How chronic stress almost caught me

I have used Moodmetric ring on a regular basis for almost two years now.

When I first got to know Moodmetric, my life was not terribly hectic, I did not feel to be particularly stressed. I did not check my stress levels from the Moodmetric app continuously, as there was not much change – figures were quite low, nothing to be alarmed of.

Until last January.

It was already during Christmas break, when I started to notice the first signs. The feeling of hopelessness and a hint of bitterness had started slowly fester inside me. Two and a half years of burdening family life with extreme efficiency had resulted in complete loss of energy. Our family size had undergone significant change few years back, as the number of our kids went from one to three at once. Without a proper safety net, my husband and I had worked like machines to take care of our family. After 2,5 yrs. we were both exhausted and the only thing keeping us sane was being able to go to work to our paid jobs. Yes, it is a bit twisted, that you go to work to recover from family life.

At work my colleagues would have their daily laughs, because I started forgetting things. I would even go to a meeting and be very impressed by a work very nicely done just to hear that I had been part of it. Memory problems showed up.

By the end of January I noticed that I couldn’t pull through my regular kettlebell exercises anymore let alone improving the performance. I was just tired. I wanted to exercise, but I was too tired to get to it.

Then I got my first flu. And a second flu. And a third flu. Soon I noticed that I was the only one in our family getting sick all the time. (By the end of July I had been ill almost ten times.) My immune system had failed me.  

In March I decided to take a personal risk as I threw in my lot with the Moodmetric team. I became a co-owner in the company. Becoming an entrepreneur was something I had always dreamt of, but I had little doubts about the timing. It was a great move for me, but I knew that the positive stress – excitement – could be a challenging combination with the cumulated stress from the family circus. Would I be able to unwind from all the positive stress ahead me?

In April it became obvious to me that my overall stress levels were higher than usual. Wearing the Moodmetric ring, I had data to back this up – I could witness the change in figures from the app. I was alerted, but not afraid, because I am a very good sleeper and felt that I got the recovery I need. In overall I was optimistic about the future.

The spring 2016 and early summer were hectic and exciting. We were rewriting the company vision and strategy, and talking to loads of people with to get feedback. What we heard was so supporting that at times I couldn’t restrain myself from working unreasonable hours. On the other hand, I had started to question my work performance and felt like I was not working enough. I knew I had gone into overdrive a big time, but was hoping that I could make it to my summer vacation.

When July and summer vacation started, I breathed freely again – I had made it to the safety zone and now I could unwind and recover!

Only, that feeling lasted for a short moment, because sleep disorders kicked in. I started having problems with falling asleep and my heart would race for anxiety. Bedtime became one of my least favorite time of the day, because I was afraid I couldn’t fall asleep.

Needless to say, summer vacation came in too late. I had neglected my recovery and crossed the line that I didn’t wish to. I am well aware that one shouldn’t play with sleep disorders. My Moodmetric daily diagrams were screaming red. That is when I decided to start adding more unwinding moments to my everyday life and not just wait for the next vacation. I did not want to welcome chronic stress into my life.

In short, the lifestyle and behavior changes I adopted are mindfulness exercises, less heavy exercise and replacing with long walks, adding micronutrients, prioritizing sleep, etc. I will write down how I tackled chronic stress in very much detail in my next blog, due out soon!

Part 2 can now be read here

Picture: Pixabay

Electrodermal activity measured by the Moodmetric ring

Electrodermal activity

With any sympathetic nervous system activation, skin reacts and becomes a better conductor of electricity. This can result from emotional, cognitive or other psychological origin. The phenomenon is known as electrodermal activity (EDA) and it is widely adopted in psychological research (1). Other commonly used terms for this phenomenon are skin conductance response and galvanic skin response.

EDA is generated by the activity of the sweat glands.  Moodmetric measures the palmar skin on your finger. The palmar skin is the recommended EDA measurement location, since it has the highest eccrine sweat gland density (2). You can measure EDA elsewhere as well but the reliability is not as high or as easily achieved.

The unconscious actions of the human body are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. It consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic part. The parasympathetic part controls the body’s rest-and-digest functions and the sympathetic part controls the fight-or-flight reactions. By examining electrodermal activity we can understand the sympathetic nervous system reactions.

The sweat glands are exclusively innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. This makes EDA an ideal measure for sympathetic activation (2). Electrodermal activity correlates to cognitive and emotional arousal, and high responses are caused by e.g. stress, enthusiasm, anxiety, joy, anger (1, 3).

Mobile EDA devices have been used by scientists for some time (2, 4). The Moodmetric ring is an unobtrusive option to follow EDA responses real-time and in long term.

