If there’s one thing that my mental illness is to me, it’s inconvenient. As someone with depression and anxiety, I vaguely know what sets each one off, but they can still catch me by surprise on occasion. And as much as anxiety-sufferers would love to have anxiety attacks solely in the peace of their own home, that’s not always the case, especially if they have social anxiety. In my search to discover ways of combating the inconvenience of mental illness, I’ve started using technology to help me out. If you too are a person with a mental illness, a smartphone, and an internet connection, there are many options available to help make day-to-day life a little easier. I’d like to share some of my most-used apps for mental health. These specifically focus on anxiety and depression, as those are the disorders I have, and are found free to purchase on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. This list is also solely my opinion and I have no affiliation with any of these apps, just in case stuff like that grinds your gears.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is a great app by Tools for Peace, a non-profit organization, that focuses on the practice of mindfulness, a super helpful technique to combat anxiety. The goal of mindfulness is to become aware of how you’re feeling in the current moment, both physically and emotionally. This app is loaded with tons of wonderfully-narrated audio clips to get you in the meditation mood, each for a specific purpose. You can also record your meditation progress. Some of my favourites include the grounding ‘Body Scan’ and the one for falling asleep, which can be a challenge for a variety of people. I’ve been using this app for the past year and a bit, and I can definitely say it’s helped me understand and use mindfulness to my advantage. This app is free, but if you feel so inclined, or particularly like a clip, you can buy longer versions. There’s also a web version, making it highly accessible.
This app was created by the University of West England, and is a multi-purpose tool for combating anxiety. It has a few different sections, but I mainly use the ‘Help for Anxiety Now’ function. In there they have three activities for you to try out: Calm Breathing, Picture Peace, and Change the Focus. I use Calm Breathing almost every time I have an anxiety attack. It’s a little timer that you breathe in rhythm to, which I find extremely helpful and distracting from whatever I’m anxious about. In about five minutes with the timer, my anxiety is significantly reduced, and my lungs are thanking me for using them properly. There are a few other sections including a tracking function and anxiety information. It also includes some list functions that allow you to document the causes of your anxiety, and things that help combat them. There’s also something called the Social Cloud, which I have never used, but I’m assuming it’s some sort of social media.
Out of the three apps I’ll be talking about, this one is probably the most in-depth and comprehensive. What’s Up? was created as an all-around resource for those of us with anxiety and depression, but can also be used for general stress or anger. It uses CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and ACT (acceptance commitment therapy) to get the job done. It provides you with grounding exercises similar to SAMapp, coping strategies, and a chock ton of information regarding anxiety, depression, anger, and stress. I’ve been using this app since July, and what I use it for is the ‘personal’ section. This houses a diary, where you can keep track of good or bad days, and an interesting feature called ‘positive habits’ and ‘negative habits’. Here you can record a positive or negative habit you’d like to work on, and set goals to keep you on track. I find the diary section the most helpful, since even if I’ve been having a fairly okay week, one negative event can derail the whole thing. Having a list of good days to look back on is comforting, as is knowing that one bad day isn’t the end of the world. In all, What’s Up? is a helpful and validating resource that I can see myself using it for years to come.
At the end of the day, apps or not, having some sort of system developed to cope with your mental illness when you’re out and about can greatly help the day-to-day struggle of living with one. That being said, mental illness is very personal, and what works for me may not work for you. However, in this day and age, we now have more accessible resources now than ever before, most of them free. You don’t have to be limited to one app or resource either. Just pick and choose what parts of each work for you. For example, I use Stop, Breathe & Think for mindfulness practice, SAMapp for breathing exercises, and What’s Up? for tracking and information. Mental health is not one size fits all, but with the amount of resources available, I’m sure there’s an app out there for you, if you so choose.
About Maddie Katz
Maddie Katz is a recent college graduate. Her interest in mental health started when she was diagnosed in high school. Her other interests lie in writing, music, theatre, and cats.