A little less than two years ago, I moved from the United States to Canada. Like most moves, it was incredibly stressful.
Immigrating to a new country, changing my job status, and my lapse in medical coverage — not to mention my wife and I were planning our own wedding that year — gave me anxiety, which was sometimes hard to overcome.
So, about a year ago, I decided to learn mindfulness techniques and strategies to cope with stress. (Here's me, looking stressed.)
Mindfulness is designed to teach you to be aware of your body, but to treat it with sympathy and curiosity instead of alarm. If you feel pain, you're supposed to try to examine the pain instead of reacting to it. Or, if it's too much to bear, to distract your brain so you don't focus on it so much that you go down a rabbit hole of worry.
One of the best mindfulness lessons is to focus on your breathing — and one of my favorite techniques is called "box breathing," where you breathe in for four or five seconds, hold it for four or five seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for another four or five seconds, then start the process again.
Here's former Navy SEAL Mark Divine demonstrating how to do box breathing, in case you're interested.
Occasionally, though, box breathing hasn't been enough to distract me from my thoughts. And that's why the Apple Watch Series 4 is so good.
I picked up an Apple Watch Series 4 a few weeks ago, and one of its best features is an Apple-made app called "Breathe." For just one minute (or longer, if you choose), the Apple Watch tells you to focus on the image on your wrist, and breathe in and out as that image expands and contracts.
The Apple Watch also provides haptic feedback, mimicking the feeling of lungs expanding and deflating. This makes it even easier to focus on your breath.
Whenever I activate the Breathe app on the Apple Watch, I feel way more relaxed by the time I'm done. Having the visual cue on the screen, and the physical feedback on my wrist, is significantly more helpful in helping me focus on breathing than just me alone.
And what's nice about the Breathe app is you don't need to be stressed out to use it — doing it a handful of times each day is a great way to improve your focus and concentration, as well as your mental (and even physical) health.
Of course, the Apple Watch is more than just the Breathe app: Being able to track my heart rate, and my physical exercise throughout the day, are also great feedback tools. If I'm not standing enough, or moving enough, the Apple Watch will tell me, and encourage me to take a brisk walk or exercise — which always helps with stress, too.
The Apple Watch Series 4 has all of the standard features you'd expect from a smartwatch, like getting the time and weather and notifications on your wrist, but its focus on health is where the Watch truly shines.
The Breathe app, in particular, isn't just a clever use of the Watch hardware; it's also a gesture of kindness, and one I truly appreciate as someone who's grappled with anxiety. If you have trouble dealing with stress, I'd recommend giving the Apple Watch a try.