Wearable devices, including the Apple Watch, are now tracking a key indicator of stress: heart rate variability, or, more simply, changes in the heartbeat.
This is not an exact science, but in general, people with higher heart rate variability tend to be more comfortable with stress, often in a calm state, and in good health. Those with low HRV are often in combat or flight mode.
Most people experience a variety of HRV Numbers throughout the day, depending on how stressed they are.
Personally, I have been questioning whether it is possible to track stress scientifically. For many of us, the “big brother” effect of having a device at a time of stress is inherently stressful. In addition, there are different types of pressures that are good for us and some are bad, which may not be obvious in the continuous flow of data in the application.
So I decided to test one of these new pressure trackers.
I was in a company called Lief Therapeutics, and in times of high pressure and low pressure, I put on a new smart patch about the size of my fist. The device is designed to be worn over the heart and comes with an iPhone app, including a virtual coach, to help users through a series of quiet breathing exercises.
I choose the scenario to test my stress level, including running around the ferry building in San Francisco, performance evaluation with my editor, and release some breakthrough deal news deadline (which is the most nervous about business journalists, can think of things).
Any person who responds to data changes may be motivated by Lief devices and applications.
I’ve been told that certain types of breathing are positive, but they actually see it as a different story. For many people, this may be more attractive than listening to a therapist or doctor who supports a few minutes of relaxation each day.
I also appreciate the app that makes it easy for me to put my phone away, so I don’t need to watch the screen while I breathe. As an alternative to the meditation application, the Lief device vibrates to keep its users on the right track.
Lief has great potential to help users better understand the emotions they feel and their impact on health. The team said that they are at the university of California, San Francisco and clinicians at Stanford university cooperation, to help the user record thoughts, emotions and behaviour, to better understand some of the negative thinking how to influence them. Now, I find it helpful to use the application to record notes throughout the day, so I can begin to form a picture of what I am most stressed about.
The shape will need to be improved to attract mainstream markets outside early adopters. The device wasn’t small enough at this stage, I couldn’t see it under my clothes, and I was worried that it would lose some of its stickiness and slippage – especially when I was exercising.
Furthermore, it does not provide enough context Numbers to mean anything. I ran around the ferry building, lowering my stress level, but it took a while to load the data. Performance reviews and deadlines are really stressful, but I’ve clearly recognized this, so having this data doesn’t really add anything.
I can see that my iPhone app’s recommended breathing exercises have made my heart rate higher and lower my stress levels, but I need to do some background reading to realize the value. There is also a great deal of information about mindfulness and understanding the mind-set, but this is an investment in time.
Should you buy it?
The device isn’t cheap: $279 plus a $20 sticker.
I won’t buy it at the present price. Although I do know that deep breathing does make a difference, it is not clear how all the different activities affect my level of stress. But that’s common sense.
At this point, I suggest anyone who needs to look at the actual data to develop healthy habits. Otherwise, listen to me. Take a break occasionally.
Finally, as a warning, don’t be surprised if certain relationships tend to push your heart rate variability more easily than others. Deep breathing around them may be passive aggressive.