Signal accuracy

The signal accuracy has been proven in a study of 24 people by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health by J. Torniainen et al.. The accuracy against a laboratory grade reference was found to be 83 %. They conclude:

“Clearly the ring sensor can be used to measure a valid EDA signal as indicated by the similarity of both event-related responses and the calculated features. The accuracy of the Moodmetric EDA Ring is adequate for psychological and physiological research when weighted against the advantage of conducting ecologically valid experiments outside laboratory conditions.”

The results were accepted for publication in the 2015 conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC 2015, August 25-29).

Link to the article

The Moodmetric measurement accuracy has also been studied at the University of Tampere, Finland in 2014. The correlation with the reference equipment Nexus-10-MK II was good. Comparison details in charts below.

With skin conductance level (SCL) we refer here to raw measured skin conductance without any filtering. The figures below show the comparison of the two devices. 

Further reading in an article by Jari Torniainen and Benjamin Cowley, published in August 2016:

A short review and primer on electrodermal activity in human computer interaction applications

References

1 Mendes, W.B. (2009). Assessing the autonomic nervous system. In: Harmon-Jones   E. ja Beer J.S. Methods in social neuroscience. New York: Guilford Press. p. 118-147.

2 Setz C., Arnrich B., Schumm J. and La R. (2010) Discriminating Stress From Cognitive Load Using a Wearable EDA Device. IEEE Trans. Inf. Technol. Biomed. 14(2). p. 410-417.

3 Nikula R. (1991) Psychological correlates of nonspecific skin conductance responses. Psychophysiology. 28(1). p.86-90.

4 Poh M.Z, Swenson N.C. and Picard R.W. (2010) A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-Term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 57(4). p. 1243-1252.

 

 

The Moodmetric technology in research

The Moodmetric ring and app are the simplest solution to measure stress and excitement. Take the benefit of the Moodmetric continuous measurement and real-time feedback to support your research.

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The Moodmetric ring is developed to analyze the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, ie. the fight-or-flight reaction. This can be detected through the skin conductance response measurement. It is best done from the palmar skin or fingers, which makes the ring form perfect to obtain accurate data.

Where can the electrodermal activity measurement be applied

This phenomen of electrodermal activity / galvanic skin response has been an input for research for over hundred years. It is used in large extent for instance in
– Psychological research
– Clinical research & psychotherapy
– Media & advertising testing
– Consumer neuroscience & marketing
– Usability testing & UX design

How the Moodmetric ring is used

The Moodmetric ring is a non-intrusive way to measure the electrodermal activity, which enables long term measurement outside a laboratory setting. The ring is worn as a normal ring. It connects to a smartphone app via bluetooth smart and real-time measurement works within 5m radius.
The app shows the electrodermal responses measured by the ring and the output of the signal analysis which is the Moodmetric index (0…100).  In addition, the Moodmetric number among other data, so the ring can be worn without phone connection. The data can be synced any time.
Direct data streaming from the ring to Windows PC is possible with a BLE dongle. This enables also access to EDA raw data.

In addition to EDA sensors, there is a three axis accelerometer inside the Moodmetric ring. This enables for example measuring the step count, that is included in the app.

The measuring and output

Due to the advanced signal analysis methods to derive the Moodmetric index, the measurement works for everyone. It adapts to the typical level of the person using the ring. The ring learns the levels of the user, becomes personal, and always gives a number between 0 and 100, with a typical activation level of 50. If the user changes you can reset and the learning starts from the beginning.

The algorithm also includes an advanced artefact rejection. The electrodes touch the skin and even if your hand moves the algorithm rejects the disturbances in the signal caused by the electrode movement.

The Moodmetric measurement accuracy and current use in research

The Moodmetric ring feasibility for research has been verified by the Finnish Institute of Occupational health.
Link to the EMBC ´15 conference paper.
It has been used in following research programs:

Pop up, 2015-2016

‘Pop up  – knowledge work productivity’ research project provides new research results, practical methods and measurement tools for developing knowledge work productivity and well-being at work. Knowledge work is analyzed through a work system including physical, virtual, social and emotional environments. This project develops and utilizes participatory Pop up –method for designing and testing new work environments and practices that provides more productive ways of working. In addition, the project develops metrics and measurement tools for analyzing the impacts of new work designs. Mobile devices, sensors and applications are utilized to study fluency and experienced well-being and productivity of knowledge work.

Project’s multidisciplinary team comprises researchers from Tampere University of Technology (TUT) and Aalto University. The project is carried out in close collaboration with industry partners: Tampere Region Economic Development Agency Tredea, Arkkitehtitoimisto Helamaa&Heiskanen, University Properties of Finland Ltd, Martela and Moodmetric.

