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Wearable Tech: 3 Things You Can Learn from a Stress Monitor

What our correspondent learned after spending a week under the watchful gaze of the newest body tracker.
Wearable Tech: 3 Things You Can Learn from a Stress Monitor
Greg Broom

Countless new gadgets advertise the ability to monitor your stress. Some log heart rate; others record electrical impulses. Granted, the only 100% bombproof method would be collecting saliva and blood samples to chart your stress hormones. Even so, wearables do a really good job. For one week, I wore a Spire monitor ($150,, which tracks respiratory rhythms. Here are three things I learned. 

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Spire parses moods into four categories—calm, tense, activity, and focus—and knows how long you’re in each realm. It’s most valuable teaching you what makes you calm. I discovered that my longest stress-free “calm” periods occurred when I cooked for my family or read to my 5-year-old son before bedtime. I plan to do more of both.

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In what I thought were two very stressful events—an argument with my wife and a reprimand to my kid—Spire’s only reaction was to inform me I was “active” (duh, I was pacing). Perhaps this is good news? My big surprise: Alcohol triggers stress. A martini roused Spire’s “tense” alert after the first sip. But red wine didn’t. And since I live in legalized Colorado, I couldn’t resist testing Spire’s precision with a bit of cannabis. Predictably, it shifted into “calm” mode for two hours.

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While working, the Spire—pressed against my skin on my belt line—often drove me bonkers. Every 10 minutes it would text me (via my iPhone) that I was “tense,” then vibrate against my belly until my stress abated. At first this only made me more stressed! To keep calm—and meet my deadline—I shoved Spire into a file drawer. But even in exile, Spire kept at it, dispatching its admonitions: “You’ve been pretty sedentary for 60 minutes. Time to stretch your legs?” Yet I plan to keep using it.

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