PART 1: Fight or flight response

Our bodies do not let us down when faced with a life-endangering situation. They prepare us for the fight with the many means available to us as a result of evolution.

The amygdala is an area of the brain that controls our decision-making and emotional responses. Its tasks include the processing of fear and evaluation of the threat, all based on information conveyed to us by our senses, such as our eyes and ears. From what we have learned, a crocodile presents an extremely dangerous threat, causing the amygdala to instantly send an emergency signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain is like a command center that communicates with the rest of the body, activating the sympathetic nervous system in an alarming situation.

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

The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight-or-flight response before we consciously make any decision on how to act. Many things happen very fast. First 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 the bloodstream to give us the extra power we need.

Skin temperature goes up and the increased sweat on the palms of our hands improves our grip– should we need to climb a tree to flee. Digestion is slowed down – all our energy is now conserved for staying alive.

All these reactions are caused by some very fast chemical processes in our body. Our preparedness for the fight is automatic and we flee away from the crocodile without conscious cognitive processing.

The flight-or-fight response and Walter B. Cannon

The term fight or flight was first used by M.D. Walter B. Cannon in 1915. He studied and taught at Harvard University department of psychology and specialized in the research of physical reactions of laboratory animals under pressure.

In his research Cannon observed noticeable physical changes in the digestive systems of animals experiencing fear. He subsequently spent some 20 years studying the relationship of psychological and physical effects of stress on animals.

Cannon also redefined the biological term homeostasis to signify the internal balance of the body. According to Cannon, our bodies continuously seek to maintain a predefined state of equilibrium by regulating the complex interdependent system of organs. Changes in variables such as body temperature and fluid balance set off a series of processes aimed at returning the body to its original balance.

‘The homeostatic definition of stress: A condition 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 of coming face to face with a crocodile. If the crocodile we see turns out to be a soft stuffed toy, we take a deep breath and laugh out in relief.

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

This adrenal cortex produces hormones that contribute to the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that has several functions, including the controlling of the blood sugar level during stress reaction. The hormonal effects induced by the adrenal cortex are called indirect stress responses as they work through the bloodstream. The effects of these responses take place within 20-30 seconds. In contrast, the immediate stress responses described in the beginning of this article are induced by the sympathetic nervous system and visible in a few seconds.

Recovery from a stress reaction

When the threat has been removed and the brain no longer perceives the environment as dangerous, the frontal cortex gets a message of ‘alarm cancelled’. The high levels of reaction by the sympathetic nervous system come down 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 impacts our bodies up to an hour form reaction. The release of hormones by the adrenal cortex started later and thus also last longer. The production of cortisol will cease too once the danger has passed, and consequently the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is attained.

Our bodies can uphold a stress reaction for a very long time. Humans are built to face threats and fight for their lives, normally in rapidly escalating situations that are also over quickly. 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. The problem is that we cannot turn off the surge of adrenaline when our attacker is a phone bill.

The complete set of 5 articles explains the Moodmetric measurement, science behind and the applications:

  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 of electrodermal activity

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.

Moodmetric provides new services to Preventive occupational health

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 explains the Moodmetric measurement, science behind and the applications:

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

Horse therapy – A guest post by Esmeralda Tuomi

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

Photo: Lottie-Elizabeth Photography

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

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

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

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

Electrodermal activity measurement provides athletes with new information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Moodmetric-measurement in research

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

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

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.

The Moodmetric cloud service opens

Measuring stress is important, but “then what”. We need to take actions based on the data. If the stress levels are continuously very high, there is a need to find calming things to life. No matter whether the stress is positive or negative.

The Moodmetric smart ring and app have been on the market since 2015. The app gives a great real time view on the measurement and also allow follow-up as long as the ring has been in use.

The cloud service is now open and gives a great opportunity to even better understand and take actions based on the stress level measurement. Firstly, it enables easy follow-up of the measurement trends. Monthly and weekly views on information, and changes to one´s past data is very important to someone who continuously has high stress levels.

Secondly, the cloud keeps the data safe even if the user´s phone is broken or gets lost.

For corporate customers, it has been important to understand stress on a group level. With the cloud connection, the Moodmetric smart ring will be a thing in the net (IoT) and combining stress data to any other data is very simple. The third and fourth advantage of the web connectivity are the possibility to draw group reports and to easily match Moodmetric with other information.

The cloud service development partner has been Polku Innovations. They have created the service access for both iOS and Android in cooperation with Moodmetric.

The Beta version for the cloud is now open and we invite pilot users to join! At first the system is being tested with Android. The Moodmetric smart ring users can require access codes from [email protected]

The Moodmetric measurement service customers will get the corporate user rights for free until the end of October. Inquiries:  [email protected]

You can order the Moodmetric smart ring here. The app for iOS and Android is free, such as the Beta version cloud access.

 

 

Polku Innovations is an expert in Smart Building and Wellbeing consepts. They develop related IoT solutions API, ja kehittää niihin liittyviä IoT ratkaisuja, APIs and cloud services applying the latest technology and agile software development. The Polku analytics solutions use machine learning and artificial intelligence.

