Let’s face it, we all have times where we feel absolutely exhausted. Parents, I’m looking at you! But we can’t blame it all on our children, as tempting as it may be! Sometimes we’re exhausted because we haven’t been sleeping (or maybe our kids haven’t been), we’ve picked up yet another cold/flu bug that’s going around, or we’re busy at work and the tasks never seem to end – the list goes on!
Does this sound familiar? If not, then either you’re superhuman, or you’re using the ever-so-often-used coping strategy of denial. Either way, let’s go on the assumption that you’ve felt exhausted for these, or other reasons at some point in your life. I know I have. What do we do? Life doesn’t stop! Responsibilities don’t stop! In fact, it almost seems like when I run into one of these times of feeling exhausted, life looks at me and says, “You don’t think you could be more tired? Challenge accepted!”
So, what do we do when we hit these times, and simply lying on a beach for a few months to recuperate isn’t an option?
We need to pay attention to our sleep
I know, we’re all superheroes that can survive on 4 hours of sleep, right? Wrong. It does appear that some people have a rare gene mutation that allows them to get by on less sleep than the rest of us, but most of us actually need more sleep than we get. According to research done by the National Sleep Foundation, and many others, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, on average.
But it’s not just the length of time, it’s also the quality of sleep that matters. We need solid, deep sleep to get the rest we need. If we’re constantly waking up, taking a long time to fall asleep, or waking up too early then our sleep cycle is off and may need some help.
We need to pay attention to our mood and anxiety levels
Anyone who has ever struggled with anxiety, depression, or other related conditions knows the toll it takes on our energy. One of the hallmark symptoms of depression is exhaustion and lack of energy; it’s a direct symptom and consequence of the condition. Anxiety, on the other hand, produces the same result but for slightly different reasons. If anything, anxiety increases energy, but in turn, it takes an incredible amount of energy to manage our anxiety.
If we’re exhausted, one of the questions we need to be asking ourselves is, “How are my mood and anxiety levels? Am I more agitated lately? Am I noticing symptoms of depression? What’s my anxiety like?” If our mood is low and our anxiety is high, we’re likely going to feel tired!
We need to pay attention to our body
I’ve written many times before that the separation between the brain and the body is a complete myth. Our energy level is another area that highlights this. Just as our brain can give us clues as to what is going on, so can our body. If you’re feeling tired, how does your body feel? Here are a few things to look for:
- General tightness in your body, and even unexplained pain: this could be a symptom of anxiety and/or stress.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues: not surprisingly, one of the number one symptoms of anxiety in terms of our physiology is GI upset.
- Muscle fatigue: if you’re not feeling as strong as usual, this may be a sign of exhaustion.
- Shortness of breath: this can be another common symptom of anxiety. If you feel like it’s hard to take a breath, or hard to fully inflate your lungs and there’s no medical reason for it, this may be a clue that anxiety is hanging around with you.
- Restlessness: having a hard time sitting still? Legs won’t stop moving?
- Sweatiness: if you feel like you’re going through puberty and/or menopause because you can’t stop sweating and you’re not sure why anxiety may be the culprit. Note: being in the middle of puberty and/or menopause does not preclude anxiety also being a part of the picture!
Okay, I’m Tired. What Do I Do About It?
If you’ve ever been to a Registered Clinical Counsellor about your mood, anxiety, energy levels, or all of the above, they’ve probably made some suggestions about your sleep, diet, and exercise. These are the top three ways to manage mood and anxiety with natural and healthy habits. What if you’re doing those things and it’s still not helping? I’d like to suggest another method that may be able to address all of the areas above in one fell swoop: neurofeedback.
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a brain training that uses both computer and EEG technology to help our brains function more efficiently. Many conditions may be a result of our brains not functioning at their best, and neurofeedback helps our brain train to regain its optimal function. Think of it as going to the gym for your brain. That is, it helps our brain train to function at its best, through learning what it is doing currently, and training itself to go back to operating within the correct parameters it was designed to work within.
How can neurofeedback help me be less tired
Neurofeedback can help us regain our energy and be less tired in three main ways, directly related to what we’ve covered in this article today. First, it can help our sleep cycle get back to normal. When our brain is operating in a less than optimal manner, our brain stops functioning at its best. This includes the areas associated with sleep. Neurofeedback can help these areas regain optimum function, and can help our brain calm itself and relax before going to bed.
Second, neurofeedback can help us regulate our mood. One of the number ones uses for neurofeedback, in my experience, and where we see beneficial results is in mood regulation. When our mood is off, so are the various wavelengths in our brains, as well as our neurotransmitters. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, anger, or otherwise, our mood impacts our ability to rest and impacts the amount of energy needed to maintain our mood. Neurofeedback can train our brain to function better and manage our mood better at the biological level.
