Smartphones aren't typically seen as reducing stress, but leave it to the tech industry to change that perception. If frantically checking work e-mails in bed, texting your mom from the toilet, or surfing Facebook over breakfast makes you break out into a sweat, soon you'll be able to use that same phone to measure exactly how stressed you are via an app that will measure cortisol levels and track them over time.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, and when it works properly, it provides energy to help us get through our daily tasks. Typically, levels are highest first thing in the morning and decline toward bedtime, but an extra injection of cortisol can be released when our bodies feel stressed. Unfortunately, when you're chronically stressed out—which is most of us—then you can overwhelm your system with cortisol, which causes all kinds of health problems including anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and, ironically, exhaustion.
“We have designed a method by which anyone with a smartphone will be able to measure their salivary cortisol level quickly, easily, and inexpensively,” lead researcher Joel Ehrenkranz, M.D., said when he presented the stress app last week at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago.
All you need is saliva and a specialized strip to spit on, and the app which will spit out (ha!) your results in less than five minutes. Traditional cortisol testing can be costly and take weeks to get the results back—a real problem since the accuracy depends on doing multiple tests over a period of time. The new test will only cost five dollars and allow anyone to track their stress levels; in fact, the researchers designed it to be so simple, a child could use it. Once people can see their stress patterns, they can take steps to reduce stress by changing their lifestyle, or follow up with a doctor if they have unusual results.
Sound cool? The app's still in the testing phase, but Ehrenkranz expects it to be out in 2015. While you're waiting, check out these simple ways to instantly relieve stress and boost energy.