I see it every single day with my coaching and consulting clients: otherwise healthy men and women come to me ready to throw in the towel because, even after dialing in their diet, supplementation, and exercise regimens, they still aren't seeing the results they're working tirelessly to achieve. It can be incredibly frustrating and confusing.
When this happens, there's often one common denominator: underlying (and usually chronic) stress.
Now, before you think, “oh no, not another article about stress,” hear me out. Stress is the one factor that is linked to just about every health issue, illness, and chronic disease out there. In fact, according to researchers, a whopping 75%–90% of human diseases are related to the activation of the body’s stress system.
Even if you aren’t struggling with a full-blown health condition, you may be like me and live an incredibly fast-paced life, often finding yourself in high-stress situations, in which case stress is simply an unavoidable fact of life.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, one thing is for sure–you can probably benefit from a little help when it comes to reducing your stress levels, whether you realize it or not. This is why I’m such a big fan of breathwork, meditation, gratitude journaling, exercise, laughter, singing, dancing, and other natural stress-relief tactics. However, as someone who’s often extremely busy and hard-pressed to find an hour a day to meditate to calm my monkey mind, I also like to get a bit of help from better living through science.
So today, I’m going to be sharing a more advanced stress-relief tactic with you that’s been clinically proven to neutralize stress in minutes; shown in research studies to significantly improve everything from sleep to anxiety, depression, heart rate variability (HRV), and sports performance; and has even been used in over 2 million surgical procedures to help patients calm their nervous systems and recover faster.
The Physiology of Stress
I’ve talked about stress in detail in a number of previous articles, most notably “Two Ways Your Brain Breaks And Exactly What You Can Do About It: Part 2” and “Why We’re All Chronically Stressed (And How You Can Combat Stress With Food And Supplementation),” but here’s a quick primer (or refresher, for you Biophys geeks) on how the body responds to stress, and why too much unmanaged stress can be a recipe for disaster.
When a stressor–physical, emotional, chemical, or environmental–is perceived by the brain, it sends out a neurotransmitter called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that signals the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) to mount a response. The HPA axis then directs the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine to help prime the body to deal with the source of stress.
The release of these hormones causes a cascade of other reactions that you’ve probably experienced if you’ve ever been “stressed to the gills,” like:
- Muscular tension
- Increased heart rate
- Hypervigilant senses
- Increased blood pressure
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Redirection of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to large muscles
In other words, your body is prepping you for a fight–and in fact, all these functions are all part of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) or your innate “fight-or-flight” response.
Interestingly, though, the HPA axis is a one-way communication channel. Therefore, once your fight-or-flight response is activated, there’s no turning back. The body is now focused exclusively on fighting or fleeing from the stressor, and the mind simply can’t rationalize or self-regulate until after the threat is removed and time passes.
While it may seem primitive, the truth is the human stress response is a perfect system of neuronal circuitry that has evolved for millions of years, designed exclusively for survival–it’s basically what has kept humanity alive all these years!
So, it’s not the stress system that’s the problem; it’s the constant activation of it on a day-to-day basis.
The Negative Impacts of Stress
The challenge humans experience today is that the sympathetic nervous system is very often triggered when your life is not, in fact, at risk.
You may just be in traffic, or arguing with a virtual Twitter troll, or watching the news (which is designed specifically to trigger your stress response, by the way). This often leads to excess and unnecessary fear, stress, and anxiety, causing millions of people to constantly live “on edge.”
It’s also important to know that your stress response is pretty costly; it kicks into gear at the expense of other “non-essential” functions such as reproduction, digestion, muscle-building, recovery, restful sleep, and more, which often leads to other health issues down the road.
Not only that, stress itself causes chemical and structural changes in just about every system in the body, leading to some pretty serious health consequences when unmanaged for a long period of time:
- Nervous system: the development of tumors, cerebral hemorrhages, aneurysms, strokes, dementia, cognitive impairment, depression, memory loss
- Circulatory system: constricts arterial system, promotes cardiovascular disease, causes blood pressure and heart rate changes
- Endocrine system: adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, weight gain, reproductive issues or infertility, abnormal blood glucose, decreases immune cell count
- Digestive system: constipation, nausea, ulcers, spastic colon, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel, and more
I’m guessing this isn’t news to you, and you already know stress is not something to take lightly. However, ensuring that your body is not constantly “under attack” is easier said than done when you're likely bombarded with micro-stressors all day, every day.