Finally, neurofeedback can relax our brain and our bodies. By helping our sleep and our mood, it relieves the load placed on our brain and our bodies. It also acts directly on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and helps our body relax. This is why it’s very common for clients to feel physically tired after a session.
Think about it – if we’re wound up as tight as a top, our nerves, muscles, and everything else are using energy to stay wound up. If we help these areas relax by relaxing the CNS, we’ll feel tired. Similar effects can be found using yoga and other methods. Neurofeedback targets the brain and our nervous system directly to produce the relaxation response, which in turn, helps us rest and recover. Neurofeedback can induce the relaxation response, which has been studied and shown repeatedly to reduce stress. The other benefit of neurofeedback? We don’t have to do anything. If we can sit in a chair and stare at a screen while listening to music, we can do neurofeedback.
Is neurofeedback the “magic pill” that cures all?
I wish! No, neurofeedback is not the magic pill that cures all, but it is a technology that can significantly help our sleep, mood, body, and energy levels. The catch is that we still need to do the other things that keep us healthy – that is, have healthy sleep habits, eat healthy food, and exercise. But, neurofeedback is one of the ways at getting at the biology of the brain directly and helping it function at its best. In conjunction with these other healthy habits, it can be a game changer!
Curious? Give us a call or contact us. We’d be happy to discuss how neurofeedback may be able to help you get your energy back!
Neurofeedback is one of the most amazing technologies at our disposal for so many reasons. It’s an invaluable tool for overall resilience, cognitive flexibility, mental health management, sleep enhancement, and so much more. One of the most common questions I get, however, is how on earth does it work? I’m going to do my best to explain it here for you!
Dynamic Neurofeedback Training
The type of neurofeedback training that we use here at Alongside You is called dynamic neurofeedback. What this means is that our neurofeedback system constantly monitors the brain using electroencephalography (EEG) and provides feedback to train your brain. To put this into perspective, our system monitors the brain 256 times per second. That’s a lot of feedback!
The feedback happens through video and audio sources. During neurofeedback training, you’ll be watching a computer screen that displays a variety of moving images and listening to an audio soundtrack. The neurofeedback system monitors your brain activity through EEG, and when it senses that your brain activity on the various wavelengths is outside of the optimal range for your brain, it interrupts the video and audio signals briefly. Because this interruption is tied to your specific brain activity, your brain knows to connect the dots. This allows your brain to know what it is doing at that point in time, and adjust accordingly.
I Still Don’t Get How It Works Andrew!
Let me explain a little bit more then! One of our misconceptions is that because our brain is constantly working, it must know what it’s doing at all times. This is unfortunately not the case. It’s like when I grew around 6 inches in one year, I kept walking into door frames because I didn’t realize where my shoulders were in 3-D space! What our brain is able to do, however, is adjust itself for optimal health if it has the information it needs. Neurofeedback training is what helps provide the necessary information for the brain to change itself.
Imagine you’re driving. Anyone who has driven for any length of time knows that the mind wanders sometimes. Every once in a while, we’ll wander too far to the right and our right tires will go over the shoulder, and we’ll feel a rub strip or gravel under the tires, and hear a noise that signals to us that we are over the shoulder. What happens next is automatic – we naturally move over to the left a little bit. We generally don’t even need to think about it, we just do it. This is analogous to what happens with our brain during neurofeedback training. The interruptions in the audio and video signal to the brain where it is on the wavelengths. The brain uses this information and adjusts itself accordingly. Over time, this training helps the brain stay within the optimal range on the various wavelengths on an ongoing basis.
How Long Does Neurofeedback Training Take?
This is the million-dollar question! It’s also an understandable one. We all want to know how long something is going to take. It’s really no different than wanting to know how long counselling is going to take. Unfortunately, the answer may not be any more gratifying than the answer to how long counselling is going to take: it depends.
Here’s the truth – it depends because every brain is different. It’s also challenging to predict because dynamic neurofeedback training is not a specific treatment for a specific symptom, it is a whole-brain training aimed at helping the entire brain function better. Because of this, we can’t claim that neurofeedback will cure your anxiety, depression, or otherwise. What we can say, however, is that by helping your brain to function better, symptoms that exist because your brain is not functioning at its best are likely to improve. What I can say, is that this has definitely been my experience in working with clients with neurofeedback. Symptoms of concern do improve, our ability to manage any remaining symptoms gets better, and we become more flexible and resilient, but it takes time.
