Water­loo’s Airo Health gives your stress a voice

Grand Magazine - - HOLIDAY ISSUE - ALEX KIN­SELLA

Stress is a fact of life and some­times just man­ag­ing it seems like a full-time job. Add the hol­i­days and things can get out of con­trol. Gift shop­ping, cook­ing and fam­ily events, not to men­tion wel­com­ing out-of-town guests who crowd your house and dis­rupt fam­ily rou­tines, all com­bine to wreak havoc with your stress lev­els.

We go to our me­chanic when the car makes that weird sound ev­ery time we turn left. We sched­ule a visit to our fam­ily doc­tor when that an­noy­ing pain just won’t go away. But what do we do when we feel stressed out? Chalk it up to a busy week or blame it on a lack of sleep.

It’s re­ally too easy to dis­miss stress, but not deal­ing with it can have se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

Airo Health in Water­loo has a tool called the Airo band that helps give your body a voice when it comes to stress.

Maryam Ja­hed, a Univer­sity of Water­loo alum­nus and Airo Health’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, says the band was con­ceived at Sil­i­con Val­ley’s Y Com­bi­na­tor for star­tups in sum­mer 2016, but the fi­nal ver­sion re­ally started to come to­gether this past Jan­uary in the UW Ve­loc­ity Garage.

“I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in men­tal health and, as a founder, you’re put un­der a lot of stress,” she says.

The Airo band is worn on your wrist and is smaller than your av­er­age smart­watch. The band tracks your heart rate, ex­er­cise through move­ment and sleep through ob­serv­ing your cir­ca­dian rhythm – your 24-hour daily cy­cle of sleep and ac­tiv­ity.

The band con­nects to your phone and gives you a real-time view of how your ner­vous sys­tem is re­spond­ing to every­thing hap­pen­ing around you. “Let’s say you’re sit­ting at your desk for five hours, which hap­pens too of­ten. You’ll get a no­ti­fi­ca­tion on your wrist let­ting you know your body and your mind need a break.”

The first week of us­ing the band is used to de­ter­mine your per­sonal base­line. Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent value, Ja­hed says. Once you know your base­line, the Airo app on your smart­phone can help you iden­tify when you’re stressed and work with you to get back to your base­line.

“Coun­sel­lors talk about mind­ful­ness for stress man­age­ment,” Ja­hed says. “We spoke with psy­chol­o­gists and psy­chi­a­trists and the best way to get back to your base­line is with breath­ing ex­er­cises.”

The Airo band’s smart­phone app guides you through the process to help you re­duce stress. Over time you can learn the ex­er­cises and use them when­ever your Airo band vi­brates. The app’s daily, weekly and monthly view shows you how you’re man­ag­ing stress.

“The Airo band helps you val­i­date your feel­ings,” Ja­hed says. “It can help you to rec­og­nize how you feel and give you tools to do some­thing about it.”

“It’s hard to find that time for your­self be­fore you get to a place where you need ma­jor steps,” added Ja­hed. “Three to five min­utes in your day can be what makes all the dif­fer­ence in the long run.”

The Airo band is avail­able through their web­site www.getairo.com Beat­ing my midlife cri­sis Speak­ing of stress, I’m hav­ing a sort of midlife cri­sis. I haven’t pur­chased a con­vert­ible or a mo­tor­cy­cle, but the cri­sis does have wheels. I’m talk­ing about four wheels made of polyurethane that sit un­der­neath seven lay­ers of maple ve­neer. Does a skate­board come to mind?

Am I plan­ning on pulling off some dope frontside heelflips or back­side 180s? I don’t even know what those are. I had to search for them on Google. I haven’t used a skate­board since I was 12 and, to be hon­est, I was ter­ri­ble at it. But now that I’m 41, it’s time to give it a try again.

One of the things I love about skate­boards is the deck art­work. I re­cently saw that lo­cal graphic artist Blake Steven­son (jet­pack­san­droller­skates.com) has part­nered with GRMPY Skate­boards in the United States (grmpyskate­boards.com) – and it in­spired me to look into blank decks. That led me to a ver­i­ta­ble black hole of YouTube videos – and fi­nally to the bright light that is Toronto-based Roarockit.

Roarockit’s patented tech­nol­ogy lets any­one pro­duce their own skate­board deck

at home. The Roarockit is a thin air-press kit that con­sists of a sin­gle-sided, high­den­sity foam mould and a 20-mil­lime­tre vac­uum bag.

Your skate­board starts with seven lay­ers of Cana­dian-sourced maple or birch ve­neer. You glue the lay­ers to­gether and then place them into the bag with the foam mould. Once in, you seal up the open end with tape and then re­move the air with the man­ual hand pump. It only takes about a minute for all the air to be re­moved. The vac­uum acts as a clamp against the foam and bends the wood into the shape of the mould.

The ori­gin of Roarockit is ev­ery bit as in­ter­est­ing as the kit it­self. Co-founder No­rah Jack­son and her hus­band, Ted Hunter, were on a wind­surf­ing hol­i­day on Maui. Hunter, a pro­fes­sor at the On­tario Col­lege of Art and De­sign in Toronto who uses wood in his sculp­tures, was vol­un­teer­ing at a vis­ual arts cen­tre. He was asked to teach a class of teens in the wood­shop and Jack­son, a graphic de­signer, sug­gested skate­boards. It wasn’t some­thing ei­ther of them had done be­fore.

They came up with the idea to use a vac­uum bag and mould and then re­fined and patented the tech­nol­ogy once they were back in Toronto.

To­day, Roarockit ships kits and ve­neer around the world. In ad­di­tion to home skate­board builders, the kits are pop­u­lar with larger skate­board man­u­fac­tur­ers who use them for rapid pro­to­typ­ing of new de­signs. Roarockit also sells class­room kits for use in schools and com­mu­nity pro­grams.

“The kits are very pop­u­lar in pro­grams deal­ing with at-risk youth,” Jack­son says. “It lets them form some­thing that they can ac­tu­ally use and be proud of.”

Roarockit has kits for every­thing from street decks to long boards. There are pre-made moulds or you can choose to de­sign and carve your own. Their most pop­u­lar kit – and the one on my hol­i­day wish list –- is the Street Deck Dou­ble Kit. It’s avail­able for pur­chase at roarockit.com for $174.95.

You might choose to mon­i­tor your stress lev­els and take sim­ple steps to get back to your base­line or to work out the stress by cre­at­ing some­thing that makes you happy. Ei­ther way, en­joy the hol­i­day sea­son with fam­ily and friends and don’t let the stress grinch spoil your fun.

Alex Kin­sella has been part of Water­loo Re­gion’s tech com­mu­nity since 2004 and is al­ways look­ing for the next great gad­get (or tacos, if it’s Tues­day). Find him on Twit­ter at @alexkin­sella

Alex Kin­sella

Cre­ate your own skate­board with this kit from Roarockit.

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