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With many of our stress levels rising in the past two years (for obvious reasons), it’s no wonder that we’re all looking for more unique ways to cope with both lingering pandemic anxieties, and the stressors of everyday life. Believe me when I say we’ve tried everything from sipping adaptogen-filled bevvies, to pounding our faces with massage guns, but a number of companies have been grappling with the question of whether wearable technology can actually help with our anxieties.
The best wearables for stress relief work a lot like fitness trackers — the technologies vary, but some devices are designed to help you monitor and improve your sleep, while others are made more for helping you calm down in a stressful moment. Wearable tech for stress relief shows a lot of promise, especially when many gadgets use sensors and provide biofeedback data (such as heart rate, interrupted sleep, and excess sweat), to help you get a better understanding of when and how stress effects you.
For skeptics currently scratching their heads, these gadgets don’t claim to be “cure-all”, or eliminate the root cause of your stress (and if they do, turn the other way). They’re more for helping you on your self-care journey in the same way that exercise, mindfulness, and work-life balance would. Most wearable devices either aim to help provide a kind of therapy at-home (such as meditation or breath work), or work like an activity tracker to give you insights on how to manage your stress.
These are the best wearables that we’ve found and tested to help on your mental health journey, whether you’re looking to calm your nerves, or find new ways to unwind after a long day. (Note: Tracking biological measures of stress is a fairly new area of tech, and we don’t profess to be medical professionals. If you’re experiencing severe mood swings or debilitating anxiety, it’s always best to speak to a doctor).
1. Apollo Stress Relief Wearable
If you’re stressed out, and already know you’re stressed, it might not be as helpful to have an app telling you every point in the day when your heart right spiked. But Apollo’s wearables give you a helping hand towards actually relieving stress.
We like how easy it was to incorporate the Apollo into our daily routing — it works by delivering smooth, gentle vibrations to your wrist or ankle that the brand says activates a nervous system response, helping get you out of a “fight or flight” state of stress. It connected smoothly over Bluetooth to the Neuro app, which features seven modes based on how you want to feel. While “Clear and Focused” had a stronger buzz, I personally felt like the “Sleep and Renew” setting was most effective for getting me ready to hit the hay. You can customize settings for duration (the battery can handle up to 8 hours of continuous use) and intensity.
We’re still testing out the Apollo, but it’s recommended you use it for at least 2 hours a day for 30 days to feel the full effects. Consistency is key here, because you’re essentially retraining your nervous system so that you can eventually manage stress a little easier on your own.
2. Cove Wearable
“I [use] Cove so I can make my mind work for me, not against me,” said NBA player Kevin Love, who’s a fan of using the Cove wearable during his workouts. Cove claims that one 20 minute session each day can reduce stress and improve mental performance, based on the science behind the device: stimulating the interoceptive pathway, your brain’s natural relaxation system.
Cove fits behind your head and hooks over your ears, almost like bone conduction headphones. It uses gentle, massaging vibrations during the session to activate that interoceptive pathway (and produce similar brain activity to when you’re meditating) to “relax” the brain. Cove has actually produced a study that showed the device could reduce stress (anecdotally) by 41 percent for those who wear it. As with most wearables on this list, it’s suggested that consistent use over time will get you the best results, and that it’s best used before a particularly stressful event (like a big meeting, or a first date).
Connecting your Cove to the app also lets you track changes in your sleep and stress levels, as well as access heart rate and accelerometer data. The battery life lasts about two hours, which is enough to make it through four sessions before recharging. The only downside is that you’re required to purchase a subscription to use the Cove device, similar to the Whoop strap — but if this isn’t a deal breaker, this wearable is great for when don’t want to force yourself to relax or focus. Just slip it on, and let Cove do the work.
3. Embr 2
We’ve praised Embr Wave’s original model before, giving it props for providing full-body, temperature-control relief. But the Embr Wave 2 isn’t just for helping with hot flashes or cold sweats — if your stress keeps you up at night this gadget helps you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer.
The Embr Wave 2 is as small and sleek as any wrist watch, and the circular build offers wearability and comfort for hours. With the press of a button, the wearable sends warming or cooling pulses against the skin inside of your wrist that are actually signaling your nerves. These 10-minute sessions send a “feel-good message” to your brain, that not only quickly provides relief to your entire body, but helps you cool down enough to sleep.
Their “advanced thermal technology” also allows the Wave 2 to deliver the most powerful cooling pulse yet, which felt more like a blast freezer than an ice cube on my wrist, and translated to a more noticeable drop in my body temperature. The Wave 2 feels like a much easier solution to stress-induced insomnia than then turning your bed room into a blast freezer every night.
4. Muse 2 Headband
The Muse 2 is another headband similar to the Cove, aiming to not only take your meditation ritual to the next level but to sense your brain. Worth in the front of your forehead, it has seven sensors, and after calibrating them on the app, you can pick between meditation sessions that focus on different areas of your body, from Breath Meditation, to Heart Meditation.
The most fascinating aspect of using the Muse 2 is that in an intriguing, almost sci-fi way, the seven EEG sensors on your scalp can also detect when you’re not focusing. The headband measures whether your mind is active or relaxed, and then translates that into sound that hopefully directions you back to being calm yet focused (if your mind wanders, you’ll hear ambient sounds of the weather that get progressively get louder). While that might feel like a teacher slapping your desk to wake you up in the middle of class, redirecting focus becomes easier the more you use it.
If you’re wondering how the Muse 2 monitors everything else, it’s also packed with a heart rate monitor, an accelerometer and gyroscope to monitor your movement and breath. Overall, the sensors work surprisingly well, and the app can show you your progress over time.
If you want to be a more active participant in your meditative practice, than the Muse 2 headband not only gives you proper insights, but accountability.