They are tons of apps to help you calm down once you're in a stress and anxiety spiral, but wouldn't it be great if there was an app to help you before you fall into the anxiety abyss? A personalized mental-health app that monitors your nervous system recently launched as a new self-regulation tool to help users better manage stress and anxiety. Airo Health is an app that works in tandem with a wristband to measure the state of your nervous system on a second-by-second basis, and it alerts you when it senses your stress and anxiety levels rising.
"It gives you back the control of your life, and it lets you objectively measure your anxiety so no one can say 'it's not real' or 'just get over it,'" a representative from Airo tells Bustle via email. Airo uses statistical analysis to detect stress and anxiety, and as soon as it detects a rise in stress levels, it buzzes silently to make you aware of it so you can take action to stay in control before things get out of hand. Once Airo alerts you to rising stress and anxiety, the app guides you through a personalized breathing exercise to help you actively reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
Surprise! The Body & Brain Aren't Always In Sync
While you might think that you already know when you're beginning to feel anxious or stressed, a study published in the journal Biological Psychology found that the body often processes feelings of stress and anxiety before the brain. People who are more mindful of their bodies' reactions to stress are often better able to manage stress and anxiety before it gets out of control, whereas people who are not in tune with their bodies have more difficulty adapting to stressful situations, the study concluded.
"Your body looks at most situations you meet — people, red lights, losing your phone, meetings, seeing your lover, breaking up, and even your own thoughts — in two ways: 'fight-or-flight' or 'rest and digest,'" Airo explained on its website. When your body is in fight or flight mode, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into overdrive whereas when you're in rest and digest mode the parasympathetic nervous system is in the driver's seat. Hint — this is the one you want driving your bus most of the time.
Airo tracks which of the two nervous systems are firing, and when it senses the sympathetic nervous system start to override the parasympathetic nervous system, it lets you know — sometimes before you're even consciously aware of it.
Listening To Your Body Helps You Stay Well
If your body and brain are not passing along messages to each other, you might not even be aware of your specific stress and anxiety triggers. By monitoring your nervous system, the app can help you identify triggers, walk you through ways to exit fight or flight mode, and return to the preferred rest and digest state.
This little anxiety and stress reducing personal assistant isn't free. Airo costs $199, but if you're spending a lot of money on other things that aren't helping to reduce stress and anxiety, it might be worth it to get personalized data about how your body works because anxiety and stress treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Once it learns how your nervous systems works, the app recommends things that could help you feel more relaxed and productive, which ultimately leads to spending less time in the anxiety abyss.
"By watching my stress levels before and after specific activities, I was able to see what exactly worked for me," one user told Airo. "I have added gym, breathing exercises, and drinking water to my schedule on Airo’s advice. Knowing that I have struggled with mental health issues, and knowing that I want to accomplish great things, it is important for me to understand myself and know that I have what I need to do to stay on the top of my game."
While some aspects of technology can feel a little too Black Mirror (like companies microchipping their employees), technology that advances mental health and wellness is pretty boss. From anxiety trackers to genetic testing to find the right anti-depressant to a pill that includes a sensor so doctors can track that patients are taking their medication as prescribed, the digital revolution is helping more people with mental health disorders stay well.
If you have anxiety or depression, then you know that finding exactly what works for you is like throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. The process can be years-long, incredibly stressful, and can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health in the process. Using digital innovation to shorten the seemingly endless game of mental-health-musical-chairs treatment experiment is one technological evolution I can get behind.