Is Stress Inevitable?
The truth is, completely removing any and all stress from your life is an impossible feat. It’ll never happen, and you’ll go crazy trying to do it. Plus, given the research on the benefits of hormesis (small doses of stressors that create mental and physical resilience, like heat or cold or exercise), you might not even want to eliminate all stress.
Instead, the goal should be to improve your body’s resilience to stress and tap into the ability to neutralize its harmful effects.
As I’ve talked about previously, there are a number of ways to get yourself out of a chronically stressed state: breathwork, meditation, HRV training, smart exercise, proper nutrition and supplementation, practicing gratitude, and getting quality sleep, to name a few.
However, all of these stress-relief practices take time and practice, and many people still feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle, even after implementing them. Think of it this way: your limbic system has evolved over 36 million years. In other words, despite your best intentions, your stress response system has a 36,000,000-year head start over you and is far superior when it comes to acquiring resources and redirecting biological function when it gets triggered.
So, you would essentially need to overcome your primitive survival function and refined limbic system to manage stress on your terms. Sure, some people like lifelong meditators and superhumans such as the Iceman Wim Hof have figured out how to tap into their innate ability to do this…
…but what if there was an easier way to naturally interrupt the HPA axis and stop the chemical reaction triggered by your fight-or-flight response?…
…what if there was a “shortcut” to stress relief that’s been scientifically proven to neutralize the effects of stress in just a few minutes?
Well, you’re in luck, because that shortcut exists, and it’s something I use–along with the aforementioned strategies, mind you–just about every day to improve my own resilience, recovery, sleep, and more.
One Device that Can Neutralize Stress in Minutes
I'm constantly playing and experimenting with new devices for biohacking sleep, stress, and cognition. You could say I’m slightly obsessed with finding the latest and greatest in wellness technology–or, more accurately, that I’m just incredibly curious and intrigued by how modern science can help you live, feel, look, and perform better.
Despite trying and owning dozens of these devices, there aren’t many that I would consider “non-negotiables” in my daily routine…but NuCalm is definitely one of them.
I use NuCalm just about every day for stress relief, relaxation, and sleep. I slap it on to simulate an entire 120-minute sleep cycle with just a 20-minute power nap; to fall back asleep when I wake up with thoughts racing through my head; or, when I can’t sleep, I use it to help me get into an intense period of relaxation, much deeper than I would be able to achieve with a short breathwork or meditation session.
In fact, I’m such a big fan of the NuCalm that I interviewed the CEO not once, but twice, on my podcast, here and here. But to be honest with you, after each of those podcasts, we got tons of questions about the research behind the device and whether it really works, or if it’s just another piece of woo-woo pseudoscience gadgetry.
I get it, it’s a pricey device, and no one wants to be sold snake oil–myself included. However, after several years of using NuCalm consistently, I’ve experienced the benefits firsthand, and I truly believe it can help a lot of people suffering from the effects of chronic stress.
So, I want to break down for you exactly what NuCalm is, how it works, and the latest hard scientific evidence and clinical validation of its efficacy.
What is NuCalm and How Does It Work?
In a nutshell, NuCalm is a technology that takes the body out of a stressed state by inducing parasympathetic nervous system dominance (rest-and-digest)–essentially turning off your fight-or-flight response and suspending the body and mind in a state of restoration and recovery.
In fact, NuCalm is the world’s only patented neuroscience technology that is clinically proven to resolve stress without drugs.
NuCalm works by inducing a “biomimetic effect” on the HPA axis with external stimuli (electromagnetic frequencies, sound with underlying physics, and light-blocking) designed to interrupt the process of acute stress and shift the body into a state of relaxation.
The patented system uses a three-pronged approach to target different parts of the body:
1. Biosignal Processing Disc
All cells of the human body communicate through frequencies, a commonly understood concept in the realms of sound healing, grounding and earthing, PEMF devices, and quantum energy, and discussed in detail in the books Healing is Voltage by Jerry Tennant and The Body Electric by Robert Becker.
