Our attention is pulled in more than a dozen directions daily. It can be hard to find time to relax or justify doing so when you have so much on your plate during a typical day.
Meanwhile, if you’re like the vast majority of multi-taskers, your smartphone or tablet is probably never out of reach. Why not make the most of it and use it for something other than checking your email for the umpteenth time in 15 minutes?
Believe it or not, these devices do offer apps to help you relax, de-stress and reduce anxiety for a change. Busy as you are, these can help slow you down even if you only have a few minutes to spare-waiting at carpool, in line at the bank, or just a brief time you set aside for your own mental health when it feels like the day is spinning out of control.
Here are five of my favorites:
1. Breathe2Relax (free). Breathe2Relax help you practice diaphragmatic breathing, with a video demonstration of and even a breathing timer you set yourself to achieve the maximum impact of deep inhaling/exhaling. There’s also a lot of great information about the biology of stress, its consequences and coping mechanisms.
How it helps: Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing helps calm the body and focus the mind. This app walks you through everything you need to know to practice the technique incorporate it into your daily stress management.
2. T2Mood Tracker (free). T2Mood Tracker allows you to rate how you’re feeling in areas including anxiety, depression and general well-being at any given time during the day.
How it helps: Sometimes just acknowledging that you’re feeling anxious, sad, lonely or experiencing other painful emotions can bring some relief-you’re not crazy, but you are suffering, and healthy to be aware of it.
It can also charts your mood over time, so it can help identify triggers for stress or depression. Meanwhile, if you are in counseling and your therapist asks about your feelings over the past week, you can give a more reliable answer than just relying on your memory.
3. Take a Break! (free). This app requires a little more privacy-but not much more time-than some of the other apps mentioned here. Just choose one of two meditation programs (“work break” or “stress release”), plug in some ear phones, close the door and your eyes as a narrator quietly guides you through several steps of meditation.
How it helps: When you’re busy and feel like you have a world of responsibilities on your shoulders, this app helps remind you that you’re entitled to take a moment for yourself. And the steps it outlines can be effective in bringing calm and perspective into a hectic day.
4. Relax Melodies HD (free, with paid upgrades available). Relax Melodies is self-explanatory, with almost 50 calming sounds to choose from, including several choices among nature, music, and others like “Zen” and “white noise.”
How it helps: It instantly transforms your environment, making it possible to remember that there is a world outside of your office, chaotic household or even 5 o’clock traffic. (Tip: users say Relax Melodies is also an excellent sleep aid.) The $2.99 upgrade offers additional sound options and removes the ads, though the ads are easily enough ignored unless you’re staring at the screen.
5. Calm.com (free, with paid upgrades available). Calm.com offer seven guided relaxation sessions from 2-30 minutes. Topics include: posture, mindset, mind/body connection, and breathing. Premium programs are also available with varied prices, mostly around $1/month. These include programs focused on anxiety, confidence, creativity, energy, focus, and sleep.
How it helps: Calm.com emphasizes a no-pressure approach to learning the steps, with a guiding voice that assures the user it can be hard to find calm at first when we’re accustomed to living life in high-alert mode.
Try a few of these and see if there’s one you particularly enjoy so you’ll be more likely to keep with it. Whether it’s helping you be mindful of your breathing, slowing your thoughts or just going through the steps of a simple relaxation exercise, I encourage you to find some time for yourself today that is just for you to relax. It’s totally worth it!