Good start to stress management

The starting level and objectives in stress management are as important as when maintaining physical condition. An employer wishes that every employee is with good health and well-being for the duration of their career. Most companies systematically take actions to promote this. When looking at stress management from an individual point of view, there are as many situations as people.

From a physical point of view someone might have as an objective to spend less time on a couch. Another wants to run a marathon or win a competition in weight lifting. Regarding the mental well-being, too many just would like to manage it until tomorrow.

“5 simple ways to live a less stressful life” or  “7 tips to managing daily stress”  are interesting titles and lead thoughts to how things are in ones´ life. Often these tips do not take into account the big picture nor is the experienced stress positive or negative.

The Moodmetric smart ring is the only wearable that shows the cognitive and emotional stress real time, and enables measuring also in long term.

The Moodmetric measurement data from several years has brought better understanding on stress

Analyzing the Moodmetric  data over the course of four years has helped us to better understand the fluctuating stress levels. The measurement periods are are from 2 weeks to years, which enables seeing how changes in life affect the stress levels. It has become clear, that a person’s starting point plays an important role in stress management.

1. People stress differently

Based on the Moodmetric measurement people can be roughly divided to two categories

  • Reaching high stress levels often and easily, both out of excitement and of negative stress. This means reacting often very strongly to emotional and cognitive stimuli.
  • Those who react more flatly, have less deviation from average values. Also these people can reach high Moodmetric-levels very fast, but they normally soon return back to equilibrium.

In the first group people might need to pay more attention to recovery every day. Sleep can be very deep when balance has been gained.

Example: A typical Moodmetric 24 hour measurement of a person easily reaching high stress levels. On the left the day from 6am to 6pm, on the right the night from 6pm to 6am.

In the second group the recovery during the night might not need to be as complete. This is because the load of the sympathetic nervous system is more modest during the day.

Example: A typical Moodmetric 24 hour measurement of a person with modest response to stress. On the left the day from 6am to 6pm, on the right the night from 6pm to 6am.

It is good to understand my own way to react to stress. There are as many ways as there are persons, and this can also change with different phases of life.

No way to react is better than the other. During evolution all types were needed – this has not changed. People acting differently are needed in social and occupational context. Diversity is good also regarding stress responses. 

2. You need to recover also from excitement

Also positive stress can wear out when going on for a long time. People devoted to their work, entrepreneurs, creative people and many others sometimes enjoy positive stress for too long. A dream job can also lead to burnout.a.

Devices and tests might tell a lot, but the most important is own experience. What is the situation in my life – the work, family, leisure, friends? Do I feel things are pretty good, or is some area of my life very demanding right now? If I say I am stressed, what does it feel like and how does it affect my life?

The Moodmetric smart ring is a support for individual stress management. It gives valuable measurement data and helps in better self understanding.

The measurement data always needs to be put in the context of own life. Same numbers can in different situations mean a different thing. Very low Moodmetric levels have been measured both with depressed and those who are simply always calm.

3. Good start to managing stress is to understand oneself and one’s life

What stresses me out, how do I calm down, what is my individual way to react? A short practice: Can you easily place yourself to the below fourfold table of wellbeing? No that your position might vary depending on whether you think of work, family or other part of life.

The wellbeing fourfold is for determining how high is the stress/arousal level, and is the state positive or negative. The Moodmetric measurement shows the stress level on a scale of 1 to 100. The app Analytics screen shows the chosen categories of life on a similar fourfold, when the user has defined the mood as pleasant/unpleasant. (Use the Diary feature for this.)

When defining where I am on the map, it is good to understand what was discussed in point 1: how do I react to stress. Some people mainly move in lower part of the picture, high levels of stress or excitement are not natural. Whether stress level is low or high, the right side of the fourfold is better in long term.

How the Moodmetric measurement supports in managing stress?

The Moodmetric measurement helps to put oneself to the correct spot on the picture of own life and stress. What stresses me out, what not, what are my stress levels comparing the objective – ie. balance?

– What Moodmetric levels one should aim at?

No single measurement result is good or bad. In long term the objective is balance. This means that sleep and rest during the day compensate the activation of the sympathetic nervous system due to emotional or cognitive load. When the Moodmetric daily average number is about 50, it indicates balance of the autonomic nervous system.

