Spire: A New-age Anxiety Gadget

Spire: A New-age Anxiety Gadget

I love trying out new things that might help with my anxiety. My motto is, “If you don’t try it, you will never know.” I’ll try anything once, (within reason! you tell me that swimming cage-free with sharks cured your anxiety, and I’ll tell you I’m so glad it worked for you but that I will definitely PASS on that!) and even if it doesn’t help me, that doesn’t mean it won’t help SOMEONE. So I try to keep an open mind with various coping mechanisms and gadgets. I personally think everyone with anxiety should be open to trying things within their personal boundaries, because who knows what might work for you!?

My previous counselor in Oregon, (Shout-out to the fabulous Nancy Olson, she’s seriously amazing!) knows that I like trying new things, and that I’m usually open to giving anything a try. With that in mind, we send a lot of “Cool Finds” back and forth, whether it’s new research, a new coping mechanism, or a cool story, etc. A few months ago, I had sent her an info link about a new product out on the market called Spire. I had thought it looked pretty cool, but it was a little out of my budget at the time, and I wasn’t sure how it worked or if it even looked legit, so I passed up buying it. She ended up purchasing one for her office, and when I visited in June, she asked if I wouldn’t mind trying it out and giving her some feedback on how it works. I was totally game, and told I her I would try it for a few weeks and let her know when I got back to Oregon in August.IMG_9529

What is Spire?

So what is Spire? It’s a small, oval shaped breath and activity tracker, that monitors your breathing and heart rate, and lets you know when your body is experiencing a whole host of conditions, such as tension, calm, focus, and activity. It’s not just for people with anxiety, but also for those who want to optimize their time, or for those who experience a lot of stress every day. It works by helping the wearer to be more mindful, and gives feedback at the end of the day.

 

What does it do?

According to the website, Spire is designed to “help keep you in sync with your mind and body by measuring your breath, all day, and alerting you to sudden changes.” You wear it either on your center bra strap, or hooked to the top of your underpants, in a place where it can “feel” your breathing. I tried it first on my bra, but it kept telling me to reposition, so I tried the underwear and it worked flawlessly after that. It needs a slightly different spot for each person, since no body is the same, so play around with it until you find the place where you get the most consistent readings.

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As you breathe, the Spire will monitor your breath patterns, and identify them as Calm, Tense, or Focused. When it identifies a change in the pattern of your breathing, it will note it, vibrate the signal that corresponds to that pattern, and send a notification to your phone via the free app. Especially if you are tense, knowing right away can allow you to take a few moments to change your breath and calm your body down. It also lets you know when you have had a calm or focused streak, so you can hone in on what you were doing to achieve that state-of-mind.

As a side-note function, Spire also tracks your activity level, and reminds you to get up and move. I found this function slightly irritating, but I also couldn’t figure out how to program it correctly, so it was telling me to move every 10 minutes. I’m sure there is a feature to change this, but as it was a trial, I didn’t want to mess with it TOO much.

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What did I think? The Good News

I wore the Spire for a solid 2 weeks, everyday, from morning until around 8pm. For the most part, it was very comfortable, I hardly knew it was there. I was a little concerned because it has the texture of a stone, and I thought it might be irritating to have a stone against my skin all day, but surprisingly, I barely felt it. The only time I didn’t like wearing it was when I was laying on my stomach, watching a movie, because it pressed into my hip bone, so I would just remove it, and let it sit beside me, or put it back on my bra for that time.

As far as managing my breathing, I think it’s a pretty cool little device, but it wasn’t super helpful for me personally. I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks for 10 years now, and one of  the first things you learn in counseling is how to monitor your feelings and breathing. I’ve always used breathing to help me cope with my anxiety, so it wasn’t that Spire didn’t help, it’s just that it was telling me information I already knew. However, I did REALLY like the breathing game that the free app uses to help you calm your breathing. You breathe with your Spire on, and it corresponds in real time to a game on your phone designed to help you slow and control your breathing. It was super helpful a few times when I really needed a visual aid to help me focus my breathing.