The NuCalm biosignal processing disc delivers the specific frequencies your body needs to slow down brain activity and prepare for relaxation, mimicking your body’s normal transition from action to idleness and sleep preparation. The disc contains a Lakhovsky multi-wave oscillator, which is a device invented over 100 years ago that generates an electrical field, similar to PEMF, but more robust in that it uses the concept of “harmonics” to generate multiple different frequencies at once. The disc is then placed at an acupressure point on the inside of the left wrist that’s specifically known to target the parasympathetic system and counteract cortisol and adrenaline.
2. Neuroacoustic Software
I’ve discussed neuroacoustics in the past, specifically in relation to sound healing, neuroacoustic music, binaural beats, and functional music. It essentially involves using sounds, vibrations, and frequencies to induce brain wave entrainment–the process of lulling the brain into a desired brain wave state (e.g., beta, alpha, theta, delta).
NuCalm specifically uses a special, patented neuroacoustic software that emits complex vibration, resonance, and harmonic oscillations to create resonant frequencies at 4-12 Hz, which is the frequency range of alpha and theta brain waves. These brain waves are associated with relaxation, pre-sleep and dreaming sleep, meditation, increased creativity, and access to the unconscious mind. The most important aspect of theta brain waves is the cellular healing and restoration that takes place in this state; the cells clean their toxins and the cell’s energy source (mitochondria) is restored. NuCalm’s method of action is not music. The music in NuCalm serves as a carrier of information and creates a comfortable listening experience. A typical song is 5MB–10MB, whereas a typical NuCalm neuroacoustic software track ranges from 500MB to 1.5GB. It takes an amazing amount of complexity to predictably and reliably entrain brain wave function.
3. Light-Blocking Eye Mask
The eye mask helps to eliminate visual stimuli and maintain a deep state of relaxation. Light-blocking also contributes to evoking alpha brain wave activity (the brain waves that occur when you are engaged in activities such as daydreaming, meditating, or practicing mindfulness).
When combined, these three steps work together to guide the brain into a state that creates cellular restoration and parasympathetic nervous system dominance. While in a parasympathetic state, NuCalm not only helps you eliminate acute stress but also resolves the effects of chronic stress and helps build stress resilience. Within moments, users begin to feel relief and relaxation as the stress response is inhibited and cortisol levels decline.
I realize this is starting to sound a little theoretical and woo-woo, but alas, the proof is indeed in the pudding–and that pudding is a boatload of clinical applications and research, along with my own anecdotal experiences of deeper relaxation, meditation and sleep cycles.
The Science Behind NuCalm
NuCalm’s technology has been reliably used in over 2 million surgical procedures to help manage patients’ stress responses. It’s also been studied in dozens of clinical trials on everything from stress to anxiety, depression, heart rate variability, vagal nerve tone, sports performance, and more.
Here are just a few of the key findings from recent research.
Depression & Anxiety
In a study from 2018, researchers evaluated the efficacy of NuCalm on 100 participants with anxiety and depression. The focus of this study was to assess whether the application of combined transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) and brain wave entrainment (the NuCalm system) would result in enhanced nervous system function and stress resiliency in this population.
The results showed multiple improvements in measurements associated with stress resiliency, most notably:
- Galvanic skin response, a measure of sympathetic nervous system activity, was significantly reduced (36% decrease).
- Participants experienced significant increases in delta, theta, and alpha values, indicative of enhanced flow state and parasympathetic output.
- HRV metrics were improved, which point to a more adaptive relaxation response.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Another study analyzed the effects of the NuCalm on HRV metrics in healthy adults compared to those with psychological disorders (anxiety and depression).
HRV is an important indicator of your body’s ability to deal with and recover from stress efficiently, which you can learn more about in this article.
Based on the results of the study, NuCalm led to numerous significant changes in advanced HRV metrics for both groups, leading to increased parasympathetic activation (rest-and-digest) and decreased sympathetic (fight-or-flight) output–both during and after NuCalm use.
