Posted by: Chelsea Hampton | April 26, 2012

Stress Awareness Month – Utilizing Technology for Stress Management

With chronic stress and anxiety on the rise in our society, stress reduction methods are becoming ever more important. In a world that is constantly evolving and advancing in technology, it makes sense that these two areas would inevitably mesh; technological advancements have created a new frontier for stress management and relief, and many options are now available for in-home use. While these products may seem amazing, it is always important to do some research before trying and buying. Most of these devices would fall under the category of complementary and alternative medicine, so being an informed consumer is incredibly important. As with any new program or health-related product, be sure to do some research and consult a health professional before trying.

Feedback Devices

Biofeedback is a type of treatment typically conducted in a clinical setting by a certified technician or therapist. Electrical sensors are attached to the body which measure a variety of health indicators including body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and even brain wave activity. The feedback from these monitors is displayed on a computer, and the ultimate objective involves using different exercises and techniques to gain greater control over internal/emotional states that affect these physiological processes. Biofeedback has been shown to have many health benefits and is used for a variety of conditions including depression, anxiety, chronic stress, asthma, chronic pain and more.

If biofeedback treatment is not an ideal option, there are now numerous devices on the market for in-home use which operate under the same principle. While these devices may not fall under the technical category of biofeedback, they are similar in that they measure certain biological processes and claim to have similar health benefits. Some of the programs and devices available include:

  • Journey to Wild Divine – These products operate using what the makers refer to as “Active Feedback” hardware and use three finger sensors to measure heart rate variability and sweat gland activity. There are several software programs available which enable the user to navigate through vivid landscapes and game modes using the body’s internal processes. More information on these programs can be found at the Wild Divine website: http://www.wilddivine.com/about-wild-divine/.
  • emWave by HeartMath – This program also uses computer software and measures heart rate variability. The software presents different challenge levels and games, and feedback is obtained from a pulse monitor. A portable device is also available for stress relief and training on-the-go. More information on this product can be found at the HeartMath website:  http://www.heartmathstore.com/.
  • MindWave by NeuroSky– MindWave is a portable EEG brainwave headset with accompanying computer software and feedback capability that enables the user to play games using brainwave activity. The software comes with ten neuroscience applications, including one specifically for meditation and relaxation. More information on this device can be found at the NeuroSky website:  http://store.neurosky.com/products/mindwave-1.

Helpful and Convenient Apps

Numerous applications are now available for computers and smart phones which provide reminders to exercise, take breaks, perform eye relaxation exercises and deep breathing, and much more.

  • Workrave offers a free downloadable app that reminds users to take frequent breaks from the computer to avoid eye strain. http://www.workrave.org/
  • Evo is a customizable website app which provides break reminders and eye exercises. http://www.protectyourvision.org/.
  • StretchWare is a software application that reminds users to take stretch breaks and provides 14 guided routines to choose from.  http://www.stretchware.com/.
  • Breathing Zone, Relax & Rest Guided Meditations, and Relax Escape Meditate are applications available on iTunes. These apps offer a variety of sounds, music and/or visuals to help with rest and relaxation. http://www.apple.com/itunes/.

These are just a handful of the hundreds of programs and applications available for stress reduction and relaxation. Technology that enables users to tap into their own physiological processes to decrease stress and increase self-awareness is becoming quite popular. It makes sense to harness methods that hold the potential for long-term results and coping skills, especially in our increasingly fast-paced world. As advances in technology continue, advances in well-being and health promotion will undoubtedly increase as well.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

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