The tension setting is nifty as well. It feels when you start to tense and sends a message to your phone. This would be a very useful tool for someone who is new to the anxiety game and doesn’t notice when they start to escalate. The device lets you know you’re feeling tense by vibrating two long buzzes, and then the message prompts you to open the app and play the breathing game. I can see this being a great tool to help you learn to recognize panic attacks before they hit full force and to take some preemptive measures.

A side note, charging your Spire is SUPER easy! It comes with a wireless charger, so you just take it off and set it on the charger. The charger even has a port to plug your cell phone charger to it, to keep your charging space clutter free!

 

The Not-So-Good News

There were only two problems I saw with this device in the short time that I wore it. The first one I have already mentioned, and that is that the activity tracker kept prompting me to move around WAY more than it needed to. It was sometimes distracting when I was trying to focus on something at my desk. However, like I said before, I’m sure this can be changed in settings if you purchase your own.

The second issue I had was that while it’s super useful to know when you are tense, sometimes your breathing is tense when your body isn’t. For example, Spire can’t tell the difference between the beginning of a panic attack and the suspense of Frodo and Golem struggling at the top of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. I found that even when I was reading a novel and it was a suspenseful part, Spire would tell me I was feeling tense. I’m like “I KNOW SPIRE, KING HENRY IS GOING TO FREAK OUT ON ANNE BOLYEN, IT’S KIND OF AN INTENSE THING!” But it’s better safe than sorry, and you can always just ignore the notifications if you feel like it’s a false alarm.

The End Review:

All in all, I would definitely recommend this device to anyone who is looking for help becoming more mindful and noticing when they are feeling tense. I will probably not be purchasing one, simply because I don’t think I would put enough effort in to really get anything that I don’t already do on a daily basis out of it. But Spire is also great for people without anxiety, because it can help you understand what you need to do to keep yourself focused in on your tasks, and it’s activity reminder could be great in the corporate setting. It’s just a very useful tool for anyone who wants a little extra help with mindfulness, and how much you get out of it depends on how much effort you put in to use it. If you end up trying it, let me know in the comments or in an email what you think of it! I would love to hear if it worked for you, and let me know if there are any products you would like me to try!

Many thanks to Nancy for always suggesting new and exciting things for me to try, and for being such an amazing Counselor!

You can read all about Spire on their website here

You can read User Testimonials here

You can get more information about Nancy Olson here

Cheers!

Kyra

 

 

Don’t ask me how I am…

Don’t ask me how I am…

*A note about this piece: This is a rant. It is not a call for help or anything else terrifying. It’s simply a free write that I found very helpful at the time to write, and it is in no way meant to be directed at anyone in particular. It’s more of a “From the inner workings of my mind” piece. It was helpful to write, and I hope it is helpful to read, if only for the comfort that someone else is going through this too.*

Don’t ask me how I am…

Don’t ask me how I am,

Because you don’t want to know.

You want to hear “I’m great,” or “I’m doing well” or “It’s hard, but I’m adjusting,” or “I’m fine.”

But I’m not great, I’m not doing well, I’m not adjusting, and I’m not fine.

I’m barely surviving, living in this hell hole of heat, and allergies, and my own heartbreak.

I’m clinging to everything around me because if I let one part go, it might all fall to ruin.

I look great on the outside, my home looks so put together, and I’m the “Perfect Wife” because to be anything less than great, or organized or perfect feels like failing. It make you pity me, and I don’t WANT your pity.

I don’t text back, or call, or see you when I visit because it hurts too much to let that feeling in. That feeling where I matter to someone and they matter to me. IT HURTS!

Everytime my phone beeps or rings, it’s a reminder that I’m far far away, that I can’t get back to you now, and you can’t get to me, and I’m ALONE.

Homesickness is a parasite that holds to my heart against all of my attempts to remove it. It’s a crippling, destructive and painful reminder that althought this place is beautiful, and these people are kind, this isn’t my place and they aren’t my people.

It feels like they will NEVER be my people.

