HERE Technologies is showing the way also in stress management

The Tampere unit provides the Moodmetric measurement to the whole crew. The measurement is done in co-operation with the occupational healthcare.

HERE Technologies is a global company providing mapping and location services with 9000 employees. About one percentage of the personnel is located in Finland and the vast majority of them in Tampere.

In the early spring 2018 the Tampere unit started discussions with the occupational health how to support the employees’ mental wellbeing proactively. Support for physical wellbeing had been offered for a while already, but Jari Syrjärinne, the unit manager, wanted a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

– We are a fast growing company and want to maintain our agility and positive drive. Almost all of us have a background in a big corporation, where fast growth first brings speed and unpredictable situations, but may eventually result in rigidity. We want to help our staff to keep up with the pace without compromizing the job wellbeing, Jari Syrjärinne says.

Jari Syrjärinne, the Unit Manager of HERE Technologies (Photo Moodmetric)

– Another important reason for starting the Moodmetric measurements was the objective data it provides. There is a lot of technology for assessing physical health, but the available methods to understand mental health are mainly subjective surveys. This is the first measurement that enables easy and almost insivible way to assess stress and recovery also in long term,  Jari Syrjärinne continues.

HERE’s occupational health physician, Leena Pesonen, was introduced to Moodmetric measurement through another customer and suggested the measurement to HERE as well. – I think the service seemed worth trying and wanted to present it to HERE. There is not that much technology available to be used in occupational health for assessing stress and recovery objectively that motivates the user for better stress management at the same time. I tried the ring myself, and I was impressed. I recognize my stress and recovery reactions very well in my body and it was great to verify that in the graphs of the Moodmetric app, says Leena Pesonen from a Finnish healthcare provider Terveystalo.

Not just a perk for the management team

The strong willingness to invest in employee wellbeing seems evident at HERE.Very often similar services are only provided to the management team or groups that are most active to request organizational and personal development activities. It is worth noting as well that HERE decided to book a follow up Moodmetric measurement right away. –  With this first measurement round we want to find out what is the starting level for HERE Tampere. In September when the last group of participants has completed the measurement we are able to reflect and discuss together what kind of wellbeing interventions are needed in the upcoming year. In the summer 2019 we will redo the measurements, Jari Syrjärinne says.

HERE decided to buy 20 rings and the Moodmetric measurement is done in three rounds for the whole staff. Between the measurements the rings are available for the personnel for free use.

Participating in the Moodmetric measurement is voluntary, but HERE hopes that everyone will seize the opportunity. – Usually the ones who are the most eager to participate, are the ones who already pay attention to their wellbeing. To plan truly effective workplace interventions,we need to be able to motivate everyone to take part in the measurement, Jari Syrjärinne says.

In May, HERE’s occupational health physician and Moodmetric’s representative held an info session where they talked about the Moodmetric measurement, its scientific background and how the measurement is linked with HERE’s occupational healthcare. The first measurement group was fully booked immediately after the info.

Great start at HERE

HERE is the first organization where the Moodmetric measurement is done in co-operation with the occupational health. During the two week measurement the participants learn about their stress and recovery levels by following the data on their mobile phone. The participants also get to try how different situations or work tasks show in the stress data. With the tips and advice from the introductory lession, the participants can engage in job crafting to reach better balance with stress and recovery. If the participants notice excessive stress load and suspect chronic stress, they have the opportunity to contact straight the occupational healthcare after the measurement. Objective data enhances the dialogue between the employee and the occupational health physician.

HERE’s first Moodmetric feedback session was in May. The group was happy to hear that they achieved the all time best* Moodmetric group average. – Now it’s really interesting to see what kind of group level stress averages the next two groups will have and do we need to strenghten our stress management skills as an organization. Next summer we will get feedback on how we have succeeded, Jari Syrjärinne concludes.

 

*Moodmetric-measurement is not a competition. “All time best” refers to a value that indicates a good balance of stress and recovery of the measured group. The daily Moodmetric average of 50 indicates a balanced autonomous nervous system.

Do you study stress, customer experience, attention or decision making?

The Moodmetric measurement gives accurate and real time data on cognitive and emotional load of an individual. Use cases below give a snapshot on what kind of research it can be applied to. These are just a handful of examples. Electrodermal activity is a signal with great and for most unused potential in field research.

Stress

Positive stress is a good thing and when in control, it takes us forward. Chronic stress reduces productivity, creativity and job satisfaction and it is a risk for physical and psychological health. It is not easy to catch signals early and stress might not be detected before it has reached harmful levels.

