New Smart Watch Detects Stress and Helps You Stop it

Smart watches already monitor your health via things like pulse rate, reminders to get you moving, exercise tracking, and even counting calories. Now there's a version that not only lets you know when you're stressed, but also lets you stop the stress cycle before it goes too far.

The new watch is under development by tech start-up company Neumitra, headed by former MIT neuroscientist Robert Goldberg. There's a $1,500 version currently available, but other models, including sensors that could be built into jewelry, are in the pipeline.

Physical Changes That Signal Stress

The stress-detecting watch works by detecting physical changes in the body that indicate you're getting stressed out. These include an increased heart rate, faster breathing, and perspiration. Sensors in the watch measure skin conductance, which shows how much you're sweating. While physical activity causes sweat, too, the watch "learns" your typical routine over the course of several days, helping it differentiate between exercise sessions and actual stress.

The smart watch stops stress by buzzing to alert you to take action. Simple actions like deep breathing exercises, soothing visualizations, progressive muscle relaxation, and calming self suggestions can nip stress in the bud. If you notice that you're getting stressed out frequently, you can implement other strategies like yoga or massage therapy, and meditation or implement overall lifestyle changes.

"We often don't recognize a stressful situation until far after it's happened," Goldberg said. "This allows you to know in the moment what's happening to you mentally and physically." If you're not actually stressed when you get a notification. you can simply dismiss the watch's alert.

Importance of Stress Management

Wearable devices that detect stress can play an important role in overall health. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) warns that stress affects your sleep patterns and mood and can cause physical problems like poor digestion and immune system suppression, making you more prone to illness. Possible cumulative effects include diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Even if you can't afford the current version of the stress watch, there are plenty of wearable fitness trackers that can still help you fight stress, like the ones featured here. NIMH says that regular exercise is an effective stress fighter and recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Use a device to keep you on track with exercise as part of your overall stress management plan.