Happy Fall! The leaves are turning, rain is falling, soups on the stove and we are bundling up. As we adjust to these shorter days, more indoor activities and the inevitable busyness of the upcoming Holidays it is important to remember to leave room in the schedule for regular exercise and self-care.
Exercise is an excellent way to assist us with releasing the stress that can build up in our day! Getting our heart rate up helps to release all those great endorphins into our system that both lift our spirits and help to keep us healthy! Sometimes mental or emotional stress is more challenging to manage, it can sneak up on us and create physical symptoms – like muscle tension, headache and sleep disturbance.
Biofeedback, which literally means body feedback, is a teaching tool that helps to connect the physical body and the mind. The technique uses a monitoring device to measure and observe a specific physical response. For instance – we can use an EMG, with surface electrodes, to measure muscle activity. The EMG measures muscle work, and then feeds that information back via a sound and/or digital display. That objective feedback helps us better understand not only how we decrease work/ or relax a muscle, but also allows us to begin to identify what the sensation of relaxation or rest might feel like. So often we are not even aware of how we store muscle tension or more importantly what relaxation or rest feels like.
There are several different Biofeedback tools – ones that measure hand temperature, skin conductance, heart rate, respiration rate. If we can get feedback about how our bodies perform, we can begin to make changes in how we respond to specific stressors or demands. Awareness is the first step in making any meaningful change, biofeedback is a helpful tool in creating that ‘ah ha’ moment. I find incorporating these techniques to be a great addition to my patient care model. The more we know about our bodies the better chance we have of staying fit.