Much as I hate to admit it, I have a tendency to allow myself to get stressed out. I first notice it in my shoulders, then it spreads to my head and, if left unchecked, results in a pounding headache. I didn’t have much hope that the Spire Activity and Mindfulness Tracker would make that big of a difference …
… but I’ve learned that I have much to learn.
Whatever your cause of stress — a looming deadline, a car wreck, a fight with your spouse, finding out you owe $10K in back taxes, speaking to someone who really upsets you — it’s easy to get stressed out. According to Stress.Org, when it happens, you’ll see the following reactions …
One of the first signs that stress has been triggered is faster breathing — when your breathing is fast enough, it can lead to hyperventilation or a full-blown panic attack. Obviously, if something serious has happened, like a car wreck or an attack, stress and the resulting “fight or flight” reaction can actually save your life. But think about the stresses that you run into daily, things that aren’t life-threatening, yet they still affect your state of mind.
Depending on how you’re wired, stress can be triggered by something as simple as running seriously late for a meeting. If you’re like me, then this is what happens next: your heart starts beating more quickly, and your breath gets quicker and more shallow. Everything seems magnified; it’s hard to think properly, and you feel scattered. It’s not even something I’m aware of when it first starts to happen — it just happens.
But what if there was a device that actually measured your breathing 24/7, that could take notice when the first signs of stress were occurring, notify you, and give you a chance to do something to stop the spiraling process before it got out of hand?
That’s exactly what the Spire does.
• Spire’s custom activity and force sensors combine to identify periods where your breathing reflects a tense, focused, or calm state of mind. To do this, it senses the expansion and contraction in your torso and diaphragm as you inhale and exhale.
• Advanced algorithms in the Spire app classify your breathing patterns based on dozens of laboratory studies correlating respiration patterns with cognitive and emotional state.
• The guidance in the app is based on protocols from clinical studies to alleviate anxiety and pain, increase heart rate variability, reduce blood pressure, and more.
But before I get into my experience with the Spire, let’s cover the hardware first. Included in the box are the Spire wearable, a USB to microUSB charging cable, and an attractive inductive charging pad. The Spire measures 1.2″ by 0.6″ and it weighs less than an ounce. You’ll be glad to know that it is not only waterproof, sweat-proof, and washing machine-proof, it also has a seven-day battery life. The clip is a nice brushed aluminum, and the breath-measuring part is a gray, flexible material that looks like a stone but is soft enough to be affected by your breathing.
While the Spire is charging, it’s a good time to download either the iOS or Android app and get it set up. The app will walk you through the process, so the Spire can begin monitoring.
Now it’s time to wear the Spire; you are supposed to place it either on the waist of your pants or on your bra. If your placement and the resulting breath reading isn’t good, the app will let you know.
While you are wearing it, the Spire will use its respiration sensor and 3-axis accelerometer to measure your calmness, focus, and tension. Here’s a bit more info behind each of these functions. It will also measure your active minutes, sedentary minutes, steps, as well as your calories burned. What’s cool is that Spire will actually tell you what you were doing while you experienced your calmness, focus, and tension — as long as you took a photo while doing it or had the event on your calendar.
When you’re wearing the Spire, if it notices that you are tense and your breathing has changed, it will send an alert to your phone like this …
… and it will vibrate on your body. The app will tell you about the vibrations, and it will actually physically show you what they are like so you know.
When the Spire detects that you’ve had several minutes of tense breathing, it will alert you, interrupting “the cycle of tension and anxiety and [reminding] you to breathe deeply.”
Obviously, if you are in the middle of a life or death situation, a vibration on your body or a message from our phone isn’t going to mean a thing, BUT if you are stressing about one of those little triggers that we all come across during our day, the Spire will give you a reminder to stop and breathe.
If you are having trouble getting your breathing under control, Spire can help with that, too. Spire has a library of guided meditations, and guess what? They actually work. Check out the process below …
And sure, the Spire also tracks your physical activity and gives you notifications when you need to get moving and stop being a slug, but to me, that’s just an extra benefit. The main reason I wear the Spire is because it tracks me in real-time and when I get tense it reminds me to calm down — it is managing to do something for me that someone saying “calm down” could never do. It works.
If you, like me, tend to find yourself in stressful situations, there is a way to stop things before they get out of hand. If you’ll allow the Spire to help you, it can make a difference.It will stop you in your tracks when you’re feeling tense, and it will help you calm down.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Measures your levels of tension, focus, and calmness; Activity tracker; Included meditations for various situations; Washing machine proof; Battery lasts for 7 days
What Needs Improvement: I’m trying to come up with a negative, but I’m really happy with the Spire — if I hadn’t been sent one to review and I read how it worked for someone like me, I’d be buying one