Sophomore Briana Dame par­tic­i­pated in a 30-minute session in the iFeel Alive Labs, a biofeedback program that uses games to teach breathing tech­niques. Carmel E. Kookogey | Col­legian

Pursed-lip breathing may be the solution to sur­viving hell week stress.

The psy­chology department recently installed new tech­nology that helps stu­dents learn how to control their stress.

The tech­nology, a com­bi­nation of a non­in­vasive sensors and com­puter software that reads the sensors’ data, was orig­i­nally brought to the school for under­graduate research. Now, it is available for stu­dents, faculty, and staff to use in a project called the iFeel Alive Labs.

Psy­chology department chair­woman Kari McArthur said a sale on software and sensors allowed the department to pur­chase five sets.

“I had used these sensors in my classes and got really pos­itive responses, so I started thinking it might be a really good idea to open up our labs to other people who might be inter­ested,” McArthur said. “It’s also a good time of the year to do so.”

This biofeedback tech­nology enables the student to see his or her own stress levels on the screen, and by prac­ticing breathing tech­niques and playing games, they can learn how to control the smoothness or con­sis­tency of their heart rate.

The blue­tooth sensor, worn on the finger, mea­sures the phys­i­o­logical responses of the body to stressful sit­u­a­tions, such as heart rate, and sweat gland activity ­— responses that stu­dents usually cannot detect in them­selves.

The software cor­re­sponds with the stress level of the stu­dents: If their heart rate is uneven, the screen might get darker or the car they are racing will slow down. If, however, by imple­menting breathing tech­niques they are able to smooth out their heart rate, the game pro­gresses.

McArthur said her stu­dents com­bined the names of the software, Alive Pioneer, and the sensors, which are from iFeel Labs, to create the name for the project, “iFeel Alive.”

Sophomore Lab Assistant Sydney San Juan said this kind of equipment is more advanced than some of the other biofeedback tech­nology the psy­chology department has used in the past.

“This tech­nology is not cheap,” San Juan said. “It’s typ­i­cally used in a clinical setting for someone who is having anxiety, to help them under­stand their stress in a dif­ferent way. We’re obvi­ously not clin­i­cians, and this isn’t an alter­native to that, but I think it’s cool that we get to use this tech­nology that clearly helps in some way.”

Freshman Lab Assistant Olivia Manocchio said the sensors can train stu­dents to control even minor stresses they did not realize they had.

“I didn’t realize how uneven my breath actually was until I uti­lized the equipment, and was able to see it. You can’t get that mental training by just reading about the tech­niques online,” Manocchio said.

The equipment is not, however, a sub­stitute for clinical treatment of anxiety, McArthur said.

“I want to make sure that people know,this is not a sub­stitute for any mental health ser­vices. If any stu­dents, faculty or staff have any anxiety in their lives, I rec­ommend that they contact the Ambler Health and Wellness Center on campus or their own mental health provider,” she said.

McArthur also pointed out that one 30-minute session will not make a drastic change.

“This is not a one-time deal. Maybe you’ll learn a little bit on your first session, but it’s not designed to be a one-time fix. The more you come in, the more you learn, the greater help it’s going to be,” she said.

Nev­er­theless, stu­dents have said they already noticed a dif­ference in how they are able to control their heart rate in stressful sit­u­a­tions after only using the equipment a few times.

“I def­i­nitely think that it does help reduce stress,” Manocchio said. “I’ve noticed an ability to calm myself down when I am anxious or stressed about some­thing. Given Hillsdale’s high-pressure envi­ronment, I think it’s important for stu­dents to learn how to manage their stress better. I’ve seen stu­dents who are having nervous break­downs, and getting into some very unhealthy habits, and I think that this would help them find better coping methods.”

Sophomore Erin Gordon, who tried the equipment last week, said dif­ferent breathing tech­niques are offered in order to figure out which one works best for the indi­vidual.

“They give you several dif­ferent types of breathing to try, and the pursed-lip breathing worked the best for me to help me slow down my heart rate,” Gordon said.

The iFeel Alive Labs are open for all stu­dents, faculty, and staff Monday through Thursday nights from 7 – 9 p.m. in the Psy­chology Suite in Kendall Hall until May 8.

Stu­dents can sign up ahead of time online for 30-minute ses­sions through the fol­lowing link:

Since the labs are student-run, McArthur said it is uncertain how long the labs will be open. McArthur said she hopes con­tinue making the equipment available to campus through the upcoming weeks.