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Need to destress? There’s an app or 10 for that

Stress can be overwhelming, exhausting, and sometimes, unavoidable. What can you do when the stress gets to be too much? The de-stressing answer may already be in your pocket.

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Technology has a way

It’s no secret that stress can wreak havoc on your body. Stress can affect your mood, energy, and sleep patterns. Stress can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of heart attack. It can trigger pain, nausea, and suppress your immune system. Stress is bad; prolonged stress is even worse. While constantly checking your smartphone can certainly add to your stress, especially if you have unanswered emails, texts, and pending deadlines.

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However, your smartphone also has the ability to help you alleviate stress. Here area few ways you can use your phone to help de-stress and feel better.

Get some tunes goin’

Music. Music really can soothe the soul and the nerves. Soothing, relaxing music can help you regulate your breathing and bring down your blood pressure. I have a playlist on my phone that’s just for de-stressing.

If classical music isn’t your thing, pick out a tune that you enjoy belting out. Singing is another proven way to de-stress. The very act of singing or humming can help to slow and regulate breathing, promoting relaxation. It will also take your mind off your stress for a few moments and allow you time to reset and refocus.

There are several free music apps you can try, my favorite is Pandora. I also like the virtual sound machine app, Rain Rain.

Get your ohm on

Meditation. This doesn’t have to be complex. There are so many apps that offer guided meditations. A guided meditation, has a narrator helping your breathe in and out in a relaxing pattern, oftentimes along with relaxing musical accompaniment.

A simple five minute guided meditation with deep breathing can help alleviate tension, and reduce stress producing hormones. If you can’t listen to these at work, use your phone’s timer function to take five minutes and breathe deeply on your own. The simple act of deep breathing allows your body to focus on what it needs, rather than the millions of tasks that have you stressed to the max.

If you’re looking for a few good meditation apps, I really enjoy Calm. It’s a guided meditation app for Android and iOS. I also like Zen Garden. It turns your screen into a virtual sandbox where you can write, scribble, or mindlessly tap the stress away.

Get up and active

Move. Movement is one of the best ways to clear your mind and refocus your energy. While there are a wide variety of exercise and activity apps, one of my favorites is the work break timer. This handy app reminds you to stand up and move throughout the day.

We all know prolonged periods of sitting still can be detrimental to our health, but when you’re focused on work, it’s easy to forget to move. Not only does this app remind you to move, it also mixes things up by suggesting different types of movement you can do to refocus your attention and come back to your desk refreshed and a little bit less stressed.

For iOS users, Stand Up! and Move are great options. For Android users, Twenty is very similar.

Get your thoughts out

Journal. More likely than not, you already use Evernote or similar apps. Why not use them to de-stress? Recommended by psychologists for decades, keeping a journal is a great way to clear your mind. Unfortunately, constant stress and everyday pressures make it difficult to journal consistently.

Several journaling apps aim to solve this problem by melding traditional diary-like qualities with digital convenience. For Android users, Memoires lets you record daily text or audio entries and attach files or photos to diary notes. It is also password protected, so you don’t have to worry about your thoughts falling into the wrong hands. For iOS users, Narrato Journal  is a similar option.

Get out the photo albums

Photos. From photos of your family and friends, to a photo of your favorite vacation spot, pictures can help you relax. Try creating a separate album on your phone for all the things that make you happy.

If you’re short on space, you can create a private album on Facebook, Flickr, or your favorite photo app. When you need a boost, scrolling through endless happy memories, places, and events, can trigger a stress reducing response.

Get healthy

Regardless of which method you choose to de-stress, know that persistent stress is a problem. If you feel that you are stressed to the point of breaking down, it may be time to reevaluate where and how you spend your time.

#iDestress

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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Tech News

What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!

(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.

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Woman browsing web, made easy with UI/UX

There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.

Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.

The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.

According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.

UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.

Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.

The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.

2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.

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Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller

(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.

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Google Meet Series One is a new meeting kit that puts people first.

Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.

Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”

The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.

The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”

These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”

According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”

Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.

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Tech News

One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data

(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Man walking on crosswalk with phone, but his private data could be vulnerable.

By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.

How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.

At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.

Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.

With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.

This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.

Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.

If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.

These and other tips can be a great way to help you avoid not just geofence warrants, but others who want to use your electronic information for their own gain.

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