Researchers found a large carryover and residual effect after a NuCalm journey, especially for those with a clinical psychological disorder. In other words, the stress-relieving effects of the device are long-lasting and may be most effective for those with anxiety, depression, or another stress-related disorder.
Stress Resiliency & Vagal Nerve Tone
In 2014, Dr. Peng, one of the world’s preeminent experts on HRV, evaluated nervous system changes over the course of a 30-minute NuCalm journey.
He found that users experienced a significant decrease in heart rate, decrease in respiration rate, and significant enhancement in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (a measurement of the parasympathetic nervous system’s regulation of the heart)–all of which are associated with significant parasympathetic output.
Dr. Peng also concluded that these changes were indicative of an increase in vagal tonality, or the functioning of your vagus nerve, a critical “nervous system highway” that links your brain to just about every other system in the body and has wide-ranging health implications. In short, you definitely want good vagal nerve tone, and the NuCalm appears to promote it.
Like many other studies have found, the results of these changes had a large carry-over effect. In other words, the NuCalm journey is effective in creating short-term enhancement of stress resiliency but also results in a chronic and more long-standing adaptation to stress.
Since 2011, NuCalm has been used by professional athletes on 52 sports teams and by professional golfers, tennis players, boxers, and MMA fighters to help manage stress, which in turn, improves muscle recovery, healing, and sleep quality. Professional athletes use NuCalm 1-2 times per day (when they wake up to make up for sleep debt, and after they work out or compete to recover).
During an observational study, data was collected on several Chicago Blackhawks players over an 8-week period during the 2015 regular season. Results indicated that within five minutes of NuCalm use, players experienced a significant reduction in alpha sympathetic output, as evidenced by decreases in very low frequency (VLF) domain output (-97.9% in ten minutes). Reductions in VLF are indicative of reduced sympathetic (flight-or-fight) output.
Numerous other key observations were made in examining data with professional athletes:
- NuCalm predictably and quickly “flips the switch” from high cortisol and adrenaline to deep relaxation. This allows the body to activate the brain-heart-lung connection to optimize diaphragmatic breathing, oxygen-rich red blood cell flow, optimal healing, and muscle recovery.
- NuCalm provides deep relaxation throughout the body, minimizing the negative consequences of lactic acid buildup and, most importantly, reducing inflammation, which promotes healing.
- During the regular season, and especially during the playoffs, athletes travel across multiple time zones, which impairs performance. NuCalm provides the neurophysiology and biochemistry necessary for improving sleep and managing circadian rhythm dysfunction.
- By restoring autonomic nervous system balance, NuCalm rapidly and predictably restores the body’s natural rhythms, allowing athletes to perform at their best.
Additionally, the professional athletes reported other improvements in performance and well-being, including:
- Improved healing and muscle recovery
- Significant improvement in sleep quality and minimal jet lag, if any
- Relaxed feeling during games despite the pressure; “head felt more clear and focused”
- More efficient removal of lactic acid; “felt loose and relaxed, even after an exhausting workout”
So, there you have it: pretty impressive results when it comes to NuCalm and its effects on stress, anxiety, depression, parasympathetic nervous system activation, HRV, vagal nerve tone, and even sports performance–all backed by scientific research.
How to Get the Best Results with NuCalm
Are you starting to get curious about this device?
Next, I’d like to provide some “best practices” in terms of how to use NuCalm, when (and when not) to use it, and of course, how you can stack it with other biohacks and practices for even more potent effects.
In short, NuCalm is best used during the afternoon when your biorhythm naturally wants to rest and you experience a cognitive dip.
It is recommended to use the NuCalm between when you wake up in the morning and 7 pm. Not using it after 7 pm is important because according to research done by Dr. Peng at Harvard, 20 minutes of NuCalm is equivalent to 2 hours of restorative sleep. You probably wouldn’t want to take a power nap before preparing for sleep, would you?
Now, when it comes to sleep during the middle of the night, should you awaken and feel yourself becoming stressed, NuCalm can be used to help you get back to sleep. It is recommended that you wait 15 minutes after waking up to see if you naturally can fall back asleep before doing NuCalm. But in the event that you find yourself awake and getting frustrated, a NuCalm Rescue journey will help you get out of your head and fall back asleep.
