What I Learned from Tracking My Stress Levels for a Month
A lot. I learned a lot.
Published Mar 16, 2017 6:00 AM
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When I heard there was a bracelet that could track your stress levels, much like your steps, I was intrigued… and also a bit scared. In addition to the normal stress that comes with living in a big city like New York and working your typical 9 to 5 job, this winter I also juggled a move into my very own one-bedroom apartment and a packed travel schedule. I was stressed (very stressed), and I knew it. Would knowing how stressed I was stress me out even more? Was I more zen than I thought? I had questions, and I wanted my bracelet to give me answers.
First, I scheduled a meeting with founder of WellBe, Doron Libshtein, and Dr. Prudence Hall of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, who had both tried the bracelet for themselves. Together, they explained that the bracelet tracks your heart rate for three minutes every hour and uses a fancy algorithm to rate your stress level, which is delivered to you by an app. My stress levels were usually at around 30-50% when I was at leisure and 60-80% when I was feeling especially anxious. You can also check your stress level in the moment if you’re curious about that exact time. Other cool features include allowing the app access to your schedule and location, so you can tell if certain places, regular occurrences (like meetings), or even people trigger your stress.
After sporting my
for just a few days, I quickly discovered my stress levels rise significantly, to what is deemed “concerning,” when I take the subway, am especially hungry, or am trying to meet a deadline for work.
No surprise there, considering my new (longer) commute paired with a bad habit of not budgeting enough time to get to where I need to be leaves me “running just a few minute behind schedule” to every single appointment, meal, and meeting. This helped me realize that running out the door in a panic is not a good look—for my reputation and health. I knew this, but it was a wake up call that I need to start being more conscious of leaving a few minutes early, instead of compromising my mental health.
The hunger stress alert did surprise me a bit more, but as someone who puts off eating food until lightheadedness sets in, it probably shouldn’t have. This particular stress trigger was more alarming because I didn’t realize how harmful of a habit it was to scramble for food at the last minute. It also lead me think of those who are always hungry and don’t have the luxury of feeding themselves regularly. It put my stress in perspective: Ordering a late lunch is nothing compared to the constant stress of not knowing where your next meal might come from.
Finally, trying to get my work done before meeting friends or heading into a meeting makes total sense. Working in social media means you’re on 24/7 writing and scheduling new posts. Meeting all my mini-deadlines before rushing off to where I need to be next is an expected stressor and one I am constantly trying to manage.
It should also be noted that in my meeting with Libshtein and Hall, we discussed that some stress is healthy. It means we’re awake, engaged, and living an active life. Meeting my deadlines mostly fell under this category. After all, I can admit that it is exciting to accomplish tasks compared to feeling stressed about being stuck on the subway.
The actual experience of wearing the bracelet was also interesting. People would ask what it does, as it is noticeable on the wrist but visibly not a fitness tracker. The bracelet itself is not waterproof, which makes charging it while you’re in the shower an easy habit to adopt. Remembering to put it back on your wrist before running out of the door? Not so easy, at least for me. You also have to keep the app open to chart your stress levels, which for a swipe-friendly social media editor who has a strong habit of closing out of every app to conserve phone battery, was tougher than expected.
Another feature (that you can turn off) includes the app alerting you that your stress levels are higher than usual. As you probably can understand, if you’re experiencing a stressful moment and you get a ping that you’re stressed, you have the potential to get even more stressed. It does that, though, because meditation practices, calming playlists, and exercises to help center your thoughts are all built into the app, which I think is a very smart and useful feature. I rarely used them but always meant to.
Now, I know what you’re all wondering. Will you continue to track your stress? And my answer is yes, but not so intensely. Now that I know what my triggers are and what habits I need to work on to keep my stress levels low, focusing on those habits—not my stress—feels like the healthiest way to move forward.
Interested in trying for yourself? The WellBe bracelet is available for $149 at thewellbe.com.