Believe it or not, a little bit of stress is actually a good thing for our brains and bodies. From a neurological and evolutionary point of view, small amounts of short-term stress help us get work done faster, improve our memories, and keep us alert in situations where attention is key.
It’s when stress becomes prolonged or “stuck” that the six-letter word becomes an infinite nightmare. Chronic stress feels awful, tends to pervade, and not only affects our personal and mental health but the general mood and wellbeing of our friends and family, too.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deal with unhealthy stress levels, and our smart homes offer plenty of engaging, inspirational, and assertive tools to kick stress out of the driver’s seat of our lives.
Set the mood with automated blinds and lights
Let’s face it: Not everyone enjoys the blinding light of the morning sun. Sure, our blackout curtains do a decent job at keeping the day at bay, but when it’s time to plant both feet on the floor to begin the 9-to-5 in earnest, sometimes yanking back the curtains and pulling up the blinds can be a bit stressful on our freshly-awake eyes.
One great way your smart home can help you begin the day a bit more progressively is with a set of motorized smart blinds. Available in all shapes, sizes, and material types, smart blinds connect to either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can often be controlled through a companion app on your phone (or a proprietary remote if an app isn’t available.)
are a great set of starter blinds that can be programmed to raise and lower at certain times of day and can even be voice-controlled with Alexa and Siri if you purchase the company’s bridge device.
But what if your stress stems less from natural lighting and more from the harsh luminance of your home’s indoor fixtures? A great way to dial back on the brightness and create a more peaceful lighting environment is with a set of smart lights.
Ecosystem products likeOffer lightbulb and hub starter kits that allow you to create customized lighting scenes based on the day of the week, time of day, and even the weather (with a little bit of If This Then That programming).
There are also excellent standalone bulbs that connect directly to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and cost less upfront than a complete starter pack. If you’re willing to give up the customizations and additional features that a hub-driven system delivers,and are two great choices for bridge-less operation.
And if all you really need is a little less brightness from your existing bulbs, you can always opt for a smart light switch to help you adjust the intensity of your home’s lighting.
Take control of your schedule
Sometimes the most stressful part of the day is remembering what tasks need to be completed for both your work and personal life. Often, this kind of responsibility stress hits the hardest as soon as we wake up in the morning and right before we hit the hay (making it difficult to fall asleep). Thankfully, your smart home has tools to help.
For Alexa households, one great way to add some organization and eliminate stress is to create an Alexa Routine that syncs up with your digital calendar of choice.
Routines roll out a number of pre-programmed actions when you speak a simple voice command like “Alexa, good morning.” If your stress peaks the moment you wake up, your Routine could be programmed to have Alexa read out your daily reminders, followed by the morning news headlines, and concluding with music from your go-to inspirational playlist on Spotify.
Once you’ve synced your calendar, you can even ask your voice assistant to add an event for a particular date and time. Better yet, if you’re using a smart display (like the amazing), you can view your own daily reminders, as well as those of the entire family.
And if all you really need is a simple nudge to defrost some food for dinner, you can ask your voice assistant to remind you to take the steaks out at a pre-designated time. Doing so will allow your smart speakers, displays, and companion apps to chime and ping you with a notification when the proper hour arrives.
Engage mindfulness with relaxing soundscapes
Mindfulness is the process of mentally dialing into the present using relaxation skills like box-breathing, body scanning, guided imagery, and other anxiety-relieving techniques. And guess what? Your smart home can double as your mindfulness guide.
For starters, both Alexa and Google Assistant have built-in meditation abilities that can be initiated in a pinch. For Alexa devices, just say “Alexa, open Guided Meditation” to launch into a narrated mindfulness session (these sessions change daily).
If your smart guide of choice is Google Assistant, you can link your Calm membership to the Google Home app. Once you’ve done so, you can begin meditation by saying “Hey Google, start a meditation.”
If you’ve been practicing mindfulness for a while and would rather forego the guided instruction, there’s nothing wrong with using your smart speakers to create a relaxing atmosphere for meditating. Ask Alexa or Google Assistant to play yoga, ambient, or relaxing music, and your smart speaker will tap into its default music service to play a relaxing soundscape.
If your go-to music streamer isn’t set as your default service, you can always ask your voice assistant to play soundscapes by including the streamer in the command. This would sound something like “Alexa, play yoga music on Apple Music.”
Unwind with an audiobook or podcast
Sometimes there’s little better than settling down with your favorite book at the end of a long day. But when we spend our waking hours staring at phone and computer screens, it can be tough to focus on both print and digital novel-text. Fortunately, our smart homes are here to help.
Both Alexa and Google Assistant can read you audiobooks, albeit in different ways. For Alexa, you’ll want to pair an Audible account to your Alexa app. Google Assistant households are able to access and download audiobooks through the Google Play Books app, which then get saved to your Google Home account.
But if unwinding for you is a little less Sense and Sensibility and a little more WTF with Marc Maron (or Watch What Crappens for the Bravo devotees of our readership), you could always have your smart speaker or display play a podcast for you instead.
Laugh it out with a comedy or feel-good flick
Stress is no match for the unfathomable powers of gut-busting comedy. In fact, increased periods of laughter can reduce muscle tension, aid your body’s immune system, and even relieve pain.
If your TV of choice happens to be built upon Amazon’s Fire TV streaming platform, or you stream Netflix using an Amazon Fire Stick, you can ask your Alexa-powered smart speaker (or Alexa-powered TV or streaming device remote) to search Amazon’s movie library for comedies, standup specials, movies featuring notable comedy actors, and feel-good cinema.
Are you streaming with an Android or Google TV-powered device instead? Chromecast with Google TV allows you to cast music and video directly from your phone, tablet, or laptop, as well as offering a number of built-in apps like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
Rep the stress away with a challenging workout
Similar to laughter, nothing says “goodbye” to stress like a pulse-pounding workout. If you’re looking to expand your fitness plans, or are building an exercise routine from the ground up, your smart home is a more-than-worthy coach.
Alexa features a number of built-in fitness skills that, once added to your Alexa app, will help propel you to new heights with everything from strength and cardio training to answering your most-asked nutrition questions.
Google households can enjoy a number of the same capabilities with a Google Fit account, which allows you to track your daily, weekly, and monthly progress through compatible Google Assistant devices.
If you’d rather bypass voice assistants altogether, you can always launch a fitness app of your choice and pair your phone or tablet to your smart speakers. With multiroom audio pairing, you can even have your instructor-led workouts broadcast throughout the entire house.
Alexa says there’s a light at the end of every tunnel
Like the reassuring words of a good friend or the philosophical waxing of a wise sage, your smart home is capable of delivering a few good “lift me up” sentiments and motivational messages to help you conquer the stresses of the day.
With skills like Motivational Quotes of the Day, your Alexa devices will read you uplifting quotes from sources like Winston Churchill, Taylor Swift, Steve Jobs, and more. Google households can unlock similarly insightful and inspiring tidbits with services like Motivation.
Outside of add-on skills, you can also just ask your go-to voice assistant to read you something motivational, teach you something new, or tell you a really awful Dad joke.