APEX Brain Centers

Do-it-Yourself Biofeedback for Stress, Anxiety and Relaxation

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback: Using information from the body to gain control over functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and more.

Who Can it Help?

Biofeedback is a critically important skill for those suffering from stress, anxiety, panic, phobias, brain injury, PTSD, ADHD, OCD, addiction; or those simply looking to ‘chill out and relax a bit better. Many are unaware they have control over body systems or functions that are thought to be automatic and out of our control (like mentioned above).

Your Body Changes Physically When You are in Stressed

When people are stressed, their hands start to get cold as part of the sympathetic “fight or flight” response – a process called thermoregulation. When this happens, your body brings blood to more central/vital areas and you lose peripheral circulation in the areas furthest away from your core; which makes your hands, toes, and even parts of your face feel cold.

The Oldest, and Easiest, Form of Biofeedback

Hand-warming biofeedback is one of the simplest and most effective biofeedback exercises you can do yourself with just a little practice and very little cost.

As its name implies, the goal is to warm the hands; which is a direct reflection of your body’s relaxation response. This is not done by holding them over a fire or running them underwater, but as follows:

  • The exercise requires a small thermometer. You can find them at some gardening or hardware stores. Alternatively, you can search online using terms like ‘stress thermometer’ or ‘hand warming biofeedback’. The digital thermometer usually comes in a grey plastic case with a little wire that serves as a temperature probe. (Important note: Before buying a particular unit, make sure it is capable of taking measurements to tenths of a degree (e.g. 95.1). This is very important to demonstrate progress with the exercise.)
  • Make certain to practice this technique in a quiet area free from distraction and allow 5-10 minutes where you would not have to attend to family, work, animals, devices, etc.
  • When you’re ready to start the exercise, tape the wire probe to the tip of a finger (not on the fingernail). Some choose to hold the wire between their finger pads as they get better at it; if you press too firmly you will naturally push blood from the fingers, and they will not get as warm.
  • Give it a couple of moments to register the starting temperature of your finger. Then, start to do a simple deep breathing exercise where you breathe in through the nose for 4-5 seconds and out through the mouth for 8-10 seconds. The key is breathing out twice as long as your breath in!
  • You should start seeing a change in the temperature of your hands (hopefully increasing). Sometimes it can happen quite quickly. Continue breathing and watching the temperature of your hands as it continues to elevate until the temperature increase stops for a minute.
  • From there you can end the exercise and go about your business. Do this several times throughout a day; depending on your levels of stress, anxiety, etc. The more you have, the more you should do!

You are in Control!

You will see very quickly that you have the absolute ability to effectively regulate your stress responses. As you continue practicing this biofeedback, you’ll feel the fingers getting warmer. This is an indication that you’re increasing the peripheral circulation by stimulating your relaxation response. Then, your brain will know, through repeated conditioning, that it has made a BIG change in your physiology.

It gives anyone, regardless of circumstances, the power to control their body systems and respond to stress. This is Brain Training! We’ve seen countless people use this and similar exercises to get past anxiety, panic, and more because it puts them in control. This is immensely empowering as one starts to realize they are in control – not the pill… not the doctor!

For those with more severe presentations, there are doctor-guided tools to help provide the same impact so the individual can eventually begin to practice independently – a story for another article!

Dr. Michael S. Trayford is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Neurofeedback Specialist with over 20 years of experience in the practice of advanced functional neurology. He is one of the most highly sought-after brain rehabilitation specialists because of the life-changing outcomes his patients consistently experience. After over a decade in private practice and working alongside other pioneers in the field, Dr. Trayford developed his multimodal intensive brain training and rehabilitation program built around the science of Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to learn and grow dependent upon the stimulation it receives from its environment. He later founded APEX Brain Centers to combine his ground-breaking rehabilitation approach with a unique patient and caretaker-centered care model. Under Dr. Trayford’s leadership, APEX Brain Centers has successfully treated thousands of patients and earned the reputation of a world-renowned brain training and rehabilitation practice. Since its inception, Dr. Trayford has been a leader of the Brain Training revolution treating patients worldwide. In addition, he is a published journal contributor and international lecturer. His experience with various patients of all ages and neurological conditions has given him a unique perspective on brain health and human performance. He is also well-versed in collaborating with other health care professionals, making him an invaluable asset to any care team. Dr. Trayford was awarded the Functional Neurologist of the Year distinction by the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation, where he is a proud member and conference lecturer. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Council for the Dementia Society of America and the Board of Directors for the International Society for Neuroregulation and Research. He is also a servant leader who has dedicated his adult life to serving multiple communities through Rotary International and other notable causes. When he’s not treating patients, Dr. Trayford usually reads or researches anything related to the brain, human performance, and leadership. He also loves spending time outdoors with his wife Denise, their two daughters, and dogs in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmichaeltrayford/


  1. Kay on November 15, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Great question, wonderful answer. Thank you both. Hot flashes are driving me crazy. Will try this!

    • admin on November 23, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      Best wishes to you!

  2. cis on December 20, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Makes me wonder …

    1) when you are stressed your hands get cold. But some people may suffer more from discomfort in other areas (head feeling chilly most of the year outdoors).

    2) is it possible to use biofeedback for hot flashes?

    • admin on December 21, 2019 at 3:17 am

      Yes it is possible and effective to use biofeedback like this for hot flashes. As always, a multi-system approach is best; but this is a good start!

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