Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Stre$$ed Out

Maybe it is the self-centered, $elf-$erving supremacism that is getting to me....

"Stress tracker could help find better ways to relax" by Karen Weintraub Globe Correspondent  September 27, 2015

Robert Goldberg wants to measure Boston’s stress. Then, he wants to relieve it.

His tool? A monitor strapped to the wrist that measures the steam-between-the-ears stress of rush-hour traffic or the soothing effects of an afternoon nap.

The neuroscientist wants to attach stress-readers to thousands of Bostonians, hoping the data will help identify which college triggers the most anxiety, which highway induces the most stress, and which companies have the mellowest workforce.

Then, he wants to take the same measurements of other cities to compare Boston’s stress index against the world’s. To measure this stress, Goldberg helped found and now runs Neumitra, a 6-year-old startup that has so far spent more than $1 million to develop a stress-tracker .

Ultimately, he hopes that awareness will help people reduce their stress levels.

“I founded Neumitra to see a world where mental health is quantified” like physical health, he said. The lack of hard data contributes to the stigma around mental health, said Goldberg, who has a family history of brain health concerns.

Look at the blood-from-the-fangs tribe he's from.

About a dozen public and private partners have agreed to work with Neumitra to distribute the technology to their employees, patients, or students, said Goldberg, whose company is underwritten by grants and private investors, and will eventually be funded by selling the tracker to companies looking to reduce worker stress. Privacy is protected, he promises, with partners getting only group-level data, not personal information. Participants will be able to turn off data sharing at any time. But managers who are pushing their staff over the edge might be outed.

Other local entrepreneurs are developing stress-busting technologies, too, said Ben Rubin, cofounder and chief executive of Change Collective, a website that offers self-help courses to promote healthy change....

I'm wary of any agenda-pushing claim to that effect.

The scientific understanding of stress has deepened over the last few decades, Rubin said, but most of that information has remained “locked up in the academic research or meditation/spiritual communities.” Now, technology is beginning to provide data on personal stress and emotional status, and new treatment approaches....

What if it is the technology stressing you out?

At Neumitra, Goldberg and his cofounders, algorithms engineer Safiyy Momen and biotechnologist Anand Yadav, say they’ve learned a lot about themselves from wearing wrist monitors that track their skin’s electrodermal response, a measure of stress commonly used in lie detector tests.

Don't often see that word in my paper unless it applies to bad guys.

Several unmarried Neumitra staffers have found that dating is one of life’s most stressful events. Gurteg Singh, a research scientist with the company, also recorded a major stress hit when he jumped off a T platform to rescue someone who had fallen to the rails.

Goldberg’s most stressful moment, his tracking shows, was in 2011, when he went to the Pentagon to pitch his monitor to the military’s top brass....

I'll bet the thing starts beeping and flashing when in combat.

The monitoring idea started in an entrepreneurship class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009, when Momen, Yadav, and Goldberg, then classmates, decided they wanted to do something on a grand scale to promote mental health....

GPS tracking, when turned on, will allow users to map where they are most high-strung. Goldberg said that by seeing where their tension starts to rise, users may be able to derive a measure of control.

The device vibrates to indicate rising stress, such as when rushing to a meeting, getting annoyed at a coworker, or blushing at a mistake. The vibration is enough to catch the wearer’s attention, but subtle enough that others won’t notice.

Are you sensing any vibrations now?

Goldberg’s own stress still spikes on the T and when he’s at medical appointments; it’s lower when he’s napping than when he turns in for the night. He has noticed that when he has a short or bad night of sleep, his stress levels are measurably higher the next day.

I'm about to call it a night.

The monitoring has also made him more sensitive to others, Goldberg said. Looking at the fever chart of someone with an anxiety disorder or anyone with a stressful profession or life “really starts to open your eyes to being empathic about what people are experiencing.” 

One word for you: Palestinians.


Did you know M.I.T. $tarted up a student legal department?

Being stressed out from reading the Globe has made me far less productive, so if it's all the same to you I'm going to take the rest of the month off to recharge. See you the 1st of October!

You can chew on this until then.