Apps that help us cope
.**Article originally printed in Summit Clinical Services Newsletter, Winter 2017. Updated in November 2020; all new material in bold.
Winter is a time for holidays, family, vacation, and . . . stress! It would be helpful for us to all have some support at our fingertips, and with modern technology, this is now possible. Below are some apps developed to provide strategies for dealing with anxiety, depression, and anger.
By teaching different breathing techniques, this app helps manage stress. Includes video coaching, demos, and allows you to chart your progress and/or favorite exercises.
Calm (Free with in-app purchases):
Provides guided mediation exercises; some available with visual imagery focused on nature. Meditation exercises range in length (3, 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 minutes), in a variety of topics (Calming Anxiety, Happiness, Forgiveness, Calm Kids). Also includes “Sleep Stories,” a feature that tells “adult tales to help you drift off to dreamland,” combining body and mind relaxation. The company has added new “calming resources,” including video and audio with soothing celebrity voiceovers (most recently, a sleep exercise narrated by Harry Styles). There are over 12 featured exercises that Calm is currently providing to everyone for free.
Headspace (Free with in-app purchases):
Guides you through daily mindfulness exercises; exercises range in length (2 minutes to 60 minutes) and in themes (Health, Relationships, Performance). Also allows you to track progress and receive reminders based on individual preferences. With a paid subscription, you may access additional mediation exercises, including “SOS” or crisis support, as well as exercises specifically designed for children. As of November 2020, Headspace is offering free subscriptions to all healthcare professionals, and all K-12 teachers, administrators, and support staff. In addition, Headspace has developed new resources (meditation, movement, and sleep exercises) under the title, “Weathering the Storm,” which is available for free to everyone on the app.
Insight Timer (Free with in-app purchases):
According to Apple, Insight Timer is the most popular free meditation app with more than 1.2 million meditators. Includes 3,000 guided meditations, as well as 500 free music tracks for meditation. In addition, the app provides a connection to a “worldwide community of meditators” for both local and on-line support. The app has provided guided meditations (included some narrated/developed by celebrities Russell Brand and Goldie Hawn), content for parents and children, and the ability to participate in Zoom yoga classes.
Provides coping tools to support quick improvement in mood, as well as a “thought check” to monitor thinking patterns, and a journal to work through emotions. In addition, the app links to your calendar, allowing you to easily track mood and reflect back on patterns.
Features 10-minute meditation techniques, with the goal to use the app daily to deal with specific issues of anxiety, sleeplessness, sadness. Also provides a mindfulness program specifically for children. **This app may no longer be available.
Relax Melodies (Free):
Allows you to listen to 50 different sounds and songs, as well as create your own combination of sounds. Aimed to help sleeplessness, this app helps you to calm your mind and your body.
Worry Watch ($1.99 – may now be as much as $3.99):
Functions similarly to a journal; the app is password protected and provides a place to record worries in the moment. The app prompts you later to review the outcome of the worry. The app tracks and charts trends within your experiences, typically to reflect that the worry is worse than experience.
Virtual Hope Box (Free):
Developed to create a virtual “hope box” or a place for someone to keep important pictures, people/support, quotes, strategies, and/or coping skills; the app would provide a place for you refer to when away from the physical strategies. Also provides distraction techniques, games, and comforting pictures.
What’s Up (Free):
Focuses on using methods based in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) to cope with feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger. Features include identifying negative thought patterns and strategies to address these thoughts, as well as motivating quotes, social forums, and “grounding” games to help you stay “grounded” during intense emotions.
Other notable apps:
Colorfy (Free with in-app purchases):
A digital adult coloring book, with a variety of designs and images to allow for relaxing, focused creativity.
AntiStress Anxiety Relief Game (Free):
Referred to as a “digital fidget cube,” providing games and activities to help people to manage anxiety. Featured activities include bubble-wrap popping and soap carving to distract the mind from anxiety if needed.
The Mindfulness App (Free with in-app purchases):
An app that helps teach others to meditate and be mindful. Free content includes five days of exercises, with daily reminders and customized profiles to allow for everyone to find meditation exercises that will work best for his or her lifestyle.
The Smiling Mind (Free with in-app purchases):
Ranked one of the most popular apps in Australia, this app has guided mindfulness exercises different age groups, starting with children as young as seven years old.
Other recommended apps: Buddify (mindfulness), Fitness Builder (exercise), Operation Reach Out (crisis support), Sleep Cycle (sleep monitoring), and Stop, Think & Breathe (meditation).
These apps may help to support a healthy mood and body; please use with discretion and continue to reach out to resources if you need additional support These apps are not meant to treat any significant mental health concerns and/or any thoughts of harm. Please continue to use emergency resources as needed (Emergency Room, 911, Outpatient Clinicians, Crisis Lines).
-Dr. Danielle Romano