Garmin’s watches are no longer simply there to tell you how far you’ve run, or how many laps you swam before work. Most will now also tell you how stressed you are.
It’s designed to help you make decisions about your day. Whether that’s choosing to train or take a rest day – or see if there’s something going on with your body under-the-hood.
We’ve spent a lot of time with Garmin’s stress features since they first rolled out, so if you’re still trying to get to grips with what everything means, and want to know what you can do to lower you stress, here’s all the key things we think you need to know.
What does Garmin actually mean when it tracks stress?
This is a really important thing to address first before we get into how Garmin tracks stress and to better understand the stress data it fires out.
Garmin monitors the body’s natural response to challenging events in your day. So how your body reacts for example to sitting in an important, intense meeting or you’re working to a deadline or stuck in traffic.
While things like training, sleep quality, nutrition and physical activity can impact on stress, Garmins doesn’t include workout time for its all-day stress tracking features. So this really about exploring the time in between that.
It does have dedicated features built around that training time, so if you want to look closer at stress and training, you can look at things like performance condition and Training Stress Scores (TSS).
With the all-day stress tracking though, Garmin wants to tell you when you’re stressed, help you better understand what might be driving that stress and can even get you back to a more relaxed and calmer state.
You can read our deep dive into wearable tech stress tracking.
Which Garmin devices offer all-day stress tracking?
If you’ve bought a Garmin device over the last few years, then chances are you have access to these stress tracking features.
Everything from the Garmin Vivosmart 4, Garmin’s Forerunner range including the Forerunner 55, Foreunner 245/745/945, the Venu series (including the budget Venu Sq) and its latest Fenix 7 and Epix (Gen 2) watches offer stress tracking.
Essentially, any Garmin watch released in the past couple of years has the stress score included.
Where can you find the stress tracking features?
Depending on the device you’re wearing, you should be able to find you stress data as a widget or glance as Garmin calls it. If you can’t see it, you might have to add the stress widget, which you can do by scrolling all the way down to the last glance (widget) on your screen where you’ll find the option to Edit and add new glances.
Once you’ve added it, you should be able to see your real-time stress score, as long as you’re wearing it of course. It’s ideal to wear your watch as much as possible if you want to get the most personalised stress data feedback.
Wearing it to bed while you sleep can play an important time as stress levels are generally lower during that time. According to Garmin, this can help to create a more reliable range of your stress and relaxation moments.
You can also find stress tracking data inside of the Garmin Connect app. From the My Day screen, tap the three horizontal lines in the corner of the screen to get to the main dropdown menu. Tap Health Stats and select Stress to delve deeper into your data over time.
How does Garmin track stress?
The method that Garmin uses to track stress is pretty much how most wearables these days promise to track it and that’s through heart rate.
Specifically, it’s looking at heart rate and heart rate variability. That’s the measurement of the time interval between heartbeats. When there’s less variability in those time intervals, it can be an indicator of stress. When there’s more variability in intervals, you should be feeling less stressed.
Garmin takes that information and assigns a number on its stress chart or you can consider your device giving your stress level a score. Here’s a breakdown of the scores and what they should tell you:
- 0-25 – Resting state
- 26-50 – Low stress
- 51-75 – medium stress
- 76-100 – high stress
Essentially if you see a number with an orange bar alongside it, that’s an indicate that you may be experiencing stress. If it’s blue, then you’re back to a calmer state.
Interpreting stress data?
Now while Garmin can tell you you’re stressed, it can’t tell you why you’re feeling stressed.
What’s more, physiological stress can be caused by stressful feelings – but also things like illness, fatigue and overtraining. So there’s quite a lot of deduction and guesswork involved in interpreting your stress score and making use of it.
On the wrist, you can see stress data over the last 4 hours of your day and over a week. For a more detailed breakdown, including much longer timescales, head to the Health Data > Stress Score section in the Garmin Connect smartphone app.
Keeping tabs on your scores can help you correlate what’s happening in your life with spikes in daily stress.
It’s also important to remember here that there are both positive and negative events in your life that can cause stress levels to elevate. By looking at those trends in your data, it can help to better understand why you’re regularly feel stressed around certain events.
In addition to drawing your own conclusions from the data, Garmin can step in and offer some help.
On compatible watches, when stress levels are high, they’ll prompt you to consider making use of guided breathing exercises you can follow on the watch to help you relax.
How can you lower your stress score?
If you’re getting high stress scores, or you just want to keep things under control, then standard advice for stress relief applies – and sadly there’s no magic button on your Garmin watch to get things back under control.
Guided breathing exercises can act to help release tension, and slow down the heart to get you to a much calmer state.
We spoke to Chloe Brotheridge, a Calmer You therapist, who told us that guided breathing is a great way to reduce stress:
“Focusing on your breathing is a form of meditation. There is loads of evidence that meditation calms the mind and body and making a game of it could be ideal for those who feel they can’t do traditional meditation. Deep breathing calms the fight or flight response and paying close attention to your breathing is a way to strengthen your mindfulness muscle, helping you to be in the moment and engaged in the here and now.”
And then there’s the standard set of good health advice, backed up by the official Garmin blog:
Regular exercise can help your body better adapt when it needs to properly relax – but remember that one-off workouts can actually stress your body, so ease in gently and start a training plan. Garmin Connect has a few of these you can follow.
Cutting back or ditching alcohol is also another way to reduce stress as it can also have an impact on sleep quality, which is also another way to reduce stress. Get to bed on time and consistently for a few days can have a big effect.
Giving your body enough time to recover from the rigours of your day can help keep those stressful moments at bay.