It may be helpful to think of neurofeedback training as gym training for your brain. When we go to the gym, we don’t see much improvement after one workout. We see improvement over a series of workouts, and over a consistent effort to train. How fast each of us builds muscle, and get in shape depends on a whole lot of variables, so in the same way, we can’t predict how long it’s going to take for you to build the muscles you want and get in the shape you’re looking for. What we do know, however, is that if you train consistently over time, you’ll build muscle, and you’ll get in better shape.
How Do You Know It Works?
This is a great question. Monitoring brain changes can be challenging, but here’s how we do it. Before you start, we use a variety of tracking tools to track the symptoms you have concerns about, and over the course of the sessions, we repeat these tracking tools to look at improvements. In addition, we check in with you each session to see how things are going and what you’re noticing. The true indication of whether it’s helping is the answer to a very simple question: “How do you feel now versus how you felt before we started?” Sometimes it’s hard to notice the shifts, and this is where we can also help you monitor by asking the right questions to pick up on shifts.
I have noticed significant positive results in my clients who have done neurofeedback training. In fact, it’s uncanny how positive it has been. I hope this article has helped explain a bit more about neurofeedback, how it works, and how it might be helpful. If you have any more questions, give us a call and we’d be happy to answer them!
One of the most exciting uses for neurofeedback therapy is in children struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD can be one of the more difficult issues to treat and it causes a great deal of distress to many children, their parents, and school staff. We use neurofeedback (also called EEG Biofeedback) here at the clinic to help these kids reduce their symptoms and improve their functioning.
You might wonder, why would we use neurofeedback for ADHD? There are a few reasons we like it and they correspond to the results we see with the children we work with. I hope it helps explain the usefulness of neurofeedback for ADHD in children.
We often don’t notice the effects of poor sleep when we are children, but as a parent, I can definitely notice when my kids don’t sleep well. Further, now as an adult, I’ve become keenly aware of how lack of sleep affects my functioning. Neurofeedback can help the brain recalibrate and improve its function so that sleep improves, which in turn, improves attention, focus, and motivation – some of the core areas affected by ADHD.
Improved Attention and Focus
I have a number of clients with ADHD, and they know that my brain sometimes does the same things as theirs, and so if there’s a loss of focus in session, invariably one of us will turn our head and exclaim, “Ooh, squirrel!” This usually leads to a great deal of laughter and a refocusing in our session. Attention and focus are hallmark symptoms of ADHD, and neurofeedback can help with this by training the brain to function more optimally. Contrary to popular belief, children with ADHD aren’t overstimulated, they’re chronically under-stimulated. Because of this, their brain will find ways to stimulate itself, which usually means hyperactivity or fidgeting. Neurofeedback can help recalibrate and rewire the brain on this level and reduce the need for stimulation, improving these symptoms.
Neurofeedback Targets Brains At The Biological Level Without Medication
One of the most common interventions for ADHD is medication. Now, just to be clear, I am not anti-medication at all. It is a very useful tool and has its place in treatment. Medications, however, don’t always work, sometimes they have side effects that are worse than the condition being treated, and sometimes clients don’t want to be on medications.
Neurofeedback is another way of getting at the brain biology and rewiring it to improve functioning. It can also potentially augment the effects of medication if the medications are not working as well as they could. Sometimes neurofeedback can potentiate medications and lead to less medication being needed, or the ability to stop the medication altogether. Finally, if a client and or family does not wish to use medications, neurofeedback can do many of the same things medication can in helping the brain function better.
Neurofeedback Is Easy
Every parent knows that getting children to participate in treatment can be difficult, especially a child with problems with focus and attention and impulse control. This is one of the benefits of neurofeedback therapy – if a child can sit in a chair and look at a screen and listen to an audio, they can do neurofeedback. We can even show movies through our equipment to keep them engaged when necessary. We can also pair the neurofeedback with creating art, reading a book, or other activities to keep the child engaged.
Neurofeedback is flexible, straightforward, and easy for clients to participate in. We can adapt the environment and treatment to fit client needs and comfort. We can also tailor the treatment frequency to suit client availability and financial resources.
Neurofeedback Is Accessible
We know our clients lead busy lives, particularly when it comes to children and their activities. This is why we use equipment that we can send home with clients on a monthly rental basis. This has a number of advantages: accessibility, efficiency, and affordability. By doing home rentals, you can do neurofeedback in the comfort of your own home, on your own schedule. You can do training sessions as often as you like, which can help speed up the process and the results. It also makes things more affordable – for one monthly fee you can do as many sessions as you like, and you can even train the whole family for the same price!
Are You Curious About Neurofeedback?
I hope so! If you have any further questions, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer them. We can provide neurofeedback in our clinic, or we can send a rental unit home with you if it seems to be the best solution for you and your family. We love using neurofeedback to help children with ADHD, because we know it works, and we know kids love it. We love it because we see the results and the changed lives!