I go out to try to distract my heart from the leeching and sucking of the homesickness that winds its way through every fiber of my being, but the mall is like MY mall, and the stores are like MY stores, and every time I try something on I’m reminded that I have no one to show it to. No one here wants to tell me if this pink sweater makes me look like piglet.

You tell me “Just make some friends, then you’ll be happier!”

Right, because when I’m looking for a friend I look for the quietest, most sullen and depressed looking creature in the room and go “There! That’s the one to be friends with!” Yea… No.

No one needs that. No one wants to bring this into their lives right now.

So don’t ask me how I’m doing, because you REALLY don’t want to know. Don’t ask me how I’m doing because “Great” and “fine” and “I’m adjusting” are just concealer to hide what’s actually happening underneath..

I’m Drowning.

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The Dark Side; They don’t have cookies!

So this is what this blog is really about. If I only posted about the good days, or about the things that work for me, and never showed you what actually happens for me, then what good would this blog do?  I want you to know that even though it looks like it, I don’t have it all together, and I do have weaknesses, major ones.

Yesterday and today have been what I just loosely term as “Rough Days.” I’m under a ton of stress lately, with moving, my dance company’s tour, planning bridal showers, bachelorette parties, Spring Recital for Dance, and making sure I get to see everyone I want to see before I move, and I have a hard time admitting that all of that would be difficult for someone without anxiety. I spend a lot of time telling people “I can do everything a ‘Normal’ person can, I just have to do it in a different way,” but I often forget that sometimes a different way means a more difficult way too.

So what does it mean when  say “Rough Days?” For most people, a rough day means that they had something happen that upset them, or that was difficult, and so it was a harder day than a normal day, when things go pretty much the way they want them to. For me, that is a definition of a good day. Many people forget that for me, and for many people like me, anxiety doesn’t just happen on “Rough Days.” Anxiety is a battle I fight every single day, from the moment I wake up until I (hopefully) fall asleep. My “Rough Days” are the day when anxiety wins. They are the days when I lose control of my emotions, and when I lose control of myself. Everyday is exhausting, but “Rough Days” are even more so, because even when my anxiety wins, the battle isn’t over.

When I admit to myself that anxiety has won that day, a whole new struggle begins. The voice in my head that says that I’m not good enough, that I’ve failed, and that I am not worth the effort. It’s the voice that says I’m a bad wife, a bad daughter, and that I don’t deserve to be happy, all because anxiety won today. It’s when I feel hopeless, and when it hits me hard that this is forever. I will fight this battle every day, for the rest of my life, and sometimes I will lose. Sometimes it will be more than I can bear, and it won’t matter what techniques I try, it will win.

Yesterday, I had to say goodbye-for-now to a very close friend, who’s like my brother. And I know that since I am moving to Tennessee, and he is stationed in San Francisco, that we won’t see each other for a pretty long time. After hugging him goodbye, and watching him drive away, I was suddenly hit with immense anxiety, anger, and sadness. With anxiety, big emotions often become even bigger. My anger at having to move far away was escalated, and my sadness about leaving such wonderful friends and family here in Oregon was overwhelming. The tears began, and with them came shaking, ragged breathing, dizziness and all my other usual symptoms. My normal coping mechanisms were powerless against this new wave of anxiety, and it took me for quite the ride. Drew was luckily there to be a presence in the room, but rarely is anyone able to help much when I am this deep in the dark. I cried for what seemed like hours, alternating between curling up on the bed and trying to go through my nightly routine. Finally I was able to calm myself enough to call my mom, who was able to talk me the rest of the way down. (Bless her heart, she’s a genius, and I don’t know how she does it.) This morning, the anxiety is still elevated. I can feel it just behind my ribcage, waiting for me to have a weak moment so it can squeeze it’s way back in. Luckily Zipper, (my emotional support dog) is here, and is keeping very close tabs on me. Today will be hard, but it will get better as it goes, and as I recover from last night.

