Building a More Resilient Self through Mindful Based Stress Reduction

Bran Michelle N
7 min readMay 14, 2021

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According to American Psychiatry Association, “62% of Americans feel more anxious” and “anti-anxiety drug prescriptions have jumped 34.19% for the year 2020.”

Despite existing treatments, like therapy sessions and prescription drugs, statistics show that the number of cases of anxiety and stress isn’t on a downward trend. This rising data suggests there is a lack of understanding of the importance of stress mitigation; as well as having readily available access to relief, especially with life being forced into a more digital reality. How can we help people recognize stress and educate them in order to promote a more resilient self?

PAUSE

PAUSE is a mobile prototype with a wearable device designed to monitor a user’s biometric markers and offer them management tools to handle stress. It focuses on the user’s ability to maintain control by utilizing the highly researched strategy, MBSR, or Mindful Based Stress Reduction with a community feature, real-time alerts, wellness promotion, and biometric analysis.

A Conceptual Project

My Role

Sole UX/UI Designer

Project Timeline

September 2020–7 months

The Challenge

Existing mobile apps and devices are geared more for fitness rather than mental health. They are littered with convoluted or limited data, are not for use for both calm and active situations, are intrusive, lack a sense of community, offer limited real-time data with alerts, and are deficient in simplicity and effectiveness.

The Solution

My proposal was to design a solution that can positively impact people while being engaging, effortless, reliable, and adaptable. It is results-driven, data-rich, and educating. Pause is not just focused on tracking biometrics and displaying them in charts with little to no actionable suggestions like other brands — this idea cares about mental health awareness and people.

Project Objectives

Discovery

Understanding People’s Triggers and Coping

It was extremely important to hear and read about various stories in order to distill possible problems for the project. Surveying the participants allowed a better understanding of people's stress and allowed me to practice my empathetic ear. I surveyed 57 people and interviewed 5 of those participants. With 96.5% of those surveyed suffering from stress, and 45.4% suffering from stress every day, it was apparent that there was definitely a need for PAUSE.

The main objective during the research phase was to understand:

  • What physical indications of stress exist
  • What issues trigger stress
  • How is stress recognized
  • How is stress managed

Key Insights from Interviews

Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis was performed in order to see certain trends as well as to possibly find more problems that needed solutions. PAUSE fills in the gaps where competitors fell short.

What PAUSE needed to be:

  • Educating
  • Financially Accessible
  • Mental Health Focus
  • Inclusive Platform

PAUSE Users

With the vast amount of data received from the survey, interviews, and current industry trends, two personalities were created. These personalities rounded out and encompassed the range of possible users.

Design

Pen to Paper

I quickly started to sketch user flows and ideas. The project objectives needed to be the focus and were therefore utilized within the conceptualizing of the red routes. It was imperative that these objectives were successful and in order to be, needed to be mapped out and tested.

Ideas were then put to paper and given to a few of the interview participants to test early the functionality and cohesiveness. After several iterations, mid-fidelity wireframes were created in Sketch.

A Simple and Cohesive Package

A mood board was created to convey the engaging yet calming, straightforward yet adaptive personality of the project.

The style guide highlights the colors, typography, icons, buttons, and navigation used throughout the mobile app and wearable device.

Shades of blues were used to evoke a sense of trust and security, while the red-orange accent symbolizes emotion, optimism, and encouragement. The icon set created echoes the simplistic logo.

Testing

“It is Easy to Navigate and Self-Explanatory”

I wanted to get a fresh and unbiased opinion on this project and not get caught up in the small stuff. Before user testing was performed, the testing objectives were defined:

  • Initial impressions of the brand (look & feel), cohesive?
  • Any usability issues?
  • Users can communicate with a single person or participate within a community?
  • Users are informed and can track data successfully?
  • Users can mitigate stress through several activities?

I tested the prototype with a total of 11 participants and overall, users found the mobile app and wearable device very “easy to navigate and self-explanatory.” However, one usability issue seemed to stand out amongst all of the test participants, and thankfully it was an easy fix.

It was discovered that rather than having the top and bottom navigation bar scroll with the screen, they needed to be sticky.

This would allow the users to easily access either navigation bar instead of having to scroll all the way to the top or bottom of the screen.

Conclusion

Takeaways and Future Considerations

The main challenge faced was how might we help people identify stress in early stages, define its reasons, and provide an effective strategy to control it and work toward a more resilient self?

One of the things that I found most valuable was listening to others when designing PAUSE. It was very important to keep an open mind and not get caught up in the details. However, PAUSE needed to maintain individuality with what sets it apart from things that already exist in the market, without compromising a successful user experience. With that being said, the following future considerations could push that thought further:

  • Phone Liberation: Although the screen size is limited, giving the wearable device the ability to function without the phone nearby for important features.
  • Education: Providing more access to more data point analysis, science-backed articles, guided meditation, because the more you know…
  • Positivity: Words of encouragement have never hurt anyone.
  • Widget: Creating a widget on the phone’s lock/home screen so that users can simply check-in without having to open the app completely.
  • Accessibility & Connectivity: Bringing access to Android users and information from well-known mindfulness apps like Headspace or Calm. So many apps and devices out there are allowing basic functionality, but more in-depth use is through subscription, lowering the accessibility. Someone ignoring their own health because of financial burdens only degrades the point of this project. However, the lights must stay on and more research will need to be done to find alternatives.

Actionable, Engaging, and Thoughtful

My intent was to design an engaging mobile app with a wearable companion device that provides real-time alerts and data points so that the user may recognize their stress triggers. It needed to provide relief to the burden of needing to be alone by allowing the user to find a sense of community and companionship. It needed to offer a deeper understanding of one’s progress by encouraging self-reflection and education.

Let’s all be more cognizant of ourselves and each other.

I am grateful for everyone that offered their personal experiences and time while I developed this passion project. All we can ever do is keep pushing ourselves to evolve in a more positive manner.

And of course, thank you for taking the time to read! Please always support one another and don’t forget yourself.

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Bran Michelle N

Visual Design, Installation Design, UI / UX Design