Good start to managing stress is to acknowledge own situation as accurately as possible. Measured cognitive and emotional load is often both a support and a motivating factor.

 

The Moodmetric smart ring is available at the Moodmetric web shop.

Inquiries about the Moodmetric services for organizations: [email protected]

Read more about the Moodmetric company measurement at HERE Technologies. 

 

 

PART 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data

This article series tell about stress and ways to measure it. Parts 1 and 2 describe the fight or flight reaction and how the body reacts to chronic stress. Methods for long term monitoring are presented in part 3. In this article we explain the Moodmetric ring measurement and how to interpret the data.

The Moodmetric smart ring measures electrodermal activity. It detects skin conductance with the band of the ring that works as electrodes. The band consists of two silver coated steel rings, and an insulator band in between them. 

Electrodes need to get a good contact with an area on skin where the eccrine sweat gland density is high. This varies from 400/cm2 on the palm to about 80/cm2 on the upper arm. A ring form for the Moodmetric sensor has been chosen to reach the best possible accuracy. The measurement point is on the palm side of the finger and at best the signal is unbroken.

The ring measures continuously and stores the data inside the ‘stone’. The mobile app does not need to be on, nor the phone near the ring. When the app is opened and the calendar icon chosen, the ring sends the data to the app via bluetooth connection. The measurement and data storing to the ring continue immediately. The real-time signal can be followed any time with the app.

Research by the Finnish Institute of Occupational health (2015) shows that the signal of the Moodmetric ring is comparable to that of a laboratory device. The ring is applicable for field studies.

The Moodmetric signal

The Moodmetric signal is the violet curve on the mobile app that can be observed real-time. It is the raw measurement signal but auto scaled in order to have the whole amplitude visible even during strong reactions.

The curve enables analysis of single reactions. Even a thought can cause a peak: excitement, idea, awe – each reaction forms a peak within a 1-2 second physiological delay.

Interpreting the raw signal requires expertise in the measurement method and understanding the possible sources of error.

The Moodmetric index

The electrodermal activity (EDA) raw signal is difficult to interpret and prone to errors. Strong reactions can easily be spotted on the curve,  but mathematical methods are needed for further analysis.

The Moodmetric index or the Moodmetric level has been developed to solve challenges related to EDA measurement. The algorithms count an index from 1 to 100 so that 1 is the lowest the person can reach. This is possible e.g. in deep sleep. 100 is the maximum arousal, strongest possible reaction of the person. Finding the min and max takes about 12 hours, which is the calibration period. The ring can be re-calibrated e.g. when changing from one user to another.

The Moodmetric index/level tells the activity level of the person at a certain moment, looking at a few minutes´ time window. The level does not indicate single reactions but changes fast if the arousal level of the person increases or decreases rapidly. E.g. increasing is first seen in growing amplitude and raising trend of the Moodmetric curve, then in higher Moodmetric level.

It is easy to get to 100. What is more interesting is to make rehearsals that aim to calm the mind, to get the index as low as possible.

In counting the Moodmetric index, the algorithms minimize the effect of finger’s movement and the skin normal moisture level on the measurement. The index is comparable between users. If two persons are at a same situation it is possible to observe which one is calmer.

There is no momentary optimal value

It is normal that the Moodmetric level fluctuates between 1 and 100 during the day. No momentary value is good or bad.

Important is also to know, that the Moodmetric measurement does not tell whether a reaction is positive or negative. The Moodmetric ring is not an emotion detector.

The fluctuation of stress levels is individual

There are people who react fast and strong, while others respond more calmly. For instance creative people are often very prone to stimulus and they get a lot of new ideas. This can be seen in high Moodmetric levels as well as big fluctuation. A person doing work that requires deep and long concentration might have low Moodmetric levels throughout the working day.

The levels can be high due to excitement and energy, or low due to good focus. All this is positive. The levels might also be high due to pressure and lack of control at work. Low figures in turn can tell of boredom or even depression. The measurement data always needs the ring wearer´s own perception of the situation. No one else can tell whether the 100 on the mobile app tells of excitement or irritation.

A good team is heterogeneous also by the way they react

At workplace it is good to have people with different ways to react. A team with individuals that all have a very mild or a very strong natural way to react, probably is not as productive as a more heterogeneous team.

