I just got a new Garmin watch for my birthday. A newly added feature was a daily stress tracker. Did I need that? Yet another metric to look at? I have no time for stress!
Covid has given everyone a rough ride over the last 18 months. We’ve all felt the effects, both personally and professionally. Long-term stress can affect us mentally and physically:
When our minds are stressed, we don’t think as well. We can be more easily distracted and become less efficient in our work. We forget things. Our sleep is disrupted and if we are not sleeping as well, our thinking is even further affected.
The mind and body have a connection. Our mental state affects our physical one.
Ever get that “feeling in the pit of your stomach” when you’re stressed? Our gut is tied to our brain and stress can cause digestive issues. Have a headache when you are worried? Your stress elevates your blood pressure and heart rate.
Stress Trackers and Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
I started looking at stress trackers and how they are supposed to work. Most devices start by measuring your heart rate, which can become higher when you are stressed. The other factor determining stress is your heart rate variability or HRV, the time spent between beats. When we are stressed, that time actually becomes less variable. Trackers look at both factors.
The Effects of Stress: Looking at the Data
So my heart rate is up and my HRV is down. I’m stressed. Now what?
Trackers help us look at patterns. Is there a particular time of day that I’m stressed or an event that becomes a trigger? Is it in the morning before I head out to work and I’m trying to get everyone, including myself, together? Was my heart rate up before that big meeting?
Looking at the data over time can offer perspective.
If we see patterns, we can act. Do deep breathing exercises reduce stress for me if I do them every morning? (Click on the link to read our recent article on breathing exercises) Can I take a walk before that meeting to clear my mind and reduce my anxiety? Can I chat with a coworker or friend? Does a massage help me to relax?
Watching these patterns over time can help us assess our stress and provide relief when we need it!
If you would like help with your stress relief, schedule an appointment with our massage therapist, Claudia, with the link below.