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health difficulties in Canada, and across the world. No doubt you’ve seen numerous articles on the subject, describing what anxiety is, why we suffer from it, and what to do about it. One of the questions I get asked quite frequently is whether neurofeedback can fix anxiety. It’s a great question, and here’s my answer!
The premise of neurofeedback is that if we are stressed out, anxious, depressed, or are suffering from others negative symptoms, our brain is likely to be operating less than optimally. Neurofeedback is a tool that helps train the brain to adjust how it is operating so that it can function more optimally and efficiently. You might think of it as gym training for the brain. The fact that it is training is an important distinction – it is not a treatment for a specific symptom, it is a training that helps your brain optimize itself over time and learn how to do so for the long term.
What is Neurofeedback?
You may never have heard of neurofeedback before, so here’s a quick primer on dynamical neurofeedback, which is the main type of neurofeedback we do here at Alongside You. Dynamical neurofeedback uses EEG equipment and software to monitor your brain activity, and feed information back to the brain about what it is doing. A crude analogy is to equate the neurofeedback system with a giant mirror being held up for the brain so that it can see its own processes and gain the information it needs.
Why does the brain need this information you may wonder? See, the wonderful thing about our brains is that they are self-regulating. If given the necessary information, our brains can change themselves to function more optimally, back within the parameters they were designed to operate within. The brain doesn’t need us to push it, or pull it in any particular direction if we can provide the brain with the information it needs. This is what dynamical neurofeedback helps the brain with. Our primary system monitors the brain, and feeds back information 256 times per second, allowing the brain to see what it is doing and adjust accordingly.
Can Neurofeedback Fix Anxiety?
There are numerous theories as to why people get anxious. There are personality factors, biochemical factors, life factors, brain function factors, and many more. The trouble with trying to fix anxiety by any means, is there are no guarantees. This is true of counselling, psychiatric medications, and every other form of therapy or treatment out there. I’ve been in this field long enough to know that none of the treatments or therapies we employ can be guaranteed to fix what ails us. This is, however, different than asking whether something can be helpful with anxiety, and if we ask this question, the answer with regard to neurofeedback is a resounding yes in my experience. I’d like to share three ways I see neurofeedback being helpful for anxiety.
3 Ways Neurofeedback Can Help Your Anxiety
- If you have been on medication, maybe some have worked really well or some have not. Often there are side effects to medications and in some cases, the side effects are worse than the symptom you’re trying to treat. Another concern can be when medications work for a time and then stop working. Sometimes people just simply don’t want to take medications for various reasons. This is where neurofeedback can be helpful and this is because neurofeedback is another way of working with the brain biology without the use of medications.
- If our brains are not functioning optimally when we’re anxious, neurofeedback can train our brain to function better. What’s important about this is that we’re not simply treating, or masking undesirably symptoms, we’re helping the brain function better and learn how to do this long term. Again, the analogy of going to the gym is helpful. If you get injured playing sports, you can simply take some medication to mask the pain. More effective, however, is going to the gym, under the guidance of a physiotherapist or other rehab professional, and working on the muscles, joints, and other areas to rehabilitate the injury and hopefully prevent a new one. This is what neurofeedback does for your brain.
- One of the main triggers for anxiety is the activation of the central nervous system (CNS) and interaction with the autonomic nervous system (ANS). In fact, some of the most exciting research coming out right now around anxiety, depression, and trauma has to do with the CNS and ANS, and particularly, the vagus nerve (but that’s a whole topic on its own). Check out this article if you want to geek out on this information. One of the most exciting things for me in working with my clients with anxiety is that neurofeedback can directly influence the CNS and ANS and induce the relaxation response, lowering the triggers for anxiety. This is especially exciting for those suffering from generalized anxiety because it is one of the most difficult forms to treat by other modalities. I can tell you that in my experience with clients, as well as my own personal experience with a generalized anxiety disorder, neurofeedback has been one of the most helpful things I’ve ever seen or experienced, both personally and professionally.
If I’m Interested in Neurofeedback What Should I Do?
If you’re interested in neurofeedback for your anxiety, please give us a call. It’s not necessarily a fast treatment (in our experience and the data for the system we mainly use, 12-20 sessions is the average), but it’s an effective tool that has long-lasting effects and trains your brain to function better for the long term. It can be used in conjunction with medications, and it actually has the potential to reduce the need for medication and enable a lowering of doses in some cases. Neurofeedback is an exciting tool in our toolbox, and another way to we can bring holistic, integrated approaches to care for our clients. As you can probably tell by now, I’m pretty excited about this.
Please contact us or give us a call if you have any questions or if you want to explore whether neurofeedback might be right for you. We’d love to chat!