Questionnaires are subjective and bound to a certain moment. Preventive stress management needs continuous and long term measurement. The Moodmetric ring is intended for weeks and months of use. The mobile app offers a real time view which enables insights that can be actioned immediately.

Even though the Moodmetric measurement is primarily intended for use at occupational health, the real time measurement enables several kinds of research. Below are some example use cases to give a picture of it´s possibilities:

Customer experience

A customer is testing a new shopping center virtually. The center is equipped with innovative implementations, including parking, navigating inside the center, paying in the shops (only mobile payment) etc. The pilot customers´ opinion have a major significance on the final drawings and the pilot is heavily studied. The Moodmetric measurement shows instantly and in real time the pain points – when the experience is getting from smooth to troublesome. The Moodmetric levels increase in seconds when the customer is perplexed.

A much simpler example would be e.g. driving through a car washing lane. How many of the customers actually get terrified inside, with not way of getting out in the middle? Could this be eased out somehow?

The Moodmetric measurement can be used to tracking stress levels in any environment, inside or out in the woods. It suits to observing a person in different situations, like choosing clothes. Which print makes the person react?

Gaming

Mobile and desktop games can be extremely agitating. Chasing, fighting, racing and performing dangerous tasks is enervating. The sympathetic nervous system of the player is active, as the body does not understand that the threat is just an illusion created by the game developer.

A game can also be soothing, like puzzles. Focus is needed but vigilance not.

What kind of a game is yours and what is the target audience? What if you could design games that really calm down the sympathetic nervous system – a game that you could wholeheartedly recommend e.g. for kids with concentration difficulties?

Pay attention!

We make better decisions, our movements are correct and precise, and we make better analysis when we pay attention. Really pay attention by not letting noises, lights, phone, emails or the smell of lunch distract us.

The Moodmetric index of 1 to 100 tells our arousal level. When focused, the level is below 30, in most cases below 20. Full focus on the task at hand might show a steady level of 12 with almost a straight electrodermal activity curve on the Moodmetric mobile app. The person is far from being sleepy (although in the evening at the sofa the numbers might be exactly the same), but fully focused.

This does not necessarily need an isolated environment. Most people can find their way to reach focus no matter the surroundings. But as it is not easy, many companies design spaces and areas inside their offices that enhance concentration.

Sports

What kind of training methods provide the best results? The Moodmetric measurement makes it possible to better understand what level of focus the athlete reaches. Interventions such as mental exercises can tested and found out the ones with the best results for improving concentration. The measurement also provides insights as to when recovery from practice is sufficient. The app diary helps to analyse which activities should be toned down or avoided in order to benefit optimally from training.

 

Interested to know more about the Moodmetric measurement and why the Moodmetric ring is especially well suited to measure electrodermal activity?

Read our recently published articles starting with:

PART 1: Fight or flight response

Applications in research and ongoing projects:

Research

Or contact us directly:
Niina Venho / CEO
niina. [email protected]

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 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement

Stress can be measured in several ways in clinical setting. The measurements done in laboratory  give versatile and accurate information. But as we do not live in a laboratory, they can not interpret the changes in our daily lives. Researchers and individuals need tools for long term and continuous stress measurement.

For decades there has been reliable methods available to measure stress in laboratory setting. These methods  include heart and heart rate variability measurement performed with several accurate sensors. Other heart related tests are blood flow measurements with long term registration of electrocardiography and blood pressure. Additionally there are tests on the autonomic nervous system and biochemical tests. The biochemical tests include hormonal and immunological definitions of blood, saliva and urine.

While servicing hospitals and research laboratories, these methods can not give a full picture on person´s stress level. Chronic stress develops over a long period of time and recovery can take weeks and months. User friendly methods that fit to daily life are needed to measure stress in long term.

Non-intrusive wearable devices are the solution for long term meausurements

People are not willing to make huge compromises when it comes to health and wellbeing interventions. Activity trackers and other wellbeing devices have brought everyone the possibility to understand own physiology. Some of these equipment also draw conclusions on the stress level of the user.

Physiological measurement methods to follow stress levels for weeks or months are not yet available for clinical use. At the moment continuous and long term stress measurement can be done by measuring heart rate variability or electrodermal activity.

Heart rate variability (HRV)

A healthy heart is not a metronome. Heart rate variability means the variation between consecutive heart beats. At rest the variation can be from a few tens upto a hundred millisecons.