Contact persons:
TUT Novi research center: Maiju Vuolle, maiju.vuolle(at)tut.fi
TUT Human-centered technology: Kaisa Väänänen, kaisa.vaananen(at)tut.fi
TUT School of Architecture: Jenni Poutanen, jenni.poutanen(at)tut.fi
Aalto Virtual and mobile work research unit: Matti Vartiainen, matti.vartiainen(at)aalto.fi

DEEVA, 2016 -2019

DEEVA project utilizes the opportunities of digitalization to create value from data and to develop new, customer driven service products and methods which support value co-creation and that are based on deep understanding of customer experience.

The research question is as follows: what kinds of means, modes and contexts combining data, emotions and experiences digitalization enables. The project is carried out with a large and versatile network of enterprises. The participating 20 companies vary in size and industry, e.g. energy, media, bank, ICT, real estate, commercial and service sectors are represented in the project.  Multisectoral group of enterprises enhance both co-learning and gaining new insights into the research topic.

The project is executed by a multidisciplinary research consortium of three universities: Tampere University of Technology, Turku University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University of Applied Sciences in co-operation with six international universities.  In addition to knowledge and publications for different target groups the project will create tools and applications for measuring customer experience and analyzing emotion data in real-time. The information provided by the tools and applications can be used in everyday activities of companies to support e.g. management of multi-channeled service environment and development of new service products and co-creative ecosystems.

Contact persons:
TUT Novi research center: Nina Helander, nina.helander(at)tut.fi
TUAS AADI Research group: Harri Jalonen, harri.jalonen(at)turkuamk.fi
TAMK Mediapolis: Leena Mäkelä, leena.makela(at)tamk.fi

Moodmetric is not always love at first sight

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I’ve been with Moodmetric for three months now. I asked to join the Moodmetric team after having conducted research for over a year with the Moodmetric ring in the field of knowledge work productivity and wellbeing. Abandoned my half completed doctoral thesis, declined a job offering in an organization where I had dreamed to work some day and jumped into startup adventure that has no guarantee of a happy ending.

I have worn the Moodmetric ring on a regular basis ever since I put the ring on in January 2015. Not wearing the ring makes me uneasy. I guess one could say it was love at first sight.

The Moodmetric ring is the smallest biosensor measuring the reactions of the sympathetic nervous system. It gives real time data how the wearer’s stress levels fluctuate. The sympathetic nervous system activates when we experience stress in our everyday life. Chronic stress is a severe health risk and can lead to both physical and psychological health issues. With stress affecting our behavior, thoughts and feelings and ultimately our health, Moodmetric helps to detect stress and learn to unwind when necessary.

This is exactly what I need Moodmetric for – to know how my body is adjusting to the changes in my life. I am a person who gets excited very easy and love to have a lot going on. Getting things done just purely makes me happy. At times, I find myself having too much to get done in too little time and stress gets overwhelmingly vicious. However, my body (nor yours either) does not differentiate on good or bad stress. The sympathetic nervous system may be up and running high for pure excitement, but without proper recovery also good stress may turn against me.

Moodmetric provides me an independent assessment on the sustainability of my actions. I have learned from my previous experiences that the more prolonged stress I undergo, the less enlightened estimates I make on my health. ‘I can’t give up now, because others seem to be working even harder than I am’, ‘This has to be done now, or I will lose this opportunity’, ‘I am not progressing, because I have not worked hard enough’. That is stress skewing my thoughts.

The Moodmetric helps me to slow down if my thoughts, affected by stress,  try to drive me to accomplishments that are beyond my resources. Needless to say, there’s not much to accomplish with a broken body.

As I have talked about Moodmetric with a lot of people, it is not always love at first sight. To be honest, Moodmetric is a fright to some high achievers – ‘The last thing I need right now is to know how stressed I am!’. I assume these people believe that ignoring stress makes it less harmful.
I am left pondering do we need to lose our health before we take action?

 

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How can Moodmetric help an ambitious achiever?

Are you, or would you like to be a high achiever? Do you have the emotional power to handle it?

Some high achievers are always in pursuit of perfection. They are driven by an inner voice that is never content with their achievements. No matter how good are the accomplishments looking from outside, in the inside the person never feels good enough. There would always be room to improve, and more to do. Self-criticism is at maximum. Showing weakness is not an option. The pursuit of perfection is emotionally consuming. The tiredness is sometimes overwhelming, worsened by the disappointment in self, and others.

People in healthier pursuit of excellence are high achievers, whose inner voice is their genuine self. They have a  strong desire to accomplish something important, and gain gratification from success in demanding tasks. Their approach to good achievements contains more empathy, towards themselves and people around them.

They are self-assured but not self-centric. They are able to ask advice when needed, and understand the power of working together. Still, achieving much is a tough task and sometimes they can be on the edge emotionally.

The both types have one problem in common – how to tell when too much stress is going to make the path of productivity too rough?

