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Using the Garmin Stress Tracking feature to identify triggers

[This article was written with assistance from ChatGPT.]


Advancements in wearable technology have provided valuable tools to monitor and manage biometric data. One such device is the Garmin VivoSmart 4, an affordable smartwatch with Stress Tracking, instant heart rate alerts and Body Battery score.

The Affordable and Feature-Rich Garmin VivoSmart 4

Among Garmin's wide variety of devices, the VivoSmart 4 stands out among as an affordable and feature-rich smartwatch.

(Side note: a newer model is available at a higher price: the VivoSmart 5. Aside from a larger display and improved touchscreen, the the differences are relatively minor. Both models offer the features mentioned in this article.)

It's important to distinguish VivoSmart with other similarly-named models that Garmin offers, such as VivoFit, VivoActive, and VivoMove, in addition to a more advanced line of smartwatches. However I steer people toward the VivoSmart for its balance of price, features, and impressive battery life (I get 3 or 4 days of usage from a single charge.)

Garmin's Body Battery Feature

One helpful feature is called Body Battery. It can you help you determine when to take a proactive rest, based on your body's expected energy levels. Garmin uses an algorithm, based-on your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and sleep data, to give you an idea of how much energy you might have to expend. It's not perfect. It may exhibit fluctuations that don't make much sense. So I use this as a data point -- not a definitive measure of energy reserves.

Game changer: Instant Heart Rate Alerts

The instant heart rate alert feature on the Garmin VivoSmart 4 has proven to be a game changer for me, allowing me to pinpoint triggers with remarkable precision. I get alerts within minutes (or even seconds) after specific activities or consuming certain foods and medications. The device vibrates and the display says (politely) "Breathe with me?" This feature has helped me identify patterns and associations, like "the perfect storm" of triggers occurring in the early afternoon. For me, this was a triple-whammy: the buzzer went off reliably after 1) having a big meal, 2) taking my second dose of Adderall for the day and 3) sitting slightly reclined. Armed with this information, I was able to experiment and determine exactly what's triggering my tachycardia.

The Significance of Stress Score

Another extremely useful feature of Garmin VivoSmart is the Stress Score, which estimates how hard your heart has to work when your body isn't moving. Initially I thought this was random. But it became more meaningful as I started really listening to my body.

You can sync the VivoSmart device with your smartphone using the Garmin Connect app. Here you can see graphs of various metrics (including Stress Score and Body Battery) over time. Using this method I was able to see that my Stress Score was unnecessarily high at times when I was just sitting -- or even sleeping.

Over time I developed a more intimate understanding of what causes my heart to race inappropriately. By paying close attention to activities, medications, foods and postures, I was able to deduce associations with sympathetic nervous system activation. Now I can take active measures to curb this score.


Comparison to other devices

I also use an Apple Watch and an Oura Ring. However neither of those devices offers the precision heart alerts, Stress Score and Body Battery features.


While not perfect, the VivoSmart 4 is an excellent option for those seeking a reliable and feature-rich smartwatch to support their journey toward better health and stress management.


I am not associated with Garmin or Amazon. I do not receive any compensation, evaluation devices or discounts from any source.