 

The Moodmetric cloud service has been supported by the European Regional Development Fund

Top athletes´ mental load studied by a physiological measurement

Pertti Ratilainen has been a mental trainer for top athletes now for ten years. He guides individuals to reach their goals by utilizing their personal strengths and characteristics. Since the beginning of 2017 he has measured himself with the Moodmetric smart ring to better understand his own cognitive load. The Moodmetric measurement has been his tool to help also his customers now for several months.

Interest in the workings of a sportsman´s mind comes from decades of active life. Ratilainen has been a keen ice hockey player and golfer for most part of his life, and since ten years a coach helping the players with the non-physical side of the training.

His customers include as well people from business life. Managers and experts set their targets high but often need to work under pressure, which compares well to top sports.

Golf coaching benefits from the Moodmetric measurement

Pertti Ratilainen has worked for four years with Anssi Kankkonen as a coach for over 15 year old golf talents at the Kankkonen-Numminen Golf Academy.

Together they find ways to help young players to find their own optimal alertness level, and to understand how it affects their results. They have applied both the Moodmetric continuous measurement and the real time stress level observation during the round.

Ratilainen studies the Moodmetric measurement data together with the young players. The target is to see the connection between previous day and sleep, and the play next day. Also they look at immediate effects, as how one bad strike affects the next.

Golf is a very sensitive sports, where the player´s stress level affects the success of the round. High stress level has a negative impact on fine motor skills and the playing easily suffers. The player needs to learn to recover from a bad strike and to relax and focus for the next. Ratilainen reminds, that there is a long time between the holes that players needs to manage with their own, sometimes disturbing, thoughts.

– We have done tests where the player wears the Moodmetric ring, and I follow close by the real-time stress level on a smart phone screen. I see the rising numbers immediately and can intervene. For instance, if I see numbers getting to the red zone, I take the player aside for a moment and discuss to calm the situation. When the person is relaxed enough, the next shot is significantly better.

Taking the stress level into account

Ratilainen considers the alertness / arousal of an athlete crucial when targeting to success. The Moodmetric measurement gives him the needed tool: it shows the level with a practical index from 0 to 100. Low numbers indicate a calm mind, high figures positive or negative stress. Excitement means being extremely alert, and has an impact on a person just as fear or anxiety.

Personality and individual features of people have always interested Ratilainen. He wants to help his customers to better understand the sources of emotional and cognitive load. – For me, a round of golf in a good company always brings the best results. Being in interaction relaxes me. But there are also players who get very distracted of chatting.

High sensitive persons have become an important customer segment for Ratilainen. They are more easily than others affected by their surroundings and people. As they easily gather cognitive and emotional load, it is a continuous task for them to find ways to recover enough and rest their mind.

Ratilainen also wants to point out the changes in our daily environment: – We are not adapted to sit the whole day instead of physical work. We do not realize  how much mental load we are getting instead of doing heavy bodily work. Before people went bed in the evening and fell asleep immediately because of physical tiredness. Today we do not know when to rest and how, as the strain is more inside our heads.

Taking care of personal mental wellbeing is the platform for success.

-Optimal performance can only be reached with the right amount of stress and continuously managing the total mental load, sums Pertti Ratilainen up.

 

Pertti Ratilainen wore the Moodmetric smartring while playing golf this summer. Below the best and worst round shown by the Moodmetric app, considering his own feeling and the result. The measurement data reflects this well: there needs to be a certain level positive stress, but very high levels destroy the game.

 

If a part of my life is too stressful, should I do something about it?

“I am so stressed”. You hear this often and you probably say that often. Many times we not stop to reflect, why and for what reasons we are so stressed.

When asked to specify, the list is long: the work, the boss, the colleagues, the partner, kids etc. How stressful each of them are is more difficult to point out. After some years of a very hectic life everything becomes a big clump of worry and pressing thoughts.

With the Moodmetric measurement it is easy to pinpoint what factors in life are the most stressful. The stress level is also given on a scale from 0 to 100. Each day and night is presented with an easily readable chart that shows with red and purple color on a clock face when the stress is the highest.

For myself, there is no doubt of the biggest stress factor in my life: my kids, that I love dearly. Leaving in the morning with the usual mess of lost things, being late etc. is easily the worst part of the day. The next and longer one is putting the kids to sleep. I am lucky not to get overly stressed of the work nor most people near me. This is both my personal feeling and what the Moodmetric data tells me.

One big stress factor in life is usually manageable, especially if one sleeps well. Sleep deprivation makes all the negative things look worse and if one feels burdened, that should be the first thing to correct.

For some of our users the Moodmetric measurement shows clearly that the work is the biggest stressor in life. Running the whole workday on a very high alertness level means cumulating stress weeks and months. Combined with small children and for example an elderly parent to look after, the life can get very complicated. Big changes in life cannot be done over night and of course some things we want to keep regardless of how many grey hairs we get.

The Moodmetric ring and combined app are the simplest tool to manage stress using real time physiological data. The wearer can begin to look at the life as whole and choose one stressor at the time to work with. The measurement shows stress and recovery levels also at sleep and while exercising.

Click here for more information on what the Moodmetric ring measures and what the data tells you.

 

Picture: Pixabay