Moodmetric services are aimed at high performing individuals, who want to optimize the use of their emotional capacity. Persons demanding a lot from themselves want to know where their personal limits are. How much more can I do and achieve, before the stress turns against me? The Moodmetric ring is a simple tool to measure long term data about how emotional load is affecting the wearers’ sympathetic nervous system. The trends are visible in a simple to read index, which shows the emotional load day-to-day.

The Moodmetric app also includes real-time follow-up on stress levels. This gives an instant view to reactions and stress amount during the day. A simple guidance teaches the wearers to understand their data in the daily context.
Moodmetric helps the wearer to understand the emotional boundaries. The Moodmetric ring and app are a very special and personal tool in building the optimal performance.

 

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New Moodmetric features: Emotion level alert and Step counter

The Moodmetric Ring as a Moodring

The new functions in the Moodmetric Ring help you to better recognize and understand your emotions. The app shows your reactions and emotional levels just like before. In addition two new indicators visualize your emotional state directly on your ring:

Calm mind indicator

Taking a moment to meditate or just need to stop your mind from wandering for a few minutes?

The Moodmetric number tells what is your emotional level on a scale from 0 to 100. If your Moodmetric number is below 15 for five minutes, a green led illuminates.

High emotion level alert

If your Moodmetric number is above 75 for five minutes, a red led begins to blink.

The Moodmetric Black_with green led

High level can mean great excitement, stress or anxiety. If your emotional level is high for long periods, you might deplete your energy resources quickly.

You can turn both of these functions off, if you do not wish the ring itself to display your mood.

 

Exercise is medicine

The Moodmetric Ring counts your steps as any step counter.

The steps taken per day are shown on the app below the MoodFlower in thousand steps. If you reach the recommended daily dose of 10 000 steps, you´ll get an orange circle around that day in the month view.

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You can follow your daily average MM figure and steps. More steps might indicate a lower number telling about calmer mind.

 

Practice your mind

Mindfulness or meditation exercise in the middle of day might give an extra mental boost for the rest of your working day. Measure it with the Moodmetric Practice for a visual presentation. Learn about yourself, what do you need around you to have the most calming experience?

The new log function records the length and score of each practise. You can follow your progress and better understand the correlation between a calm mind and and your overall mood and environment.

 

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The dark circle around a day number tells that you have done the Practice that day. The orange circle you gain after taking 10 000 steps on a day.

 

Assembling the Rings

Emotion load indication through electrodermal activity or skin conductance measurement is a rising trend in the modern wearable technology. Most manufacturers use the word stress as a synonym for emotional load.
Wearables are typically forced to use dry skin electrodes in varying conditions, with movement present. Ideally the system should be able to detect, interpret and visualize underlying electrodermal activity changes caused by autonomous nervous system reactions.
Typically the following challenges are present:
• Dry and sweaty hands produce autonomic responses with significantly different amplitudes
• Different people produce significantly different response amplitudes
• Analysis is subject to constant motion artifacts
The Moodmetric algorithm is developed to produce higher lever emotional information of the wearer, based on the raw conductivity signal received.

 

The first Moodmetric rings have been produced. The ring is improved version of the beta sample, that has been in user testing since October 2014. The electronics manufacturing and 3D-printing of the covers of the new version was made in August 2015. The stone assembly could now be completed:

 

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The two steel rings with an insulation in between is the actual sensor needed to detect the changes in skin conductivity. The ring comes in four sizes: US (6.5, 8, 10 and 12.5), EU (17, 18,5, 20 and 22 mm). It is exchangeable which enables several users to the same stone. This reduces cost but note: excessive swapping causes the snaps to wear out.

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The final product is small and lightweight. It connects with the Moodmetric app automatically and displays your emotional intensity real-time.

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Summer reading

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Things seem to be so much brighter without the everyday  lurch in the stomach when the alarm clock goes off. Morning coffee without hurry, sun and laziness ahead for the day.. Yet this perfect battery charging is only allowed in limited doses for the most of us.

The work, studies, school – they will begin. La rentrée – the return, has an effect on each one of us. But how big and what kind?

The children get to buy new things for school and meet again with the friends. Most of them really enjoy the start of their duties. The adults mostly seem to stress about it all: the autumn hits with dozens of things and tasks, the work being only part of the palette.

Would you like to measure the effect? To know exactly how much does your stress and anxiety increase when starting the engines again? The summer reading (not meaning the pick of holiday novels) has been low, your mind has been calm.

The emotional level reading is about get higher during the autumn. For many people the change is not significant, but the numbers might increase alarmingly.

The Moodmetric smart ring measures your stress levels from the changes in the skin conductance. Find out more from our blog, and inquire about pre-ordering at [email protected].

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