Stress. A silent killer. Could Virtual and Augmented reality be the solution to this increasing problem that affects millions of people around the world?
In 2019, 94 percent of American workers report experiencing stress at their workplace. According to Wrike's United States stress statistics from 2019, only 6 percent of workers do not report feeling stressed at work. Around 23 percent of them described their stress levels as high, while 6 percent said their levels of stress were unreasonably high, reports the American Institute of Stress.
Workplace stress represents an increasing portion of modern life general mental health crisis. The pressure at work increases stress levels exponentially. This pressure mostly stems from tight deadlines, increasingly heavy workloads, and demanding bosses who sometimes seem to believe their employees are already robots, rather than humans with certain limits.
Once the stress levels have been overpassed due to work and if the condition is left untreated, it may result in the appearance of a serious illness, even some that rarely are linked to stress, such as the case of bone problems and some serious dental conditions. Stress, too, can lead to a decrease in productivity which affects both employees and companies.
Workplace stress statistics according to the American Institute of Stress include:
83 percent of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress
U.S. businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress
Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day
Only 43 percent of U.S. employees think their employers care about their work-life balance
Depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs
Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly
VR/AR for stress and anxiety towards better health and wellbeing
Stress, in modern medicine, is known as a terrifying silent killer. It affects every organ in the human body, as well as the mind and emotional wellbeing. Looking for ways to fight stress and anxiety today is not only tackled by medicine and pharmacology, but also by emerging technologies.
Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) have joined the fight against stress and anxiety. Through a series of simulations, users are induced into relaxation, meditation, and restorative sleep, all of which will contribute to the betterment of the biochemistry and physiology of the individual. We could see this very clearly at the recent Biohacker Summit 2019 in Helsinki.
How VR can manage stress and anxiety
Even though it may sound like science fiction, something that belongs to Stephen Spielberg's Ready Player One movie, the management of stress and anxiety using VR and AR is something real right now, before the second decade of the 21st century.
The world's first VR/AR platform powered by consumer wearables fights stress and anxiety
Powered by consumer wearables, Healium XR claims to be the world's first platform that differentiates itself from the rest by using real-time EEG feedback to increase feelings of positivity. This is achieved by placing the viewer in environments that are healed and transformed by their changing biometrics. To do this, the platform uses devices such as the Muse headband, or smartwatches.
Instead of the user's biometric data being sequestered on a smartwatch, their heart rate and brainwave data are brought to life in Virtual and Augmented Reality stories. According to the company, Healium is one-of-its-kind because it is a drugless, digital solution for the self-management of stress and anxiety that also offers a visual experience.
According to Healium, its immersive media channel aims to combat stress by using Virtual and Augmented Reality together with biometric monitoring. Its Virtual and Augmented Reality kit powered by the user's brain patterns and heart rate has demonstrated in clinical studies to reduce moderate anxiety by a third and increase feelings of positivity in the user rather quickly, in as little as four minutes.
The Healium VR application, which is available on Oculus Go, Gear VR, and Google Daydream headsets including Mirage Solo, harnesses the power of the body's natural electricity to heal or change virtual worlds. Healium can also be Augmented Reality only. For this, the Healium AR is available for iOS and Android devices and works without VR goggles.
These biometrically driven stories are powered by the user's own brain patterns and heart rate via a smartwatch or a brain-sensing headband. If the user's feelings of open heart or quiet mind are meeting a threshold, the virtual environment responds to the user's biometrics in a beautiful way.
How Healium VR works
If you find it difficult to imagine how a VR experience controlled by your thoughts and emotions could actually work, here is a step-by-step video guided by Sarah Hill, CEO and Chief Storyteller at Healium.
Back to our introduction on workplace stress and stress self-management, if VR solutions such as Healium could be implemented in offices around the world, the levels of stress could be reduced significantly. As a logical result, the levels of satisfaction, happiness, and productivity would dramatically increase.
The power of positive thoughts and emotions should never be underestimated. However, for most individuals, this requires some training. A VR solution that creates stories and recalls positive memories may just do the trick.