You can also use it during a workday if you want to induce a creative/meditative brain state, or prior to a workout, competition, or race to get you into a “flow state” conducive to high performance.
Interestingly, you can also use the NuCalm to enhance the effects of a plant medicine journey. However, as I discussed in my podcast with the CEO Jim Poole, there are a few things you should know before combining the two.
First and foremost, you'd want to use NuCalm before or after your journey. Using it before will help prime your mind and body to absorb more of your chosen compound’s effects, which will likely mean you need less of the substance to get the same results. Using it afterward can help enhance the post-effects of your journey and help them “sink in” more, so to speak.
With that being said, you want to avoid using NuCalm during your journey, as it will negate the effects of whatever substance you’ve taken. Unless, of course, you want to stop the ride a little early.
How To Stack NuCalm With Other Hacks
Admittedly, stacking biohacks is one of my go-to techniques. I mean, if you’ve only got 20 minutes, why not get double–or even triple–the benefits at the same time?
Here are some of my favorite ways to “stack” NuCalm with other techniques:
- Using NuCalm while in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, usually on the Recharge or Rescue journeys, to get the benefits of sensory deprivation, enhanced oxygen, and relaxation at the same time.
- Playing meditation tracks (for example, those by The Renegade Pharmacist, Joe Dispenza, or Emily Fletcher) while using it to get into a deeper state of subconscious meditation (usually while wearing bone induction headphones).
- Turning it on while doing a recovery session with compression boots.
- Following up a NuCalm session with a 10-minute DMT breathwork track to further hypercharge my body and get super-oxygenated.
- Pairing haptic and magnetic signals such as Apollo and Hapbee with the NuCalm tracks.
While these are nice stacks to play with if you have access to them, you certainly don’t need to do as I do and multi-task your use of the NuCalm–it works just as well on its own.
NuCalm is, hands-down, one of my favorite devices when it comes to getting better sleep at night or crushing my mid-day nap, increasing HRV, improving vagal nerve tone, enhancing meditations and breathwork, promoting recovery, and all the additional benefits that come with improved resilience to the stressors of everyday life.
But you don’t have to just take it from me; NuCalm has been used successfully in over 2 million surgical procedures to help patients cope with stress and has been analyzed in dozens of clinical studies to improve everything from depression and anxiety to sports performance.
Here are some of the key points about NuCalm:
- Chronic stress is a driver of disease, but not all stress is avoidable (nor should be avoided); the key is to find ways to neutralize or lessen its harmful effects on the body.
- NuCalm provides an easier way to naturally stop the chemical reaction triggered by your fight-or-flight response. It’s the world’s only patented neuroscience technology that is clinically proven to resolve stress without drugs.
- The device uses a patented, three-step approach to induce a “biomimetic effect” on the HPA axis with external stimuli (electromagnetic frequencies, sound with underlying physics, and light-blocking) designed to interrupt the process of acute stress and shift the body into a state of relaxation and recovery.
- The key differentiator between NuCalm and other devices and stress-relief tactics is that NuCalm is effective at enhancing parasympathetic activity and reducing sympathetic output both acutely (during the NuCalm journey) and residually (after the journey).
Having the ability to accomplish proven stress reduction without the use of pharmacological drugs could be an absolute game-changer for those suffering from psychological disorders or any stress-related condition. NuCalm gifts users true physiological change without lifelong medication, negative side effects, or development of tolerance.
Even if you’re relatively healthy, I can say from personal experience that using NuCalm on a consistent basis will help you to reap the benefits of improving your sleep, enhancing HRV metrics, boosting your mood, fortifying your nervous system’s distress, and increasing your overall well-being.
PS: Don’t forget to check out their new Ignite Warrior Brain and Deep Sleep modes, which were launched last year after years of research, and practical in-the-trenches testing by U.S. Military Special Forces as well as professional athletes (I was also lucky enough to get early access). These new developments are super powerful and definitely put you in a peak mental and physical state.
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What about you? How do you deal with stress in your life? Are you intrigued by new technologies like NuCalm? Leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below, I read them all!