Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

Solutions for
managing stress

Healthy heart, healthy brain, healthy body

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

If you’ve been stressed for a long time, it can be easy to forget that stress isn’t only in your head – it’s a physical reaction to scary situations. It can become second-nature to ignore those physical signs.

Do you struggle with:

  • Insomnia?
  • Feeling frustrated more easily?
  • Fatigue?
  • Headaches?
  • Nausea?
  • Constipation or diarrhoea?
  • Inability to focus?
  • A change in appetite?
  • Dry mouth?
  • Clenching your jaw?
  • Tense muscles?
  • Sweaty hands or feet?

If so, you may be under a lot of stress. Stress symptoms can pile up, and are seemingly unrelated, but your nervous system is responsible for these changes in mood and general health. However, you can handle your stress and symptoms through the power of biofeedback.

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is an intuitive technique and treatment that can help you gain control over body functions that are normally considered automatic. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) looks after your digestion, perspiration, and dilation of pupils, so you don’t put conscious thought into these processes. However, some of these processes can be consciously controlled – such as your breathing, or heart rate.

Your ANS also acts as the primary mechanism that drives your fight-or-flight response – where signals from your brain perceiving a threat

trigger a physical reaction.1 Your breathing and heart rate quicken, your muscles tense up, and you start sweating.

Modern biofeedback involves the use of a computer or other monitoring device to detect your involuntary bodily processes – and in many cases arms you with the tools to control them. In the case of the stress-related fight-or-flight response, it can be helpful to learn how to control your heart rate.

What Can HRV Biofeedback Help With?

Modern life can be busy, bright, and demanding, but your brain hasn’t evolved to keep up. When you experience something stressful, such as an unexpected meeting with your boss, or a traffic jam making you late, your brain can’t tell the difference between these events and those that are genuinely dangerous. Moments of stress trigger your brain’s hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis to release cortisol and adrenaline.

These hormones feed into your ANS and provide the fight-or-flight response. If you experience many incidents of stress throughout your day, it can provoke a negative feedback loop, where the ANS and increased levels of cortisol act upon the HPA axis, providing a new wave of powerful hormones to keep you on edge. On top of this, your heart itself sends signals back up to the brain.

Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback aims to break this cycle.

Do you have:

  • Anxiety?
  • Stress?
  • Stress due to long-time illness?

If you answered yes, HRV biofeedback is an excellent therapy to consider as part of your treatment plan. Long term stress can contribute to a wide range of diseases and illnesses, including autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, and headaches. The aim of HRV feedback is to give you coherence – reducing anxiety, and improving mental cognition and problem-solving abilities.

How Does HRV Biofeedback Work?

Heart rate variation biofeedback uses the measurement of your beat-to-beat changes in heart rate. It gives a good indication of your autonomic nervous system function, while also improving the relationship between your heart and brain. The pattern of your heart rate can affect the mental and emotional functions of your brain.

Although you may like to believe that your heart beats the same way, day in day out, there’s a lot of variation in the intervals between your heartbeats – even at rest. And the variation can clue you into the regulation – or dysregulation – of your internal functions.

When you feel stressed, your heart rhythm becomes erratic, and the related nerve signals generated from your heart up to your brain match this dysregulation. This results in the difficulty you experience in managing your emotions when stressed – and making solid decisions. HRV training provides you with the tools to regulate your heartbeat, and use the technique to manage your stress and anxiety confidently, often improving your work and home life.

The HRV session is straightforward and non-invasive – all you need is a small monitor attached to your earlobe, connected to the computer monitoring you. The screen allows you to see the interplay between your breathing rate, thought-patterns, heart rate and nervous system function. The graph usually looks quite jagged at first, when we’re aiming for a smoother wave with training. To gain control, you’re taught some simple techniques to balance your nervous system function – which you’re able to try out in real-time while monitoring your responses. Applying the techniques while using visual feedback helps you gain confidence in this new ability, and clients can see the results instantly.

After the session, you can perform your new skills where and wherever you need to, controlling your heart rate and reducing your ANS in stressful situations.

What is Resonance Biofeedback?

Resonance biofeedback works more subtly than HRV feedback. Once the straps are placed around your forehead, wrists, and ankles, the device measures your body’s low-level electrical signals. Harmless pulses are fed into your body, and adjustments are made by the system throughout. The signalling can improve your own electrical signals at a cellular level, aiding your health.

Testing does not take long  – but the big volume of results take some interpretation and can tell us a lot about your health and needs. This form of biofeedback can highlight aspects of your health that may need further testing, such as a vitamin or mineral deficiency – or even a hormone imbalance.

Are You Looking For HRV Biofeedback in Edinburgh?

Let Charmaine be your guide. Charmaine Shepherd has a background in biomedical sciences and believes firmly in the power of comprehensive lab tests and biofeedback. She combines this with her expertise in holistic practices, lifestyle, and nutrition to provide a [functional medicine] foundation to help you regain your health. Charmaine understands the issues her patients face – she knows you need help in handling your stress, and she always puts you at ease.

If you’re looking for HRV biofeedback in Scotland, to ease the symptoms of stress please get in touch to book an appointment with Charmaine. Call (0131) 272 2744 or fill out our Contact Form – we’d love to hear from you.

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Let's work together to see how I can help. I welcome clients from every race, creed, colour, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression. I provide a safe and empathic space for anyone who is committed to working with me to improve their health.

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