Why the heart rate varies

Heart rate variability is a way for our body to regulate optimal blood flow to the brain. The more variation there is between the beats, the bigger the activity of the parasympathetic system. This means that the recovery functions of the body work well.

When action is needed the rest-and-digest functions of the body are shut off. Heart rate variability gets smaller for instance during the fight or flight response that activates the sympathetic nervous system. The heart pounds with regular beats. This is because in a fight the purpose is to stay alive and not fine tune bodily functions.

Factors affecting HRV

The heart rate variability is affected mostly by age, gender and pulse. The higher the age and the resting heart rate, the smaller the variation. Additional factors are physical and mental stress, smoking, alcohol and coffee, overweight, blood pressure and glucose level, infectious agents and depression. Also the inherited genes affect the heart rate variability significantly. Individual variation is large and therefore there are no clear set limits. During measurements it is important to pay attention to rest and physical load. When the heart rate goes up due to physical strain, the heart rate variability decreases.

Counting heart rate variability and accuracy of measurement

Heart rate variability as a phenomenon is known since 1960’s and applied in health care for a long time. The most accurate way for measurement is the electrocardiography (ECG or EKG). For wellbeing uses there are several devices available, out of which most accurate are those measuring from chest. Wrist and finger measurements suffer in accuracy especially with high heart rates due to movement of the measured spot.

Heart rate variability is measured by calculating the time interval between heartbeats. This is normally done by looking at the R spikes on an electrocardiogram, the R-R interval. Mathematical methods are needed in the analysis of the heart rate variability. With advanced algorithms it is possible make deductions about a person´s physical and mental load.

Heart rate variability is high at rest, when the person is young and healthy and with a good physical condition. Low HRV might indicate stress for a healthy adult.

Electrodermal activity (EDA)

also: galvanic skin response (GSR), skin conductance response (SCR)

A physiological phenomenon known since over hundred years is electrodermal activity. Psychological factors affecting the conductance of skin was found almost simultaneously by a French neuroscientist Féré (1888) and a Russian physiologist Tarchanoff (1889). The first observations had been done already over ten years prior by a French threrapist Vigouroux. Out of several naming conventions for the phenomenon  the electrodermal activity (EDA) prevailed.

Electrodermal activity from physiological point of view

The skin  becomes a better conductor of electricity when the eccrine sweat glands process sweat to skin surface. Eccrine glands are innervated by the sympathetic nervous system and are part of the fight or flight response system. This makes electrodermal activity (EDA) important from stress measurement point of view. The major reason for it’s importance lies in the fact that EDA is solely mediated by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, thus being not subjected to parasympathetic influences as most of the other autonomic measures (1).

EDA measurement

There has been equipment available for laboratory level EDA measurement since founding of the phenomenon. Usually the measurement is done from palms or fingers with electrodes that are connected to an amplifier.

An unprocessed EDA signal is very sensitive to movement, so in most test settings the subject is requested to stay still. In the past this has limited the EDA measurement mainly to laboratory.

Lately the wearable technology development has made improvements also to EDA studies. Advanced algorithms and signal processing have made it possible to compensate the movement artifacts, and wearable sensors have been brought to market.

Measuring EDA as a continuous long-term measurement in a non-intrusive way is desirable for many different fields of research and diagnostics (2). Studies in psychology and behavioral sciences benefit when the measurements can be done in normal daily life, outside laboratory. Additional advantage is that wearable technology enable research with moderate equipment cost.

Measurement units, parameters and accuracy

EDA measurement registers the inverse of the electrical resistance ‘ohm’ between two points on the skin – i.e., the conductivity ‘siemens’ of the skin in that location (3). The recorded EDA signal has two components. The slowly varying tonic component of the EDA signal represents the current skin conductance level (SCL). The skin conductance response (SCR) corresponds to sympathetic arousal (1). It is a spike-like component whose amplitude and frequency indicate of the person´s activation level. EDA does not tell whether the person is experiencing something positive or negative. Raise in activation level can be due to any strong emotion such as excitement, joy, fear and anger.

The accuracy of the measurement depends on the equipment used, stability of the environment and the point of measurement. The preferred sites for EDA measurements are located in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet (4). Age and gender affect EDA somewhat. External temperature and movements of the person have an effect on the measurement signal that needs processing to draw the right conclusions.

EDA measurement can be very accurate also in wearable form. Field studies with these devices are possible already today.