The Moodmetric measurement helps to understand individuals and personal ways to react. This is important from wellbeing point of view. We should rather challenge ourselves keeping in mind our own physiology and environment, than compare to others.

The Moodmetric daily average level is the most important

The Moodmetric smart ring measures the sympathetic nervous system reactions on a scale from 1 to 100. Counting presumes balance. When the daily average value is around 50, there is enough recovery in correlation to load. The Moodmetric ring users notice the same: the daily average is normally 45 to 55 depending on how well daily load is compensated by rest and sleep.

Levels and fluctuation during the day can be very different between two persons. Both might still feel well and with plenty of energy. If high daily figures are combined with very restful sleep, can the daily average level be the same as with a person with much lower numbers during daytime. 

Below the different persons’ consecutive day and night views, where the daily average for both arrived at 46. In this example both reached good, quite a low average, but with very different daily levels:

The daily average of the Moodmetric index is the more informative, the more the person uses the ring. It is easier to analyse own balance of load and recovery when the ring is worn also during the night.

Feedback from the Moodmetric ring users tells that own perception is in line with the measurement. If the daily average is around 50, the situation and energy levels are normal. Values over 50 for a long time go hand in hand with the feeling of overload and weakened wellbeing. Very low daily figures might indicate depression.

The Moodmetric measurement helps the user to gain balance between load and recovery. The sources of stress and ways to recover are individual. For this reason the measurement data always needs own evaluation. Categorizing and analyzing own life e.g. with the help of the Moodmetric app Diary feature is a way to more balanced life.

The complete set of 5 articles:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health 

PART 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health

Stress is a good thing, it is our driving force keeping us active and productive. However, excessive amounts of stress can lead to  overload, especially when the stress load is out of our hands. Chronic stress is a state where stress outweighs recovery. The autonomic nervous system is off balance and the body is continuously in alarm mode.

Chronic stress is in connection with several physical and psychological illnesses, and it is often behind burnout. Overload is difficult to recognize because it builds up over a long period of time.  Stress can also still be a taboo, and people seek help too late. According to research, even 60-80% of medical visits are in connection with stress (Nerurkar et al. 2013). Every fourth tells to suffer from work related stress at some point of their working life.

The Moodmetric measurement

The Moodmetric smart ring is one of the first devices to measure long term stress by interpreting the phenomenon of electrodermal activity / skin conductivity. This physiological measurement can accurately tell about fluctuating stress levels in daily life. Electrodermal activity measurement is especially sensitive to detect changes in emotional and cognitive stress. This makes the Moodmetric smart ring a great stress management tool especially for knowledge workers.

The Moodmetric smart ring is easy to use, and the measurement results can be observed real time on a smart phone screen. A minimum suggested measurement period is two weeks, but the measurement can go on for years when needed. In two weeks the user learns the individual sources of stress and recovery, and gains motivation to seek better balance.

The Moodmetric measurement is real-time, informative, accurate and the ring is comfortable to use also in long term.  The mobile app content is visual and the real time view enables immediate actions. This is very important when seeking behavior changes. Findings can be applied to practice right away.

According to customer feedback, the data collected by the Moodmetric smart ring helps to better recognize individual sources of stress and recovery, and motivates to take concrete actions.

Preventive occupational health is seeking to offer new services

The Moodmetricin reseach and development has been strongly guided by our customer feedback. Customer comments and use cases have been collected since 2015. Especially our corporate customers have repeatedly expressed their wish to have the Moodmetric services available at the occupational health. Individuals often look forward to receive professional help to measurement data interpretation, as well as to better understand good stress management practices.

The occupational health has a limited selection of tools to offer the customers that seek help to manage stress overload, or whose health issues are clearly stress related. Most occupational health customers might not need continuous stress measurement in long term, but they wish a measurement to be available as a service when needed and for as long as needed.

Wellbeing technology can motivate individuals to take an active role in enhancing own health. The Moodmetric mission is to prevent health issues and related costs caused by stress on an individual and community level. Preventive stress management is equally interesting to insurance companies in relevant fields.

Sources:

Nerurkar, A., Bitton, A., Davis, R. B., Phillips, R. S., & Yeh, G. (2013). When physicians counsel about stress: Results of a national study. JAMA internal medicine, 173(1), 76-77.

