This wearable tells people how stressed they are, but does it actually work?
I wore a Spire, a device that tracks your breathing, and this what I learned.
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If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that stress doesn't discriminate. Whether your stress stems from long-term anxiety or the occasional worry, it affects everyone at some point in their lives. Personally, I've been on the verge of a major freak-out for weeks now. Between wedding planning and house hunting, I'm more tense than usual. So, in an attempt understand what triggers me, I tried this stress-tracking wearable.
Spire is a wearable device that tells me when I'm calm, tense, or focused. It achieves these results by constantly monitoring my breathing. Slow, steady breaths indicate calmness. Fast, consistent breaths indicate focus. When Spire detects stress (erratic breathing), you'll receive an alert on your smartphone. The instant feedback is nice, but I have a long-standng relationship with anxiety. I mean, we go way back.
For me, cognitive therapy and medicine were the norm. Though I still suffer from the occasional panic attack, I've learned to manage it over the years. Spire is not the miracle cure, by any means, but it did help me be more mindful of my reactions.
The package consisted of one Spire device, one wireless charging platform, one USB cable, and an instructional booklet. I have to say, the design is stunning. The Spire device resembles a river stone and part of the charging platform looks like it's made of bamboo. Though the naturalistic design is lovely, I had some trouble connecting the device to the companion app.
After setting up an account, I placed the device in the center of the charging station and tried to sync it with the app. I'm not sure why, but the app couldn't locate the Spire stone. The syncing feature kept getting stuck at 50%, which annoyed me to no end. When I attempted to sync the gadget up at home, it worked in a matter of minutes. Though the setup process was a pain in the neck, I kept an open mind and gave it a try the following day.
House Hunting in the Pouring Rain
You can attach the Spire stone to your bra or waistband. I opted for the waistband. But before I even put the device on, I knew I was in for a stressful day. It was pouring buckets outside and I had to go to both an open house and a wedding shower. Yay, adulthood!
My partner (bless his soul) and I had to scarf down our McDonald's breakfast at record speed because we were running late. As if house hunting isn't stressful enough, I looked like a drowned rat due to the heavy rain. We swept through the house doing all the usual things: asking about the washer and dryer, checking the date on the water heater, looking inside the cabinets, and so on. By the time I was about to leave for the wedding shower, I took a moment to glance at the app.
I had been tense for about two hours, and the day wasn't even over yet. Right then and there, I knew I needed to calm down. So, I tried the app's guided breathing exercise. As I listened to a woman who sounded a lot like Siri, Apple's digital assistant, my breathing slowed and the tension melted from my muscles. When I checked the app's breathwave, a feature that measures my breathing in real-time, I was more relaxed.
The Impromptu Cleaning Spree
Fortunately, I wasn't rushing around like I was the day before. The morning passed without incident, but then, as if someone cast a spell on me, I felt compelled to clean the whole apartment. I flew up and down the stairs with the vacuum cleaner, washed the dishes, folded the laundry, and rearranged my bedroom closet. It was an absolute whirlwind. Curious, I stopped for a few minutes to check the Spire app. According to the app, I was focused for about an hour. Well, I mean, that wasn't too surprising. The device also doubles as a step tracker, so I burned a good amount of calories during that impromptu cleaning spree.
Video Games Stress Me Out
I wanted to see if work was a source of stress, so I wore the Spire stone during office hours. Surprisingly, it wasn't. According to the app, I was very focused throughout the day. I guess that's true, as I tend to hyper-focus on projects and such. But, later that night, my smartphone buzzed. The gadget picked up some erratic breathing. When I checked the app, I couldn't help but laugh hysterically. I was fighting a difficult boss in a video game at that time. I was only tense for about ten or fifteen minutes, but apparently video games get my blood pumping.
Horror Movies Don't Bother Me One Bit
I wanted to see if Spire could detect stress again, so I watched a horror movie. My film of choice? The Shining, of course! Now, I've seen that movie countless times, so I knew what was going to happen, but it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. Oddly enough, I was pretty calm throughout the whole flick. Maybe The Shining doesn't disturb me like it used to. Ah well.
Should you buy it?
Spire detected my stress, for sure, but I wasn't super impressed with it. I mean, the device didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I don't think you can really quantify stress like you can with steps. Whether it's hormones or situational anxiety, there are too many variables at play.
More than anything, I love the idea behind Spire. Mindfulness is very important, but we don't always take the time to slow down and reflect. I agree that it's good to know when you're stressed and why, but for me, talk therapy and regular exercise work best. Again, the Spire stone isn't the miracle cure. Life, as we know it, will always have its ups and downs.