Applications of EDA

Electrodermal activity has a lot of clinical and practical applications, with polygraph one of the most well known. In psychological research the phenomenon has been applied since it was first found. Later the uses have been across many fields e.g. gaming and user experience, marketing research and in top sports.

The next article in this series tells how the Moodmetric ring measures electrodermal activity

References:
(1) Electrodermal Activity (Boucsein, 2012)

(2) Feasibility of an Electrodermal Activity Ring Prototype as a Research Tool (Torniainen, Cowley, Henelius, Lukander, Pakarinen, 2015)

(3) A short review and primer on electrodermal activity in human computer interaction applications (Benjamin Cowley, Jari Torniainen, 2016)

(4) Electrodermal Activity Sensor for Classification of Calm/Distress Condition (Zangróniz et al., 2017)

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 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger

The autonomic nervous system regulates the body functions as situations require. Recovery and healing systems are most active during sleep.  After lunch it is important to digest the food and use the nutrients efficiently. When facing imminent threat, the immune system and food processing are not important. They are shut off, to use all the possible energy for muscles that are needed in the fight.

The autonomic nervous system works largely unconsciously. It is responsible for many vital functions such as blood pressure and temperature regulation, digestion and function of the adrenal cortex.  It works through the neural network that controls the heart and other organs. The autonomic nervous system keeps us alive without us knowingly doing anything about it.

The autonomic nervous system consists of two complementary parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic.  When active, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down the heart beat, enhances digestion and healing. It strives to calm the body down and keep the vital functions stable.

The sympathetic part is responsible for preparing the body for action, and it´s fibers can innervate tissues in almost every organ.  The sympathetic nervous system activates in stressful situations and in hard physical strain.

The both parts of the autonomic nervous systems normally work in good cooperation, but as a seesaw.  When the other gets active, the other slows down. For instance in acute stress reaction the sympathetic nervous system works in full speed in an instant. The working of the parasympathetic part seizes and e.g. digestion almost stops. A perfect operation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic part enable an accurate and fast regulation of our internal mechanisms in any situation.

The fight or flight response is a way for us to cope in a rapidly escalating threatening situation. At the time of cavemen the case was normally quickly closed, the fights did not last for weeks or months. For a today´s human the stress reaction might be a permanent state, and the parasympathetic nervous system does not have the chance to return our body to rest.

In long term stress the cortisol levels in our body are continuously high

Chronic stress keeps the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis active. It is like an idling motor, pumping stress hormones such as cortisol to our system.

Cortisol helps us to confront the threat but it simultaneously shuts down the immune system. From the evolution point of view this made sense: if a crocodile attacks we can shut down all the functions in the body that are not needed to flee or fight. The immune defense weakens when we are continuously stressed, and this might lead to a series of infections. The stress factors also play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, heart and blood vessel diseases and cancer. Continuous boosts of adrenaline can harm blood vessels, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Worrying and fear increase our mental load and can further activate the sympathetic nervous system. Physical symptoms persist,  recovery via rest and sleep further slow down.

Heavy cognitive and emotional load during recovery from an illness might be as bad for our body as physical exercise. Our body would choose to put the work aside when being ill.

Chronic Stress affects memory, concentration and appetite

In a state of chronic stress the brain thinks that a physical fight starts any time. With cortisol our body works to have a lot of energy available. It enhances appetite and extra energy storing  with might lead to weight gain.

Cortisol is also released to hippocampus that is central in memorizing and learning. A stressed out person has difficulties in learning and emotion regulation. There are often concentration difficulties and memory problems.

Burnout

Chronic stress can not go on forever without consequences. Burnout is a severe disturbance in our vital mechanisms. Simultaneous psychological, neural, metabolic and immune system collapse might be so total, that a complete recovery is very slow or even impossible.

The best cure for burnout is prevention. It can be difficult to understand the graveness of the situation. People tend to compare themselves and their working rhythms to others and to pretend that everything is fine. Just a moment before collapsing things might seem normal from the outside.

Talk with friends and family, colleagues, your superior or a health care professional if you feel  that the load is too high.

Sleep is a good indicator.

Sleep, brain and stress

When the life is in balance, we recover from acute stress reactions and also longer burdensome periods. These take often place in life changes: a newcomer in the family, moving house, study or work project that is exceptionally demanding. We overcome these challenges when the amount of recovery is sufficient.

Sleep is our most important recovery function and an indicator of balance. Weeks and months with disturbed sleep is a sign of stress, and sleep deprivation further lowers down our resilience.

The brain needs sleep. During sleep many things take place that the sleeper is not aware of. A daily cleanup is made in order for us to feel physically and mentally well.

