Ten stress and anxiety trackers to help you chill, 2021
This is probably not the first article you read on increasing stress levels in today’s society, but it might be the first on stress and anxiety trackers.
An unavoidable reality of life, stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat by releasing a flood of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. In the short term, this is good. In the long-term it can cause damage to your health.
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Why is reducing stress important?
Why reduce stress?
Sometimes called the ‘Epidemic of the 21st century’, stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger. It becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation. This can lead to negative health implications such as headaches, fatigue, sleeping disorders, digestive problems, high blood pressure, heart diseases, aging and obesity. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body and the more difficult it is to recover.
Over two-thirds of visits to physicians are from stress related illnesses. The medical costs alone have been estimated in the United States at well over $1 billion dollars per year.
Essential reading: Activity trackers for women – merging fashion with fitness
This automatic response developed in our ancient ancestors as a way to protect from predators and other threats. Luckily, these days you’re not very likely to be eaten by a wild animal. But you do confront multiple challenges every day such as meeting deadlines, paying bills, and making the daily commute to your office – that may prompt your body to react in a similar way. The instinct is still there.
The best stress busting wearables
In the world of wearable technology, tracking fitness activity is typically the main goal. However, a growing number of devices are trying to gauge your state of mind. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.
In the future such devices will be built into every-day objects. For example, a couple of years ago the car seat of the future was demoed. It is able to detect the traveler’s stress and drowsiness automatically. This allows it to take countermeasures if necessary such as a massage pattern or particularly air flow through the vehicle’s ventilation system.
This is our collection of some of the most interesting devices that claim to be able to keep you calm. It’s worth noting, this market is still in its infancy but such devices have been shown by studies to help with stress management.
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It’s a tiny gray stone, satisfying to hold, zen-like and paired with a beautiful cork charging plate. Attach it to your bra or belt and get ready to discover a new path to calm.
Created by a team of scientists at Stanford and winner of the 2014 National Hewitt Design Award, the Spire Stone is a personal breathing sensor. Unlike exercise-oriented fitness gadgets, it tracks respiration patterns and body movements to provide advice geared to emotional and cognitive well-being. Studies have shown that diaphragmatic breathing helps keep stress levels down.
The device itself is beautifully designed. It looks like a river stone on one side with a metal clip on the back. The Qi wireless charger is a stunner as well. With enough juice for almost a week Spire is rugged enough to survive the washing machine if you forget to take it off your clothes.
You wear it on your belt or bra, where it can measure your breathing. In our review of the device we found the smartphone app is designed to coach you to a more calm and productive day; it notifies you when you’re breathing indicates tension, provides daily and weekly reports on your state of mind, and includes audio exercises to improve your breathing and ability to reach a calm state of mind.
Spire has the added bonus of tracking steps and calories burned. You can even set custom reminders to nudge you when you’ve been inactive for too long.
- unobtrusive and pleasing to use
- tracks three types of breathing
- excellent daily summaries
- vibration level and frequency of messages are customizable
- guided meditations
Bottom line: Spire measures what no other tracker on the market does. The device has had a very favorable reception and comes in at an attractive price, particularly if you have an interest in technology and mindfulness.
Muse is a headset-style device that claims to be the first tool in the world that gives you real-time feedback on what’s happening in your brain when you meditate. The device passively detects changes in your brain from outside your head by using seven EEG sensors along your scalp.
While you meditate, the headband measures whether your mind is calm or active, and translates that data into sound that you can hear. When you’re calm, you’ll hear the sound of peaceful weather. If Muse senses your mind wandering, you’ll hear the weather sounds get stronger, gently guiding you back to calm. So Muse lets you hear your own mind as you meditate, helping you improve.
There’s also Muse 2 which slaps on a heart rate monitor, as well as an accelerometer and gyroscope to monitor body movement and breath in addition to your brain. In our review we found the sensors worked well and the app did a good job in quantifying our progress over time.
The best place to purchase Muse is the company’s website. Often you can find some good discounts on all iterations of Muse.
- Lightweight, easy to use
- Unbiased biofeedback
- Now tracks stillness, heartbeat and breathing
- Helps you focus
- App keeps tabs on progress
Bottom line: This is a headband designed to made meditating more interesting. The changes in your mind or body are instantaneously reflected through sounds which is pretty impressive to witness. If you’re looking for a biofeedback meditation headset, this is the one to go for.
Flowtime is a Biosensing Meditation Headband. In a sense, it is similar to the Muse headband. Both allow you to see what is happening inside your brain. But while Muse in a sense gamifies meditation, Flowtime provides you with real-time info on brainwaves, heart rate, HRV, relaxation, zen, attention and pressure level. This info will give you a pretty good idea on how well you are doing.
