientation session where they learn how to use the service and what to expect from it. After finishing the orientation, students are able to use the biofeedback service as often as they would like during SCS business hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am – 5 pm. Students typically use the service for an hour each week, according to the SCS website. Davidson recommends six to eight sessions to experience the full effects of biofeedback, but students often notice a change after just the first session.

When using the service, students go to a biofeedback room on the third floor of the Student Services Center where they have cushioned chairs positioned in front of a computer. Sensors are attached to three of the student’s fingers which measure perspiration and heart rate.

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The Student Services building is located right on campus close to State Gym.

“In our biofeedback center, we use two types of feedback. We use feedback from your heart, so how it changes over time, and then the skin conductance because when we’re stressed we tend to sweat a little bit more,” said Joyce Davidson, Clinical Director of the Student Counseling Services.

There are two programs called Healing Rhythms and Alive that are used to help the student focus and lower their stress and anxiety levels. The programs include workshops and games that are easy to use and keep the user entertained.

“I’ve been telling my friends to use biofeedback because I really think it works and it’s actually kind of fun to do, not to mention it’s free so there’s no good reason to not do it,” said Haars.

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