Koskinen, S., Lundqvist, A., & Ristiluoma, N. (2012). Terveys, toimintakyky ja hyvinvointi Suomessa 2011. The Finnish institute of Health and Wellbeing , Report: 2012_068.

Picture: Pixabay

The complete set of 5 articles:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health 

Horse therapy – A guest post by Esmeralda Tuomi

The Moodmetric measurement has proven that horse riding really is an effective way for me to focus and lower my stress levels.

Photo: Lottie-Elizabeth Photography

For the past month or so I have had the opportunity to test the Moodmetric smart ring to understand how my everyday stress levels impact my horse riding.

Before using the ring, I expected to see a dramatic change in the behaviour of the horse I was riding if my stress levels were higher than average. I thought that after a stressful day at the university I would have a bucking bronco under the saddle, and on a calm day my serene state of mind would transform my ride into a controlled show of talent and precision. However, this was obviously not the outcome. The conclusion I came to from testing the ring made me realise something I already knew, but had never really had concrete evidence to prove it.

From around the time of my teenage years I remember my mum telling me to go to the stables whenever I was in a bad mood or frustrated with something. She has described that being around horses and especially riding has always brought clarity to my thoughts and calmed the teenage emotional storm that was brewing inside me. Being with horses forces me to live in the moment and focus on what I’m doing as every action gets a response from my horse. A horse will not only respond to the messages you give, but it will also react to everything around you. This means that the rider needs to pay attention to the
surroundings and be able to react accordingly often before the horse even has the chance to see that scary looking thing in the corner of it’s eye.

The Moodmetric measurement has proven that horse riding really is an effective way for me to focus and lower my stress levels. No matter how stressed I had been during the day or how much I was worrying about an upcoming presentation, my stress levels always dropped during my ride. I didn’t particularly notice a difference with the horse that I could pin point to be connected to my own state of mind but it was pretty obvious that horse riding helps me calm myself. I can’t be sure if calming my mind during riding is a result of years of practice and knowledge that a calm and focused rider results in a calm and focused horse, or if the actual riding in itself calms my mind. All in all, the Moodmetric measurement has provided proof that riding truly is horse therapy for me.

Electrodermal activity measurement provides athletes with new information

Different kinds of physiological measurement systems have been used for a long time in top sports. Wearable devices have made exercise tracking easy for everyone.

Heart rate monitoring is the most used measurement in sports. It was developed by an Australian physician Robert Treffene for swim exercising. In Finland hear rate monitor was invented by the Polar Electro founder, professor Seppo Säynäjäkangas in 1975.

Today there is a huge variety of equipment for hear rate monitoring. The most accurate ones still measure from chest, either with a band or with taped sensors. Wrist worn trackers are comfortable to wear and they have largely displaced chest bands especially with non-professional exercisers. The accuracy of wrist worn trackers has been improved in past years, but it suffers especially at high heart rates.

Heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV) and electrodermal activity (EDA)

Analysing heart rate gives a good view of physical strain. With different algorithms it is possible to understands also recovery, sleep and stress.

Heart rate variability (HRV) has been lately brought up especially in measuring non-physical load. There are challenges, as at high heart rates the algorithms struggle to understand what happens: is the person physically at rest, but nervous (e.g. about a soon-to-start exam), or is it now about physical exercise? Here the accelerometers, present in all of the trackers, are of help. These components can detect whether a person is moving or is at rest, and much more about movement directions and pace.

The electrodermal activity (EDA) measurement brings interesting new information to analyse performance of an athlete. This does not tell about heart, but about sympathetic nervous system activation through sweat gland reactions of skin. Skin is the only organ that is purely innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. The EDA measurement is very sensitive to emotional and cognitive stress, and it has been used in psychological research already for over 100 years. Only lately it has become available for consumers.

The Moodmetric smart ring measures electrodermal activity. The ring is comfortable to wear and it is thus well suited for continuous, long term measurement. Only a sufficiently long measurement period gives a full picture on stress, how it is generated and how recovery happens during weeks, months and even years.

Both top sports, and going after personal goals in exercising benefit of stress load related information. It is good to understand what sources of stress or recovery might affect the performance. For instance, cognitive load of a professional athlete might be less than for someone who need to have a day job to finance the sports career. The professional athlete can probably exercise more, as there is more time for recovery. The results and performance are affected by emotional and cognitive load, if there is no time to unwind.

