Stress can be detected instantly at any point of time without any prior preparations or appointments.
The term 'Stress' has become an integral part of our daily routines. There may hardly be a day when we do not lament about being stressed. The causes of stress range from our work environment to social media to domestic commitments in our personal life.
Stress - It is the condition of the body that involves abnormal functioning of the human body. It can be in the form of a reaction to external stimuli, such as pleasures, challenges, etc. Younger people have more stress because of the pressure to succeed.
When our body is stressed, it releases chemical messengers called ‘hormones’. These hormones try to normalize abnormal biological functions in the body. Some of the important stress-related hormones include cortisol, non-epinephrine, adrenaline, corticotropin-releasing hormone, etc.
If the outcomes of stress are expressed through chemical reactions, can we measure our stress levels? Nowadays, stress tests are routinely being performed in laboratories like a pathological laboratory, wellness clinics, clinical laboratories, etc. However, these tests require prior appointments, regulation of dietary conditions, etc.
Scientists are trying to overcome these limitations by developing point-of-care devices that can measure stress levels instantly, at any time point. Researchers at the University Of Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., have developed such a device to detect the stress levels. This device utilizes Ultraviolet light (U.V. light) and detects stress biomarkers.
Biomarkers - Biological indicators associated with any biological condition or processes inside the body. Thus, in stressful conditions, stress hormones act as biomarkers. Upon their release, these hormones get mixed with the body fluids like blood, sweat, urine, saliva and plasma.
Working model - When a drop of any of these fluids is placed in the device, the biomarkers in the sample are matched with the standard biomarkers. These standard biomarkers are embedded in the memory of the device. A test outcome is digitally displayed in the form of a number.
Cortisol, DHEA, adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine and aldosterone are some of the common stress biomarkers, which can be detected and measured by this device. You can know your stress levels within minutes!
This is one of the simplest and effective, point-of-care means for determining the levels of your stress at any point in time. Moreover, it saves the individuals from added stresses due to long-waits for the clinicians. It also reduces human-related errors that may be associated with laboratory tests.
An increase in the frequency of life-threatening actions has led to an alarming situation, especially for the younger populations. Point-of-care devices will play a crucial role in early detection of stress-related physical and mental problems. Early detection of these problems may help to save precious human lives.
Indian authors named Ms Anusha A S, Mr Jose Joy, Mr Preejith S P, Mr Jayaraj Joseph and Mr Mohanasankar Sivaprakasam had published a research work in the Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express Endorsed by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. The work was titled as ‘Physiological Signal Based Work Stress Detection Using Unobtrusive Sensors’ in the year 2018. WHO describes stress at work as "the Health Epidemic of the 21st century," as it uncontrollably destroys the mind and body by stimulating the onset and progression of many health disorders. Therefore, it is important to change strategies for the early detection of mental stress. This study can be a step towards the goal of developing a physiological stress-based psychological stress-detection scheme that can be combined into a portable vital signs monitor. The results suggest that these physiological parameters can not only reliably detect mental stress but also differentiate it from physical stress. The accuracy of voltage detection from laboratory tests in standardized environments is promising. However, replicating this accuracy for a larger and more diverse set of data in a less standardized real-world scenario is an important area of future work. The firmware and hardware still need to be advanced to develop a portable load detection system that reliably detects real-world pressures and provides feedback to the user.
Conclusion - When a stressful situation arises, try to get over it by indulging yourself into various activities like listening to music, sketching, writing, etc. This would help to divert your mind from thinking about any kind of stressful thoughts. If you still feel stressed out, it would be advisable to consult a professional.
Editor: Dr Prajakta Dandekar Jain
- Prajokta Ray, Andrew J. Steckl. Label-Free Optical Detection of Multiple Biomarkers in Sweat, Plasma, Urine, and Saliva. ACS Sensors, 2019; 4 (5): 1346 DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.9b00301