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. 

 

 

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.

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 

Moodmetric app now with Diary and more

The Moodmetric ring and app support stress management with the aid of health tech. The app is a simple and visual tool that helps the user to understand and react to stressful things in life.

The new Moodmetric App has now been released for both iPhone and Android users. The app works with current and new ring versions.

The new app gives more tools for stress management

The familiar features of the previous Moodmetric app are still there. The real-time view supports live follow-up on stress levels, and the much appreciated Daily diagram is as before.

The new app supports stress management even better with both more possibilities for user input and automatized analytics. Defining actions and categorizing events show clearly what are the stressors in life, and what brings energy.

Stress/Mood scatter plot

The most impactful new feature is the Stress/Mood scatter plot, that now combines the experienced mood in addition to the stress measurement data provided by the Moodmetric ring.

The Moodmetric level 0-100 is the vertical axis of the scatter plow. The same Moodmetric level is familiar from the previous app version, it is developed for simple reading of the measurement results. The higher the stress level, the higher the vertical position of the life category circles.

The self perceived mood is the horizontal axis. The more use the has noted an event to be of a positive mood, to more to the right it takes the life category circle.

Diary

The scatter plot is based on Diary which is automatically updated with the Moodmetric stress level information. The user can download the phone calendar events to Diary and add notes.

It is possible to add notes to events, choose a category and indicate happy, neutral or bad mood.

 

App development is team work

Planning and development of the new features have  been started at Moodmetric already in spring 2017. We would like to give special thanks to Eero Jaakonaho for the work on perfecting the user experience from the visual perspective.

Both the iOS and Android mobile app new features have been developed at Gofore, in close cooperation with Moodmetric. The end user was kept in mind throughout the project, for example the developers had the possibility to wear the Moodmetric ring. Flexible communication enabled a smooth progress, and the app release was made as planned well before the new ring version deliveries.

Download the new Moodmetric app from AppStore or GooglePlay. If you have an old version with data in, you will not loose it.

High stress levels – then what?

In my previous blog post I promised to write in detail how I dealt with my chronic stress last year. As I told, the turning point was the summer holiday when I started experiencing difficulties in falling asleep.

 

Sleep is the most important part of recovery. I did know that, but one cannot really force herself to sleep and taking sleeping pills was not an option for me. Therefore, I started tackling the stress from another direction.

The very first thing I did was downloading Headspace on my phone. Headspace is an  application using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques to train the mind for a healthier, happier, and more enjoyable life. I had tried Headspace before and was already convinced about its effectiveness. Having also tried other guided mindfulness applications I noticed that the voice matters to me! Andy Puddicombe has a voice that is calming by nature 🙂 Mindfulness is our basic human ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings, and not being too reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. According to my Moodmetric levels, mindfulness is low numbers indicating inactive sympathetic nervous system.

However, after trying mindfulness a few times at home during the weekends, I realized it was of no use. It was really difficult to find a nice and quiet place for a meditation exercise. Normally my Moodmetric numbers go down steadily during meditation exercises, but as constantly hearing kids running and screaming upstairs, I could not concentrate. By accident (I got upset for not being able to concentrate and marched out for a walk), I found out that going out for a walk lowered my stress levels more effectively than meditating at home. I continued mindfulness exercises on work days.

Then I gave up on kettlebell exercises for a few months and started going for walks instead. Before, putting my trainers on just to go for a walk, was never really an option. I had this thought that going ‘just’ for a walk was a waste of (sports) time. It started to become clear for me that exercising is a good way to prevent stress, but if you are already overloaded, strenuous exercise only adds up to high stress levels.

Working less during the evenings was an obvious move of course. However, not always being able to refrain from work, I started studying how different kind of work tasks affected my stress levels. Quite soon I noticed that writing e-mails raised my stress levels easily. On the other hand, design or creative work without time pressure kept my stress levels down. As I talked about this with our CEO she had experienced the opposite – going through e-mail was less stressful for her than any kind of creative work. This is a good reminder of how we are all individuals and should find out ourselves what are the causes of stress and sources of recovery.

Also, working remotely from home helped me to keep stress levels moderate (the kids being at daycare, of course). This is probably explained by the fact that I could solely concentrate on my work without unexpected social interruptions.  

In addition, I adjusted my diet a bit. From my previous experience I had noticed that cutting down carbs and sugar kept me steadily energetic. I also started taking vitamin and mineral supplements: D3, B12, magnesium citrate and zinc to fight the stress and help the immune system.  

In October, I started seeing clear results with my stress levels. The change had happened in my mind as well – the future seemed brighter again, less worrying thoughts and more feelings of accomplishment. I was able to concentrate better, which had a clear correlation with getting more work done. All this change in my thoughts even though nothing else had changed in my surroundings. Also no difficulties in falling asleep anymore.  

Mindfulness was probably the most effective action on my way to a less-stress life. Even though I wasn’t doing the exercises for more than two or three times a week, I felt that it helped me the most. According to studies, it takes 8 weeks to get results. In that sense, I would recommend trying mindfulness even if one can not commit to the exercises every day.

One might wonder why the actions I took seem so systematic and straightforward. Is managing stress really that simple? Yes and no.  

Knowledge work productivity and wellbeing have been my area of interest for a long time. I have acquired decent theoretical knowledge of the substance through my work as a researcher, so in that sense I was well aware how to tackle chronic stress as a knowledge worker. In general, the internet is loaded with tips and guidance towards stress free life.

However, effective stress management requires lifestyle and behavioral changes. It is easy to try something for a few times, but the hard part is adopting a lasting routine. I get my motivation to take action by looking at my stress levels on the Moodmetric app.  

The idea behind Moodmetric is that everyone should find out what are their individual sources of stress and recovery. What works for me, might not work for you. The Moodmetric ring is an excellent tool to find that out.