The hardware features two-channel EEG acquisition technology. This has the benefit of being able to separate brainwave energy from left to right-hemisphere.
The app provides analysis of all this data so you know exactly when you’ve entered into a meditation state. There are also lessons in the app to help you make progress every day.
- provides real-time info while you are meditating
- plethora of data
- teaches you to relax
Bottom line: This is a great option for those that want a real deep insight into what is happening inside their mind. It offers detailed and scientific data to let you know how well you are getting into the alpha/theta state.
4. Fitbit Charge 4
One of the most popular fitness trackers in the world, Fitbit’s flagship device does much more than just count your steps and calories. Amongst the slew of health and fitness tracking functionality is also something called Guided Breathing Sessions. This is a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind.
What you get is a choice between a 2 and 5 minute session. Powered by PurePulse and personalized by using your real-time heart rate to measure your heart rate variability (beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate), the Charge 4 determines a comfortable breathing rate for you. It then slowly guides you into a relaxing state. The screen displays biofeedback and animations that help you align each inhale and exhale with the guide.
Outside of that, the Charge 4 checks all the boxes for the average person who is after a solid activity tracker. You will find a large OLED display, 24/7 heart rate monitoring (including resting heart rate), and the device will keeps tabs on all your activity. There’s even built-in GPS.
A big update for the device is coming soon in the form of a round-the-clock stress tracking feature. This will tap into information from the heart rate sensor (resting heart rate and heart rate variability which has been shown to correlate with stress levels) and combine it with your sleep and activity data.
The end result will be an overall stress figure that goes from zero to 100. You’re meant to aim for the latter. This also disects the Score into Responsiveness, Exertion Balance and Sleep Patterns. The second and third of these are self-explanatory, the first quantifies if you’re showing a fight or flight response.
Those without a Premium subscription can access data for the past 7 days. Premium Subscription owners get much more data including long-term trends and insights.
- one of the best fitness bands you can buy
- built-in GPS for those into outdoor exercise
- breathing exercises
- 24/7 stress tracking feature
Bottom line: For a long time Fitbit devices didn’t track stress. This is all changing. Charge 4 is one of the most popular fitness trackers in the world for a reason, it is good at what it does. Now with stress tracking it is better than ever.
5. Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is hands-down the best all-round smartwatch you can buy today. There is no real competition. However, if you are after a sports watch or a fitness watch, then you have other better options.
The latest iteration of the Aple Watch sports an always-on edge-to-edge retina display. Raise your wrist or tap takes it to full glory, lower your wrist and it will dim.
In terms of health and fitness, the device is able to identify falls, it sends high/low heart rate alerts, monitors for atrial fibrillation and there is the much talked about ECG sensor. You, of course, get all the great features of the predecessor versions including GPS, all day heart rate and more.
In addition to reminding you to stand and walk throughout the day, the Apple Watch can help you destress. It will prompt you to take a minute to relax, focus and meditate with an app called Breathe. This will guide you through a series of deep breaths, and remind you to take time to relax every day. You choose how long you want to breathe, then let the animation and gentle taps help you focus.
- the best smartwatch on the market
- breathing exercises to keep you calm
- a plethora of other fitness and health functionality
Bottom line: Unless you’ve lived under a rock you know of the Apple Watch. Now on its sixth generation, the device comes packed with fitness and health features. Couple that with and excellent design and lots of apps and you’re sitting on a winner.
6. Bellabeat Leaf Chakra/Nature/Urban
This popular range of jewelry is designed to track women’s health. The three iterations include Leaf Chakra, Nature and Urban. You can wear them as a necklace or bracelet with Leaf accessories or items you already own – or clip to any clothing item as a stylish accent. Just choose what fits your style best in any given occasion.
The trackers learn about you and provide quality insights and improvements to your daily routine to help you feel your best. This includes info on breathing, sleep, activity and monthly cycles through the smartphone app. The sensors are hidden inside the wood housing, providing a soft natural appeal.
The wearables also have some great stress tracking features. To initiate, simply clip to your waistband, slightly on the side so that the abdominal movements while breathing can be measured. Then select the desired breathing exercise in the app and try to perform the exercise as precise as you can.
- designed for women
- very fashionable
- tracks breathing
- calming exercises
- no charging – works on replaceable coin cell battery
Bottom line: This is a range of attractive connected wearables for women. A great gift for a loved one, you can choose from multiple designs. All of the devices in the range have pretty much the same smarts. If you’re not after a traditional fitness tracker or smartwatch the device may pique your interest.
7. Garmin Vivosmart 4
The latest iteration in Garmin’s Vivosmart series comes with a blood oxygen sensor and the device keeps tabs on your body’s energy reserves. Apart from that you get pretty much everything you need for 24/7 activity tracking.
