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Stress busters! From a sauna in a sleeping bag to a massaging helmet, which gadgets does our expert Dr Alka Patel rate…

Stress can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response to vaccines, suggests recent research from Ohio State University, where to buy cheap actonel canadian pharmacy no prescription in the U.S. So, as the Covid jab is rolled out, there may be an even greater imperative to tackle it. ANGELA EPSTEIN asked Dr Alka Patel, a GP based in London, to assess a selection of products, which we then rated.

Breo iDream5s Eye & Head Massager, £499.99, breo.uk.com

Healthily app, free on the Apple App Store and Google Play


Healthily app, free on the Apple App Store and Google Play

CLAIM: This is described as a ‘medically approved self-care app’ (on the basis it has been ‘built by doctors’) to help users assess, track and manage their health, including stress levels, daily.

EXPERT VERDICT: You start by giving information about your health, which is used by a chatbot — a computer programme that simulates human conversation — to tailor advice. It takes you through a series of questions, including the PHQ-9 depression assessment used by doctors, and provides links to self-help guides and resources from nhs.uk.

You then use the tracker, which covers, for example, energy or mood, and enter how you are feeling each day in those areas. This might help you recognise triggers for stress, which could help you make changes.

Slow Cow Mind Cooler drink, pack of four cans, £6.99, amazon.co.uk


Slow Cow Mind Cooler drink, pack of four cans, £6.99, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: The calorie- and caffeine-free drink is flavoured with dragon fruit and citrus and contains plant extracts such as chamomile to ‘reduce stress’. The manufacturer says it can help promote ‘a feeling of natural calmness’, and is suitable ‘for everyone, old and young’.

EXPERT VERDICT: This contains botanicals such as extracts of passionflower and valerian, which are thought to have calming properties and which may help with stress.

Another ingredient, L-theanine, an amino acid extracted from tea leaves, can increase production of dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that improve mood and aid relaxation.

However, studies suggest you need a dose of 200mg to 250mg of L-theanine to reduce anxiety — and a can of this drink contains just 132mg.

Breo iDream5s Eye & Head Massager, £499.99, breo.uk.com


Breo iDream5s Eye & Head Massager, £499.99, breo.uk.com

CLAIM: A cordless, heated helmet which, the maker says, ‘soothes pressure points’ around the temples, head, eyes, scalp and back of the neck and helps ‘relax scalp stress’. Nodes inside the helmet press on ‘acupressure’ points as part of a warming massage.

EXPERT VERDICT: This uses the principles of acupressure — an ancient technique whereby pain and muscle tension is relieved by pressing key points of the body.

When focused on the eyes and head, it can help with discomfort, but it is not known to reduce emotional stress. However, just taking time out for relaxation is a stress reliever in itself. The additional benefits of a massage from this expensive helmet are hard to confirm, yet its warmth will add to a sense of comfort. 


Umi by Amazon Weighted Blanket for Sleep, Stress and Anxiety, £59.90, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: A blanket filled with glass beads which provide evenly distributed weight that’s said to work as ‘great sleep therapy for adults . . . with anxiety . . . or stress by offering the gentle sensation of being held’.

EXPERT VERDICT: The calming effect of a weighted blanket is thought to replicate the benefits of a hug, which triggers the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin. This may aid restful sleep, but there’s little specific research on the benefits of weighted blankets for stress.

One study of 32 adults, published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, did show that 63 per cent of those using one reported lower anxiety after use. But this was a small study and there’s no robust evidence to support their use to relieve stress.

Weighted blankets should not be used by anyone with obstructive sleep apnoea or asthma. 

Muse 2 Headband, £219.99, choosemuse.com


Muse 2 Headband, £219.99, choosemuse.com

CLAIM: Worn on your forehead and tucked behind your ears, this is ‘a multi-sensor meditation device that provides real-time feedback on your brain activity, heart rate, breathing and body movements to help you build a consistent meditation practice’.

EXPERT VERDICT: Meditation can alleviate stress as it helps people refocus away from their everyday concerns. This device aims to take the guesswork out by giving feedback on your breathing rate, heart rate and posture during your meditation session, all of which can give you increased awareness to optimise your mindfulness experience.

This is a useful device and, coupled with the Muse app, would be good for those new to meditation. But it’s expensive and deep breathing exercises, which can be done for free, could be just as good for those who are stressed.


Calmer device, £19.99, flareaudio.com

Calmer device, £19.99, flareaudio.com

CLAIM: A small device worn in the ear which, says the manufacturer, ‘reduces stress’ and ‘stressful frequencies without muffling sound’.

The earpiece is said to help wearers feel more relaxed by reducing the impact of stressful noises, such as ‘phone alerts’ and ‘dogs barking’.

EXPERT VERDICT: Some noises are innately distressing — the screech of brakes, for example — and will trigger the amygdala, an almond-shaped area in the brain, which then signals the release of cortisol, our stress hormone. Changing the vibrations of sounds can reduce their sharpness, and this device does that through a pair of ear plug-like devices that effectively reduce the volume.

However, while this may help people who feel pressured owing to, for example, noisy traffic or neighbours, I can’t find any published studies that suggest this will then alleviate general stress.


MiHigh Infrared Sauna blanket, £399, mihigh.co.uk

MiHigh Infrared Sauna blanket, £399, mihigh.co.uk

CLAIM: This is a plug-in, artificial leather blanket with a waterproof interior that aims to mimic infrared saunas. These, claims the maker, can ‘reduce stress, burn calories, and deliver that calm sauna feeling’. Use like a sleeping bag on a heat-proof surface, i.e. your bed, for up to an hour.

EXPERT VERDICT: Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas don’t heat the air around you. Instead, they use special lamps (which use electromagnetic radiation) to warm your body.

Studies suggest that an infrared sauna can reduce stress, help relaxation and increase the body’s release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. There is also evidence it can reduce inflammatory markers (which are linked to disease) and lower cardiovascular and dementia risk.

The blanket is pricey, but balanced against the cost of a gym membership and the convenience of a sauna in your own home, it’s reasonable.


Motion Nutrition Hormone Balance Supplements, £24.99, motionnutrition.com

Motion Nutrition Hormone Balance Supplements, £24.99, motionnutrition.com

CLAIM: A brand new supplement with, says the manufacturer, scientifically proven ingredients such as zinc, vitamin B6 and copper, which are designed to act as stress-shields.

This, it says, ‘takes you back to that same feeling of calm and quiet as walks at dawn by keeping your body’s hormonal levels in check’ and so you ‘stay Zen during stressful situations’ and ‘strengthen your nervous system in response to stress’.

EXPERT VERDICT: The supplement contains zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 — all of which are important, but are not actually hormones.

While the ingredients are beneficial, they can also be obtained directly from real food if you follow a balanced diet.

Spire stone, £197, directnine.uk


Spire stone, £197, directnine.uk

CLAIM: Resembling a small stone, this breathing sensor, which clips on to clothing, was created by the Calming Technology Laboratory at Stanford University in the U.S.

It contains sensors that track breathing and, if you are doing this slowly and regularly, it records on an app that you’re relaxed. If your breathing is tense or erratic, it gently vibrates to ‘prompt’ you to breathe at a slower rate.

EXPERT VERDICT: This is based on sound science. There have been studies to show a connection between your breathing rate and state of mind — the higher the rate, the more stressed you feel.

Developing an awareness of your breathing patterns is a useful skill as it means you can take steps to slow it and trigger the relaxation response. Something that helps you keep your breathing rate in check seems a good idea, though meditation may be just as effective.

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