Setting Up the Next Generation Biofeedback Program for Stress and Anxiety Management for College Students: A Simple and Cost-Effective Approach

Article excerpt

The increasing prevalence of stress and anxiety on college campuses along with limited resources and budget reductions for many campuses has prompted the need for innovative approaches to help students effectively manage their stress and anxiety. With college students becoming more and more technology-savvy, the authors present an innovative biofeedback program that can be easily implemented anywhere with minimal resources in a brief period of time. The program utilizes a portable, user-friendly biofeedback program to help students learn to take control of their stress and anxiety. Better management of stress and anxiety is expected to contribute to both the personal well-being and the academic success of students.

Keywords: biofeedback, stress, anxiety, college students

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Stress and anxiety is highly prevalent among college students today. Numerous causes of stress and anxiety include academic pressure, adjustment to college life, financial concerns, family problems, as well as the underlying psychological issues of the individual student. College students have different coping styles and different abilities to manage their stress and anxiety. For many students, stressors during the college years will not interfere with academic performance in a significant way; but those with limited internal or external coping resources are at risk for academic failure and higher dropout rates. Several studies have shown a dramatic increase in the severity of psychological symptoms, including stress and anxiety, among college students seeking help for their mental health conditions (Kadison & DiGeronimo, 2004; Kitzrow, 2003).

University staff, faculty, and administrators from various campuses have developed a variety of programs and resources to help students with their academic and personal issues: student retention programs, student success programs, wellness programs, health education, counseling, tutoring and mentoring programs, first year experience programs, and other academic support services. The current authors propose that biofeedback programming can also be very helpful to students in the management of stress and anxiety. Although biofeedback is not new to college health and counseling centers, today's new and simpler technology offers a user-friendly and cost effective approach that is readily available.

Biofeedback Program

Biofeedback training programs have been around colleges and universities since the late 1960s with some programs proving to be more successful than others.

What is biofeedback training? Biofeedback training is a method of helping individuals learn how to control various physiological processes such as muscle tension, blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, brain wave states, skin temperature, and skin conductance. The non-invasive biofeedback sensors are used to measure the psycho-physiological process of the individual and provide immediate feedback to him or her. Through biofeedback training an individual first gains awareness of the physiological processes occurring within the body and learns to consciously control those processes. Specifically, the individual is trained to modulate the symptoms of stress and anxiety which lead to better functioning for the individual. Ultimately, biofeedback can help individuals with stress, anxiety, college adjustment, depression, hypertension, tension headache, and many other issues (See & Czerlinsky, 1990; Siepmann, Aykac, Unterdorfer, Petrowski, & MueckWeymann, 2008; Hammond, 2005; Tsai, Chang, Chang, Lee, & Wang, 2005; Nestoriuc, Rief, & Martin, 2008).

Traditional biofeedback training is provided by a trained or certified biofeedback practitioner who has received didactic education and mentored clinical training in general biofeedback and/or EEG (electroencephalography) biofeedback. Traditional approaches also involve the equipment with multi-channel input designed to simultaneously measure a variety of psycho-physiological processes such as EEG, EMG (electromyograph), temperature, heart rate, and respiration. …

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