Working in crisis environments represents a major challenge, especially for executive personnel engaged in directing disaster operations, i.e. crisis managers. Crisis management involves operating under conditions of extreme stress resulting, for instance, from high-level decision-making, principal responsibility for personnel, multitasking or working under conditions of risk and time pressure. The present study aimed to investigate the efficacy of a newly developed biofeedback training procedure based on electrodermal activity, especially designed for the target group of crisis managers. The training comprised exercises promoting acquisition of control over sympathetic arousal under resting conditions and during exposure to visual, acoustic and cognitive stressors resembling situations related to crisis management. In a randomized controlled design, 36 crisis managers were assigned to either a biofeedback training group or waiting list control group. Subjective stress was assessed using the Perceived Stress Scale. In the training group, stress level markedly decreased; the decrease remained stable at follow-up 2 months after the training. The results indicate that biofeedback training in crisis management is an effective method for stress management that may help to reduce vulnerability to stress-related performance decline and stress-related disease.
Keywords: Biofeedback; Crisis management; Electrodermal activity; Stress; Stress management.