There is no health without sleep. The importance of proper recovery becomes clear after a period of poor sleeping. At worst the life is just coping. Unfortunately this is reality for so many, that we have begun to think it is normal not to sleep enough. But it is not.

When we most nights sleep well and feel brisk in the morning, our body and mind are always prepared to perform well. We are in balance.

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 1: Fight or flight response

Our body does not abandon us when facing a life endangering situation. It prepares us to fight with many tools developed during evolution.

The amygdala is an area of the brain that controls our decision making and emotional responses. It´s tasks include fear processing and threat evaluation based on information from the eyes and ears. From what we have learned, a crocodile presents an extremely dangerous threat, and the amygdala instantly sends an emergency signal to hypothalamus. This area of the brain is like a command center that communicates with the rest of the body, and in an alarming situation activates the sympathetic nervous system.

The fight or flight response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight or flight response before we knowingly make any decision on how to act. Many things happen very fast. Firstly the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) are released into our system. We notice the effects: rapid pulse and respiration increase oxygen intake for fast action. Blood pressure goes up and extra oxygen is sent to the brain, increasing alertness. Sight, hearing, and other senses become sharper. Blood sugar (glucose) and fats from energy stores are released into bloodstream to give us the extra power we need.

The skin temperature goes up and sweating of palms makes the grip better – should we need to climb to a tree to flee. Digestion is slowed down – all our energy is now needed to stay alive.

All these reactions are caused by very fast chemical processes in our body. Our preparedness for the fight is uncounscious, and we flee away from the crocodile without thinking.

The fight or flight is a term by Walter B. Cannon

The term flight or flight was first named by M.D.  Walter B. Cannon in 1915. He studied in Harvard and continued to teach there at the department of psychology.  Cannon became especially interested in laboratory animals´ physical reactions under pressure.

When he studied the digestion of scared animals, he observed physical changes in the stomach. Cannon was keen to understand in the relation of psychological and physical reactions for stress and continued his studies on animals´ bodily stress responses for twenty years.

Cannon also re-phrased an earlier presented term homeostasis than means internal balance of the body. According to Cannon our body continuously seeks to gain a certain kind of equilibrium. With living beings the organisms are very complex, including the brain and nerves, the heart, lungs, kidneys and more. For their cooperative condition Cannon suggested a term homeostasis. For instance a raise in blood sugar level makes us thirsty and drinking water re-sets the balance.

‘The homeostatic definition of stress: Acondition where expectations, whether genetically programmed, established by prior learning, or deduced from circumstances, do not match the perception of the environment. This discrepancy between what is observed or sensed and what is expected or programmed elicits patterned responses.’

Still in danger

Let´s get back to the threat we were facing. If the crocodile we saw turns out to be  a soft stuffed toy, we take deep breath and laugh out of relief.

If however the threat is real and a fight is unavoidable, the hypothalamic–pituitary gland–adrenal cortex axis (HPA axis or HTPA axis) activates after the first surge of adrenaline subsidises. The HPA axis keeps the sympathetic nervous system up and running as long as needed, until the fight is over.

The adrenal cortex produces hormones that  contribute to release of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that has several functions, it for instance controls the blood sugar level during stress reaction. The hormonal effects caused by the adrenal cortex are called indirect stress responses as they work through blood flow.  These effects take place within 20-30 seconds. Immediate stress responses described in the beginning of this article are induced by the sympathetic nervous system and visible in a few seconds.

Recovery of a stress reaction

When the threat has been removed and the brain no longer perceives the environment risky, will the frontal cortex get an ‘alarm cancellation’ message. The sympathetic nervous system reactions dampen and the amygdala makes the parasympathetic nervous system return the body to its normal relaxed state. The fight or flight response is over.

The body needs about 20 minutes to physically recover from an acute stress reaction. An adrenaline surge affects up to an hour. The release of hormones by the adrenal cortex started later and also lasts longer. The cortisol production in the body will seize as well when the danger is gone, and the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is gained.

The stress reaction can be kept on for a very long time. Human are built to face threats and fight for their lives, normally in rapidly escalating situations that are also quickly over. Activation and preparedness to attack are normal reactions, as well as excitement and joy of victory.

Multitasking, taxes, interests, tormenting colleagues, lost phones and broken household appliances – these were non-existent in the early days of the human species. We can not discharge the surge of adrenaline, when our attacker is a phone bill.

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 

The picture and information about Walter Cannon 

 

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.