Meditation. Biofeedback. Deep breathing. Yoga. All are extremely valuable tools for combating chronic stress.

But many busy people aren’t willing to commit the time needed to master these methods. If only there was an easier way to control stress– one that involves little time or effort.

Well now there is.

Launched on January 31st, it comes in the form of a device called Apollo.

Heart Rate Variability Linked to Stress

Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. David Rabin has been studying the impact of chronic stress and how people adapt to it, often called resilience, for more than a decade.

One important aspect of resilience is its connection to heart rate variability (HRV) — the rate of change of the heartbeat over time.

If someone’s resting heartbeat is 60 per minute, this won’t be exactly one beat a second. Sometimes it will be slightly more, at other times slightly less.

The timing is controlled by the brain’s hypothalamus which — reacting to stimuli via the autonomic nervous system (ANS) — sends signals to stimulate or relax the heart rate as required.

Heart rate variability identifies imbalances in the ANS. In a state of stress, HRV is low, demonstrating less ability to switch gears and adapt. A person with a low HRV has a greater chance of developing physical and mental health problems and is less able to recover from them once they occur.

In a healthy state, the variation between beats is high, reflecting more flexibility, better adaptability to the environment, and greater resilience.

Expert meditators will have an HRV of between 120 and 200 milliseconds. For people under chronic stress it will be in the 20s to 40s range. The rest of us should be aiming for an HRV of between 60 and 120.

After five years of development, Dr. Rabin was ready to release Apollo this year to help people dramatically improve their resilience.

Worn around the wrist or ankle throughout the day, it delivers gentle waves of vibration to touch receptors in the skin to increase HRV and help people cope and perform better under stress.

The frequencies used have been tested and proved in a high-quality trial conducted on 38 healthy participants at the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. The trial showed Apollo’s vibrations can balance the ANS to enhance focus, calm and performance under stress. It has also been tested on over 2,000 volunteers.

In another trial involving nurses, Apollo reduced stress scores by over 47 percent in just 14 days.

The Importance of Feeling Safe

Dr. Rabin’s work with people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment-resistant mental illnesses led him to conclude that helping people feel safe is the single most important factor to facilitate recovery and healing.

Patients who are resistant to medication or any type of therapy find it impossible to feel safe, so the software was initially created to help these difficult cases.

Apollo succeeds in inducing a feeling of safety in the body. Preliminary results show the device has great benefit in terms of symptom relief in such patients. They report it’s like someone holding their hand or giving them a hug when they’re having a bad day.

In the lab it takes about three minutes for heart rate, breathing and brainwave patterns to change for the better. Different settings allow people to use Apollo to relax, have more focus, boost energy, elevate mood or prepare for sleep. The effects typically last for 30 minutes to two hours after the vibration stops.

In an interview Dr. Rabin said, “Over time, what will happen is that the software will continue to learn about your body and the way that you interact with it to optimize the timing of delivery and the specific settings that you receive, so that it works better for you.

“The more you use it, [the more] it grows with you and continues to teach you about how to be more mindful and how to be more present in your day-to-day life.

“So that over time, similarly to practicing yoga or similarly to practicing meditation, Apollo’s effects seem to come on more quickly as you use it, and they last longer because the people’s nervous system becomes tuned and practiced to the Apollo effect.”

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