Learn more about Fitbit’s new Body Response feature in Sense 2

When people think about stress, they often associate it with feelings of anxiety and emotional tension associated with significant life stress. But this is only one aspect of stress. More broadly, stress is your body’s physical and emotional response to the demands of everyday life. Short bursts of stress can motivate you to meet a deadline or avoid danger, but if it lasts for a long time, it can have a negative impact on your health and well-being.

You know when you’re stressed, you can get sweaty palms or a racing heart. You may also notice various changes in your emotions, such as anxiety or excitement.

But did you know that it’s possible for your stress response to have varying degrees of physical and emotional components? For example, someone may experience no emotional changes, but show significant physical signs of stress. At the other extreme, one may experience significant arousal from an emotional standpoint, but minimal changes in heart rate and sweating.

Sources of stress can actually be positive, such as a promotion or a new baby. (Read more about the rise of stress here.) And of course, it can be negative, as is commonly known—like an overwhelming workload or a traumatic life event. It can also be triggered by trauma, exercise, and various substances such as caffeine.

The first step to effectively managing stress is to understand how often it occurs, what triggers it, and how you react emotionally and physically. To help you, Fitbit has developed a new algorithm to detect body reactions that can be caused by stress, excitement, caffeine effects and more.

This new feature is only available in Sense 2. It’s a proprietary algorithm that combines heart rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature and electrodermal activity to detect physical signs of stress referred to as physiological responses. Algorithms run continuously throughout the day to help identify these moments.

You can use this information as a prompt to pause and reflect on how you’re feeling and what might be triggering the reaction, then use that opportunity to reframe the situation or work to manage stress in the moment. Over time, this can help you identify patterns that you can use to predict potential stressors and plan ahead. (If you don’t have a Sense 2, you can use your daily stress management score in the Fitbit app to better understand the physical symptoms of your daily level of stress.)

It’s also important to know that we may not catch all of your stress symptoms. We can also capture “physiological responses” that are actually triggered by behaviors such as smoking or drinking caffeine. Because our detection is based on physical measurements, we can detect “stress” that you perceive as positive (ie nerves before karaoke or excitement during a promotion), also known as eustress. Whether it’s positive or not, for your body, they’re still stressful moments and it’s worth understanding when and how often they happen. Seeing those reactions—or getting a notification if active—allows you to check in with your emotional response to that event and ultimately learn to manage stress better over time.

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