Today, I’ll be doing a review of the StressEraser Biofeedback device. I ordered it from Amazon and have used it on and off for several years so I feel qualified to give it a thorough review. The cost of the device was around $100 when I first purchased it, but from what I’ve seen over the past few years, the price on Amazon seems to fluctuate a bit. I originally bought the device to help with stress, anxiety before exams, and for relaxation before bed.
Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures to provide of the unboxing of the device, but it came in an a fairly elegant package, sort of reminiscent of Apple packaging. The device feels solid in your hands, not cheaply made, and will stay reliable over time, as demonstrated by my years of use. It takes two AA batteries that last several weeks with light to moderate use. It also has a backlighting for the display that you can turn on and off which is very nice to use while relaxing in a dimly lit room. It also provides the option to turn the sound to low, high, or off completely. I do wish that they used a little more pleasant sound with the device than the obnoxious beeping (which you will be able to hear in the demonstration video below) as it can be quite irritating when trying to relax. This sound can be shutoff, but then this requires the user to keep their eyes open and on the device.
Now that I’ve talked about the device itself, lets dive into how well it actually works. The way the device is used is that the user puts there index finger into the little clip on the top of the device (see video). It’s similar to devices that I have seen at hospitals that they clip over a patient’s finger to measure heart rate. The device measures tiny changes in your pulse that biologically correspond to how rhythmic your heart rate is. In other words, by detecting these tiny changes in your heart rate, the device can deduce how rhythmically you’re breathing. In my experience, this seems to work fairly well, albeit not perfectly. Some biofeedback devices use a band around your stomach to measure breathing which could prove to be more accurate.
With the user’s finger in the heart rate monitor slot, the device is turned on and the user can begin their guided breathing. This device stresses rhythmic breathing not deep breathing. After the device warms up, a line begins to plot the user’s breathing in a wave (see video). The user breathes in slowly, and at the top of their breath, a small triangle will appear at the top of the screen, near the peak, indicating to the user that this is the ideal time for them to begin their exhale for optimal rhythmic breathing. The user then exhales for around 6 seconds (this can be adjusted slightly for different users) and can see the wave line decline to the bottom. The user then begins their inhale again and the cycle repeats. The number of blocks below each wave rate how rhythmic the user’s breathing is between one and three. Three blocks is the best, one is the worst. The goal is for the user to get waves that are as smooth and consistent as possible and three blocks under each wave that will indicate this consistency.
In my first experience with the device I was absolutely amazed. I sat down and made a goal to go to fifty breaths. (There is an indicator in the upper right that tracks your number of breaths for you) After just a few breaths of following the wave with my eyes that I was creating with your breath, a satisfying trance began to set in, just from watching the wave rise and sink. After thirty to forty breaths, a very profound sense of relaxation came over me that I have honestly never experienced in a natural form. I reached fifty breaths and I put the device down. I felt like falling asleep right there in the chair.
In subsequent months after that first experience with the device, I attempted to use the device before exams and at least once a day during the day to somewhat more varying degrees of success. What I really like about the device is that it provides many of the benefits of meditation but in a more structured form. For others like myself that have lots of trouble enduring the unstructured experience of attempting to meditate on your own, by yourself, without guidance, this device provides a very good alternative.
I have attempted to use the device during rare bouts of extremely high levels of anxiety and it won’t bring me down from that. Although, if your anxiety level is reasonable this device can work very well. I have found that the length of maintaining that state of relaxation after using the device can get better with consistent use.
I do have one major gripe with the device. I will sometimes use it to take a break from stressful or frustrating things in life and I will actually end up more frustrated. I will begin to use it and I won’t be able to get into a flow with my breath. The wave displayed on screen will be all over the map due to relatively erratic breathing. I will make repeated attempts to calm my breathing down into a rhythmic pattern, but the consistency of the wave will keep breaking, quickly. Every time it breaks and it detects breathing that is not rhythmic it will give the aforementioned high pitch beep which certainly does not help relaxation levels. I wish they would provide a way ease the use into rhythmic breathing and give the user positive feedback that they’re improving even if they’re not at a perfect level right away. They also need to get rid of that darn high pitched beep!
In conclusion, I would absolutely recommend the device to anyone looking for a way to reduce stress or anxiety in their lives. Compared to other forms of natural anxiety reduction techniques, I would have to say that this provides the best combination of effectiveness without a requirement for disciplined practices such as traditional meditation that provide a barrier to results.