When it comes to stress, we all have our own MO: Some of us silently stew all day, others blow up when times get tense and still others lie awake at night worrying. But regardless of how we react, the health downsides are the same, says Julia Samton, M.D., a board-certified neurologist and psychiatrist in New York City who specializes in stress management. “No matter your type of stress – chronic, acute, situational, under the radar – learning to manage it is key to avoiding negative effects like a diminished immune system and high blood pressure.”
Fortunately, taming tension just got easier, thanks to wearable electronics that raise awareness of your underlying stress levels and prompt you to interrupt any escalation. While the devices aren’t cheap, some employers and insurance companies now offer discounts for wearing them-and experts note health-tracking tech may reduce the need for anti-anxiety drugs. Here, three top-rated options:
Feeling on edge? Try the Spire!
Nonstop to-do’ can trigger mild yet unrelenting stress beneath the surface of your awareness so you don’ even realize how tense you are. Experts call this “iceberg stress”- and a new wearable can minimize its harmful effects: Spire ($399, Spire) clips to your waistband, sensing the expansion and contraction of your torso to monitor your breath. A companion app then interprets this data and tells you hourly where you fall on the calm-stress spectrum, plus suggests breathing exercises. “Deep breathing is one of the most powerful ways to change your mental state,” Dr. Samton says. “It increases oxygen to the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to promote feelings of calm.”
Having mood swings? Try the WellBe!
You’ re pretty Zen…until a traffic jam sets you off. Such stress can pass quickly but it’ not harmless: Heart attack risk climbs eightfold in the two hours after an emotional eruption. “Many people don’ realize they’ re nearing a boiling point until it’ almost too late to stop an outburst,” says Dr. Samton. Enter The WellBe bracelet ($61.15, Sears), which tracks heart rate variability (HRV). “HRV is the time interval between heartbeats, and it’ a marker of anxiety,” Dr. Samton says. The bracelet shows (via an app that links to your phone calendar) your stress triggers (times, places and people that agitate you) and alerts you when your stress levels hit 60 percent, offering guided meditations and relaxing sounds to restore calm.
Anxiety keeping you up at night? Try the Fitbit Alta HR!
You power through the day, but at bedtime your mind shifts into overdrive, replaying daily stressors. The result? Stress-induced insomnia, which makes you even more sensitive to next-day tension. To break the cycle, consider Fitbit Alta HR ($129.95, Fitbit), which tracks movement and sleep. Why that’s key: Science shows people who walk 10,500 steps daily are more resilient to stress since exercise promotes brain functions needed to regulate emotions. Separate studies show exercise brings on sleep 54 percent faster and cuts nighttime awakenings by 36 percent. The Fitbit helps with “get moving” prompts so you reach the daily 10,500-step goal, plus “sleep insights” to improve sleep quality.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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