Relaxation techniques can help cope with stress by slowing down the body and quieting the mind. When the body reaches a deep state of relaxation, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and breathing rate decreases, which lowers stress and brings about feelings of calmness and control. Although benefits are reaped immediately after engaging in any of the several relaxation techniques, several months of regular practice may be necessary for total mastery. The relaxation techniques exercises that follow should not be considered cure-alls. If these exercises do not prove to be effective, more specialized textbooks and professional help are called for. Some symptoms may not be caused by stress but rather may be related to a medical disorder.
Clinical application of biofeedback has been used for many years to treat various medical disorders. Besides its successful application in managing stress, it is commonly used relaxation techniques to treat medical disorders such as essential hypertension, asthma, heart rhythm and rate disturbances, cardiac neurosis, eczematous dermatitis, fecal incontinence, insomnia, and stuttering. Biofeedback as a treatment modality has been defined as a technique in which a person learns to influence physiological responses that are not typically under voluntary control or responses that normally are regulated but for which regulation has broken down as a result oi injury; trauma, or illness.
In simpler terms, biofeedback is the interaction with the interior self. This interaction enables a person to learn the relationship between the mind and the biological response. The person can “feel” how thought processes influence biological responses (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and muscle tension, relaxation techniques) and how biological responses influence thought processes.
As an illustration of this process, consider the association between a strange noise in the middle of a dark, quiet night and the heart rate response. At first, the heart rate shoots up because of the stress the unknown noise induces. The individual may even feel the heart palpitating in the chest and, while still uncertain about the noise, attempt not to panic to prevent an even faster heart rate. Upon realizing that all is well, the person use relaxation techniques can take control and influence the heart rate to come down. The mind, now calm, is able to exert almost complete control over the biological response.