The Stress Doctor Is In

It seems like just about everyone I know could use a little less stress in their lives these days. With all that has to get done on a day-to-day basis it can be hard to find the time — or to make the time — to just relax and catch your breath.

The goal of Stress Doctor by Azumio is to teach you to breathe more deeply, evening out your heart rate and calming you down in just five minutes. It does this by turning your iPhone into a real-time biofeedback device. Click “more” and I’ll show you how it works.

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Calm

Stress Doctor is uncomplicated, straightforward and ultimately very easy to use. (And that’s good, too, because the last thing stressed-out folks need is a frustrating, convoluted app, right?)

Upon launching the app the first time, I discovered an instructional video already queued up to show me how to use it. I recommend you watch it too if you install Stress Doctor and plan to use it, even though, for illustrative purposes, I’ll be outlining the basics here.

First watch an instructional video that shows you the right way to use the app.

First watch an instructional video that shows you the right way to use the app.

The Start button is pretty hard to miss — you’ll see it front and center on your screen. Tap it, and then place your index finger over the camera lens on the other side of your iPhone. You’ll want to keep it in place there (just press gently, not too hard) throughout your entire session. Stress Doctor recommends sessions be five minutes or longer.

Tips:

  • Make sure your fingertip is covering the camera lens completely.
  • Don’t press too hard on the camera lens.
  • Make sure your hands are warm before you start.
  • Don’t worry about covering your camera’s flash.

Calmer

As Stress Doctor begins calibrating to your pulse, you’ll see movement occurring on two different graphs. In the lower right, you’ll see your pulse graph and an oscillating wave that corresponds.

A small window and graph in the bottom right shows your index finger placement and pulse.

A small window and graph in the bottom right shows your index finger placement and pulse.

Taking up much more area in the center of your screen you’ll see your heart rate wave. With your goal being to smooth out this wave, per the instructional video, you’ll want to inhale when this heart rate wave is near the bottom of the screen and exhale when the wave is near the top of the screen.

In theory, over the course of your session, your heart rate wave will go from being uneven and erratic lines to smooth, even and regularly spaced lines. All you have to do is breathe slowly, deeply and consistently.

Work toward taking deeper, more even breaths to smooth your heart wave line. Earn yin-yang points when you succeed.

Work toward taking deeper, more even breaths to smooth your heart wave line. Earn yin-yang points when you succeed.

A yin-yang icon will appear below each wave you where you breathed consistently and effectively. Aim to get as many points for effective breathing and it becomes like a mini game that you can focus on while your heart rate comes down and your mind calms.

You can end your session at any time by tapping End Session, although Stress Doctor recommends a minimum time of five minutes. Details from each of your sessions will be saved under History, and from Settings you can elect to turn off “autosave sessions” or tell the app not to save short sessions (sessions shorter than five minutes).

Calmest

In History you can view all your past sessions. Scroll through your past heart waves from left to right; view your hear rate ranges for every session; and see how many yin-yangs you’ve earned so far this week, compared to the previous week, as well as how many total yin-yangs you’ve earned.

Turn autosave for sessions on or off under Settings. Share your session details via social media under History.

Turn autosave for sessions on or off under Settings. Share your session details via social media under History.

From History you can also share information about your Stress Doctor sessions with friends via Facebook or Twitter. And if you just want to delete a session, you can do that, too, by highlighting it and then tapping the trash can icon in the top right.

You can find the how-to video at any time under the Instructions tab, as well as read up more on why and how the app works. I admit that sometimes the science behind these kinds of things can be a lot of snooze-worthy jargon, but I actually found Stress Doctor’s “How It Works” explanation to be pretty fascinating. And more importantly, it made complete sense in every logical way possible.

It's worth taking the time to read about how the app works under the Instructions tab.

It’s worth taking the time to read about how the app works under the Instructions tab.

Total Clarity

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles in this app, but does there really need to be? Simplicity is key when we’re feeling overwhelmed, after all.

Speaking from personal experience, I admit that when I’m stressed out the last thing I’m capable of doing is just sitting still and taking a break to not do anything. It can be hard to ask your mind to go from focusing on seemingly everything to suddenly thinking about nothing.

What I love about the Stress Doctor app is that it still gives me something to focus on (that little heart rate wave) when I’m taking a five-minute pause, but via that focus I’m still lowering my blood pressure, evening my heart rate, smoothing out my breathing, oxygenating my blood, reducing anxiety, lowering my level of stress, and so on.

I can see myself trying to use this app for five minutes every day, and I think it could eventually make me so proficient at deep breathing that I would no longer need to rely on the app to quickly dial myself down during stressful situations. And who wouldn’t want that?


Summary

Turn your iPhone into a real-time biofeedback device that can show you a continuous graph of your heart rate to help you breathe deeper, lower your blood pressure, relieve stress and more.

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