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Samsung phone app can measure your stress levels

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

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Technology is often blamed for stressing us out so it seems only fitting that technology can now tell us exactly how stressed out we are. Samsung's Galaxy S5 phone already has a built-in heart rate monitor and now a new addition to the Health app puts it to good use by measuring your heart rate variability and graphing it over time.

Samsung's Galaxy S5 phone

Photo credit: Samsung

The makers say it's designed to give you more information so you can see patterns of stress and make decisions to calm yourself down.

While I totally agree that we all need to be less stressed — increases in the stress hormone cortisol have been linked to weight gain, heart disease and dementia among other things — I wonder if giving us more information is the way to do that. Sure, heart rate variability is a useful measure. Samsung says it can monitor a variety of physical and mental health conditions (although it should never replace your doctor). But I think watching my heart rate go up and down over the course of the day might actually stress me out more. Apparently I get stressed out just thinking about stress.

I already know I should be doing more yoga, meditation, journal writing and other calming activities but I also know that I have four busy kids with schedules, a job and a household to run, so until the latter eases up, the former is just going to have be on the back burner. Don't worry — I'm not sacrificing myself on the altar of Mommy Martyrdom. I do build some relaxation time into my schedule. But I think watching my stress peak during the day would probably just make me feel guilty about all the good stuff I'm not doing instead of allowing me to focus on the good stuff I'm doing at that moment.

Samsung's Galaxy S5 phone

Photo credit: Samsung

The app might be more interesting to me if it came up with suggestions for ways to ameliorate my stress when it spikes. Perhaps the app could automatically start some Florence and The Machine when my heart rate gets over a certain level. On second thought, having "Shake it out" blare out during a parent-teacher conference might end up causing more stress. I should probably stick to yoga poses. (Down dog in the parking lot?) 

Still, the technology is interesting and this is said to be the vanguard of a new wave of biometric functions in phones. Samsung even beat Apple to the punch with this latest innovation. So what's next? Blood sugar monitoring? Cholesterol screenings? It certainly would save some time with routine doctors' checkups.

More on stress

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10 Weird ways to reduce stress
Breathing techniques that reduce stress in five minutes or less

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