05 January 2007
a BioFeedBack Resources International e-mail newsletter
edited by Harry L. Campbell, BCIA, NRBS Past President
technical editing and production by Edwin Johnson
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***** INSIDE THIS ISSUE *****
I. Biofeedback & Stress Management for Students
A Student returns as a teacher
Somewhere back in about 1983 I was first introduced to biofeedback. Adam Crane visited my Ossining High School class for career day. He talked about and demonstrated something he called biofeedback. He showed my class how signals coming from our body could be measured and that we could learn to control the changes with our minds. This was immediately very interesting to me. I had already been very interested in science, technology, and computers.
Adam had mentioned that he was considering hiring one of the students from my class. I was very excited about the possibility of getting paid to work with this fascinating new technology. He took contact information from the students who were interested in the position. I waited for a phone call but didn't receive one. I started calling about once every two weeks. He had hired one of the other students but I don't think he lasted very long. After many, many calls Adam finally broke down and decided to have me come in for an interview and he decided to hire me for a part time position. My duties started with shipping and receiving and grew to testing instruments, computer support, data entry, and other office duties. I graduated in 1984. While I was attending a local college I continued to work with Adam at his biofeedback company part time. After graduating with an associate's degree in computer systems management to his surprise I agreed to go to work with him full time. He always thought that I would go to work for IBM or some other big technology company. I did too but it was too late for me. I had fallen in love with biofeedback and couldn't pull myself away to do anything else. It was too interesting, fun, and important to the world. There were enough computer geeks in the world already.
I have seen the biofeedback technology grow from the wooden box instruments like Inner-Tel and Autogen to the Unicomp and J&J Commodore computer systems, to the Apple IIe Unicomp, Biocomp, and Biolab computer systems, to all of the IBM PC systems that grew into what we work with now.
I have worked with Adam Crane for over 22 years. We recently came to an agreement for me to buy the company from him. This will allow me to continue doing what I have come to love. It also allows Adam to do what he is most passionate about now which is continuing to develop the International MindFitness Foundation. This foundation focuses on performance and life enhancement which biofeedback and neurofeedback are only a small part.
I recently had the opportunity to return to Ossining High School along with Elizabeth Stroebel, Ph.D., creator of the Kiddie-QR Program (a stress management program created specifically for children), to teach a course on Biofeedback and Stress Management for Students for a group of educators from the school district.
The goal of the course was to help educators become more aware of how much of a problem stress can be in the school environment both for students and staff. We also planned to show them how biofeedback and simple relaxation techniques could be used to help to mange stress. The group was made up of regular classroom teachers, special education teachers, speech therapists, guidance counselors, and a music teacher.
The participants were very enthusiastic about the information we shared with them. Here are some of the questions that I asked the group along with answers we came up with:
Question: What are some of the sources of stress for students?
Answer: Exams (including state and regent exams), problems at home, work, bullies, added responsibility of having to help support the family financially, keeping up with fashions, peer pressure, relationship problems with teachers, learning disabilities, and pressure to get into a good college.
Question: What are some signs that school staff can notice in students that indicate possible reaction to stress?
Answer: Hunched or raised shoulders, tapping of foot or pencil, sad appearance or affect, head down, withdrawn, demonstrations of anger, aggression, clenched jaw or fist, lack of focus, fatigue, and rapid, shallow breathing.
Question: What are some of the negative effects stress can have in the school setting?
Answer: Visits to the nurse's office due to headaches and stomachaches, arguments, physical fights, disruption in class, inattention in class, lack of focus, test anxiety, decreased cognitive abilities, poor performance, decreased participation, student/teacher relationship problems,
Question: What is currently being done to deal with stress in the school setting?
Answer: Mentoring Programs, counselors are available for students to talk to, yoga is now offered as an alternative to standard "gym", a crisis team is in place to deal with major problems that come up like the death of a student or other major school or community tragedy.
Question: What else can be done to help reduce stress in the school environment?
Answer: Offer a course on stress management and biofeedback as part of staff development. One participant suggested that this would help teachers become more aware of what causes stress, signs of stress, and how to better help students reduce stress as well as how not to add to the stress of students. Other suggestions included introducing students to biofeedback so they could actually see their stress levels and learn how to reduce it, creating a more relaxing atmosphere, creating better relationships between teachers and students, offering stress management training to parents and making them aware of biofeedback, setting up biofeedback in the "time out" room, creating a relaxing space that students could retreat to if needed.
Question: What are some of the challenges/roadblocks in implementing biofeedback/stress management programs in schools?
Answer: Money, bureaucracy, attitudes/perceptions, willingness to participate, space, language barriers.
Question: How could these challenges/roadblocks be resolved?
Answer: Apply for grants, provide students, parents, administrators, and community with information and demonstration of how stress management and biofeedback works, accumulate data from research showing a strong positive correlation between stress reduction and management and student achievement, offer workshops for district policy makers to demonstrate the effectiveness of reducing stress on student performance and behavior.
This was a very enjoyable and enlightening experience for me. The participants said that they learned a lot more about stress, stress management, and biofeedback. I learned a lot about stress in the school setting. It was very fulfilling to return to my old school and be able to share some of what I have learned since my graduation back in 1984. My hope is that I will be able to help incorporate stress management and biofeedback into this school district to help the students and staff improve their performance and lives.
II. Upcoming Training Opportunities
The emergence of Heart Rate Variability as a biofeedback modality should be driving home the fact that whether our thought are negative or positive is constantly affecting us in powerful ways. Those of us who have been using HRV biofeedback know that it is not just the breathing that affects HRV. A person can be breathing correctly and doing very well with their HRV score but a negative thought can quickly send the HRV score in the wrong direction. Replacing the negative thought with a positive one can return one to the right HRV direction improving coherence. Try it; you will see what I'm talking about.
The November/December 2006 issue of "Positive Thinking" magazine quoted Emerson in an article entitled "Power Thoughts". He said, "A man is what he thinks about all day long."
No matter what religion you are, we would all do well to follow this scripture from the King James Version Bible.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
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