I’m not here to tell people that it’s all sunshine and rainbows with anxiety, because it’s not. Sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes you think that it’s not worth it. But this is the just the Dark Side of anxiety, and while it is sometimes hard to see the good in it, I will survive, and I will keep fighting. You, readers, are a big part of why I will keep on fighting. I want you to know that I’m a real human, and that this is something you CAN live with. All mental illness is a little bit different, but keep fighting, because life is worth living. This morning God gave me a ray of sunshine through my window to wake up to, and I had a little chocolate with breakfast. Today will be about self care and success, and I will keep going. Thank you for going on this journey with me, I appreciate it more than you know.

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Zipper crawls in my lap as a distraction

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Another way he helps is by asking to be walked or to play

 

All My Life

Hi there, and welcome to my blog! If you don’t already know me, my name is Kyra, and I’ll explain the blog in a moment, but first, a little about me! I’m 24, and have been married to the love of my life, Drew, for almost 2 years. I’m a pet mom to my cute Cocker Spaniel, Zipper, our 2 kitties, Felix and Binx, and my Paint Horse, Sully. I have an English Degree from Oregon State University, I’m a member of the Oregon State University Ballroom Dance Company, and I lead a local dog 4-H group. I also nanny part time, and substitute teach at a local childcare center. For fun, I write, read lots of historical fiction and classic books, and bake. Yes, I know, a pretty full schedule. People tell me all the time that they can’t believe how busy I am, but I wasn’t always able to do everything I do. There was a time, not very long ago at all, that I couldn’t even stay the night away from my parent’s home. The thought of going on a day trip with friends made my stomach hurt, and leaving my house took a pep talk and medication. Why? Because I am living with High-Functioning General Anxiety, and Depression.

For years, I have been gathering information about Anxiety and mental health as a whole. I have been blessed with anxiety since I was 6 years old, but we didn’t get an actual diagnosis until I was 15. After that, I began my search for a “Cure.” ( which I will explain in just a bit.) When I turned 18, it was time to leave for college, and that is when my focus changed from finding a “cure,” to just finding ways to survive. Looking for coping mechanisms was much more successful than looking for cures, by the way, and as I started to see a change, I began to dream of someday feeling brave enough to write this blog.

One of the main purposes of this blog is to share experiences with anxiety, (both my own, and those of others,) with the world, so that other people might be helped. I am Christian, and I believe that God gave me this disorder so that I can help others to live fuller, more meaningful lives. (This is also why I usually replace the words “Suffer from Anxiety” with “Blessed with Anxiety.”) I hope this blog becomes just one of many tools that I can use to help people living with mental illness.

In this blog, you won’t find a “cure” for anxiety or depression, and you won’t find much complaining or “woe is me” talk. I don’t believe that my anxiety can be cured, I think it is something I will always deal with, and that’s okay with me. The good news is, there are millions of coping mechanisms and practical solutions out there, as well as many people going through the same things, and that is exactly what I plan to share here. Not all of these solutions will work for me, or for you, and that is perfectly fine. One thing I have learned so far about mental illness is that each person is so unique, meaning the things that help them are unique too! I hope that some of my suggestions are helpful, even if not all of them work.

But this blog isn’t just for those who have mental illnesses, it’s also for everyone else! I will be including material that resonates with me about what I want people around me to understand, as well as hints and tips about how you may be able to help someone with a mental illness. I may even include a few suggestions from my trusty husband, who puts up with so much and who loves me no matter what irrational fear I have that day.

My final hope for this blog is that it becomes a conversation that will help take down the stigma surrounding mental illness, so that people who need help might be more comfortable asking for it. Feel free to use the hashtags that I use, in your social media activity: #losethestigma #youarenotalone #letstalkaboutmentalhealth

I hope you find this blog uplifting, funny, loving, and above all, a place to feel safe and welcomed, no matter what you’ve been blessed with. I love people, I’m (according to my husband) brutally honest, and I want to be here for you, wherever you are in this crazy life. I believe in a world where mental illness is just another disease that we all work together to combat and defeat.

Please like, share and comment away, so that your friends and family might be able to ind some helpful solutions as well.

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