The oxygen sensor allows Vivosmart 4 to gauge your oxygen saturation levels at night. This can potentially be used to identify sleep conditions such as apnea, although Garmin will not diagnose these. You can also check your oxygen levels on demand during the day. Body Battery uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to let you know when to push hard, when to rest.
As part of that 24/7 monitoring, when users are not on the move the device measures heart-rate variability which it uses to calculate and measure stress levels. To make you worry-free, you get relaxing mindfulness experiences through deep-breathing sessions. A longer timeline of stress levels is accessible on the smartphone app.
Garmin has started integrating its stress monitoring technology in its other fitness trackers and some sports watches. It has made its way into its smallest fitness band yet, the Vivosport and Vivoactive 3 and 4. The high-end Fenix 6 and latest crop of Forerunner watches will also help keep you calm. There’s also the Venu range, so pretty much something for everyone whatever sports you are into.
- Slim, lightweight design
- Long battery life
- Comprehensive stress tracking features
- relaxing dee-breathing sessions
- excellent fitness tracker
Bottom line: This is a decent little fitness band that has plenty to offer. A casual user will find most things they need for 24/7 activity monitoring including stress tracking. Garmin has a lot of experience in building such products which means you can be confident the data is accurate.
8. Fitbit Versa 3
Versa is Fitbit’s second smartwatch. When it comes to features, this is a timepiece that puts fitness first.
The Versa range includes everything you would expect from a Fitbit device, along with capturing real-time stats on multiple activities including swimming. And you’ll be able to keep tabs on all this in real-time on the gorgeous AMOLED touchscreen. The third generation has a big update that comes in the form of built-in GPS. This means you no longer need to carry your phone for a satellite tracking of outdoor exercise.
Of course, Versa also has Fitbit’s Relax feature, the exercise that squashes stress. The tracker recommends a personalized breathing pattern to maintain a quieter state of mind. This can be effective in the morning as you prepare for the day, prior to an important mid-day meeting or function, or in the evening as you wind down before bed.
Just like Charge 4, Versa 3 is also getting Fitbit’s stress tracking feature. The software update is due to start making its rounds in the near future.
- a great fitness watch at the right price
- Beautiful screen
- stress tracking
- breathing exercises
- built-in GPS for those into outdoor exercise
Bottom line: There is lots to like with Fitbit Versa. The devices covers all the basics as far as activity tracking. Now there is also comprehensive stress tracking to go along with all the other great functionality. If you’re after a stress-tracking fitness watch, Versa 3 is an attractive buy.
Fitbit Sense is for those that want the best of what Fitbit has on offers. It has a build that doesn’t really differ from Versa, but under the hood there are some extra smarts.
One of these is an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. This is a device that reads moisture in the skin. Sense combines this info with data from the heart rate sensor and you activity and sleep to arrive at a stress estimate. Of course, the wearable also comes with Fitbit’s breathing exercises.
Beyond that there is everything you would hope from a health watch including ECG, blood oxygen tracking and monitoring of skin temperature variation. Longer term trends and some insights sit behind a Premium Subscription so this is something to keep in mind.
- offers the full range of Fitbit health and fitness tracking
- comprehensive stress tracking and management
- tracks skin temperature, SpO2, ECG and lots more
- built-in GPS
Bottom line: Sense is the most feature-packed Fitbit you can buy. It is also the only devices in the company’s range with a built-in electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor for stress tracking. This makes it a much more serious health device.
This drop like device is a biosensor which senses electrodermal activity (EDA), the electrical changes at the surface in the skin, to provide an indicator of stress response. This is communicated via Bluetooth technology to PIP’s iOS and Android Apps, which use audio and visual feedback to externalise your body’s changing stress levels.
Essential reading: Why Sitting is Slowly Killing You and What You Can do About it
Your levels of stress fluctuate continuously – significant changes happen in fractions of a second; and with the fluctuation, the electrical properties of our skin change. The skin at your fingertips acts as a particularly sensitive indicator.
Pip contains two gold-plated sensors which the user grasps between the thumb and forefinger. The device detects the rise and fall of stress, and feeds data into an app at the rate of 8 times per second. There are a number of apps you can connect to – which provide a platform for stress-easing exercises.
- measures stress by examining skin condition
- teaches you how to manage stress better
- allows you to see your stress levels
Bottom line: Something for those that don’t want a devices that goes around their wrist. Pip is a discreet wearable that measures stress and teaches you how to chill.
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One thought on “Ten stress and anxiety trackers to help you chill, 2021”
update: apparently Prana funding has been pulled, no word in many months on production. I don’t think it should be included in this list