Countless new gadgets advertise the ability to monitor your stress. Some log heart rate; others record electrical impulses. Granted, the only 100% bombproof method would be collecting saliva and blood samples to chart your stress hormones. Even so, wearables do a really good job. For one week, I wore a Spire monitor ($150, spire.io), which tracks respiratory rhythms. Here are three things I learned.
Stress Monitors Are Really Great at Measuring Calm
Spire parses moods into four categories—calm, tense, activity, and focus—and knows how long you’re in each realm. It’s most valuable teaching you what makes you calm. I discovered that my longest stress-free “calm” periods occurred when I cooked for my family or read to my 5-year-old son before bedtime. I plan to do more of both.
2) Booze Agitates (But Pot Performs as Advertised)
In what I thought were two very stressful events—an argument with my wife and a reprimand to my kid—Spire’s only reaction was to inform me I was “active” (duh, I was pacing). Perhaps this is good news? My big surprise: Alcohol triggers stress. A martini roused Spire’s “tense” alert after the first sip. But red wine didn’t. And since I live in legalized Colorado, I couldn’t resist testing Spire’s precision with a bit of cannabis. Predictably, it shifted into “calm” mode for two hours.
3) A Stress Monitor Is a Helicopter Mom
While working, the Spire—pressed against my skin on my belt line—often drove me bonkers. Every 10 minutes it would text me (via my iPhone) that I was “tense,” then vibrate against my belly until my stress abated. At first this only made me more stressed! To keep calm—and meet my deadline—I shoved Spire into a file drawer. But even in exile, Spire kept at it, dispatching its admonitions: “You’ve been pretty sedentary for 60 minutes. Time to stretch your legs?” Yet I plan to keep using it.