Good start to stress management

The Moodmetric app diagrams give a clear visual presentation of the user's stress levels

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.

the Moodmetric measurement helps to manage stress better

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

– What Moodmetric levels one should aim at?

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

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

 

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

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

Read more about the Moodmetric company measurement at HERE Technologies. 

 

 

PART 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement

Measurement - a Moodmetric blow pic

Accurate, measured data of stress levels helps in preventing chronic stress. Long term and continuous stress measurement is possible with user friendly methods that fit daily to life.

Stress measured in laboratory does not tell of daily life

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 measurements

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 up to a hundred milliseconds.

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 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 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.

pic for measurement

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