Read more: Moodmetric-measurement in research

Moodmetric will participate SMASH-sports event in Helsinki the 28-29th November, come to meet us and test the smart ring!

Contact:
Niina Venho
[email protected]
+358 40 710 4087

My discovery: I am more stressed at home than at work

Guest post by @amyskogberg

Surely I have read about studies saying that women’s stress levels rise when they go home after work to take on the household work, but I didn’t think it concerned me. My work is quite demanding and involves constant change, high tempo and big variation in work tasks, and therefore I have always thought that the greatest stress hits me at work and not at home.

However, now I am proven the opposite, after testing the Moodmetric ring for two weeks.

The Finnish Moodmetric ring tracks your stress levels. By sensoring the skin conductance, the ring measures the body’s ability to conduct electricity – when you stress, your sweat glands activate and your skin conducts more electricity.

The user downloads the data to the Moodmetric app and gets an overview of how the stress levels have fluctuated during the day. This was really interesting to follow!

During the two weeks I made three fascinating observations. The first was that my stress levels reached the highest peak as I entered home. And I do understand why. “Hi mom, nice to have you home, I have a math test tomorrow and I need your help”. “Hi mom, good that you’re home, this form needs to be filled in, and I was supposed to return it already yesterday”. “Hello dear, so nice to have you home, I’m starving..!”

The second observation was that my stress levels were the lowest every time I reached the so called flow state. When fully concentrated on my work, the stress levels sank significantly.

This is in line with what research has concluded about physiological reactions during the flow state; breathing becomes slower and deeper and resembles a meditating person’s breathing.

The third insight was about recovery.

The ring cannot differentiate between positive and negative stress, because the body reacts equally when engaged or eager as when stressed or worried. Regardless, the body still needs to recover.

I am lucky to be able to sleep well, so I usually get enough rest through sleep. However, there were also days when I did not get my stress and recovery in balance. I realized that I need to be aware of this and pay attention to getting enough recovery, for example through meditation or mindfulness exercises to unwind after an intense day.

So what can we learn from this?

  1. It is really important to learn to know your own sources of stress. What causes the most stress in your life? Can you avoid or change those situations? Maybe ask the children to wait for half an hour after you come home before responding to their wishes so that you can relax with a cup of coffee and the daily newspaper?
  2. Try to find out how you can get into the state of flowand schedule time for those things in your life. For me for example reading a good book, writing or sewing will do the trick.
  3. Make sure you get enough recovery. Stress is not dangerous if you make sure you rest well. If you go into overdrive at times, even if it feels good, you have to unwind afterwards. Otherwise positive stress may develop into negative stress.

The first step to reducing and preventing harmful stress is to understand the mechanisms, both internal and external, that trigger your stress reactions. For this, I highly recommend the Moodmetric ring. It is a simple and well-functioning way to learn more about what causes stress in your life.

Some examples of my Moodmetric data: On the left is the diagram of a day when I wrote content for a marketing campaign in a flow state.  On the right a day when I was being creative and had my head full of ideas.

 

Amy Skogberg is a mental trainer, motivational speaker and marketing manager

Read the original blog post in Swedish here

Moodmetric data analytics tool

The Moodmetric data analytics tool is created to support research and development projects related to EDA (electrodermal activity) measurements.

The tool enables researchers and developers to quickly process and visualize large Moodmetric data sets in uniform manner. It generates both group and individual level reports based on input data from wearable devices. The tool is released as open source for anyone to benefit of the Moodmetric measurement data in various use cases.

Download the Moodmetric data visualization tool instruction here.

For more information, contact
Jari Jussila
[email protected]
+358 40 717 8345

Moodmetric brings stress measurement to Smart Office

 

The Moodmetric ring collects stress and recovery information in smart spaces in a pilot project starting in February 2017. The real time stress data will be combined to a Smart Office concept by Polku Innovations.

The outcome will be a brand new service where there will be a measurable link between wellbeing of the employees and the space they are working in. The data collected by the Moodmetric smart ring will be combined to a platform by Polku Innovations. This gives the companies unique opportunities to understand how the environment affects the employees and their work.

Polku Innovations develops and offers their customers measurement and data analytics services to a smart office. Their concept uses sensors to collects information such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, light intensity, noise and utilization rate of the space. Data is used to facilitate the daily work and enhance wellbeing.