Men­tal Health

Apps for re­liev­ing stress, track­ing med­i­ca­tion & more.

iPhone Life Magazine - - Contents - by Tam­lin Day

Anx­i­ety is the most com­mon men­tal health is­sue in the United States, af­fect­ing 18 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Institute of Men­tal Health. Even those of us who don't deal with clin­i­cal anx­i­ety still ex­pe­ri­ence pe­ri­ods of ab­nor­mal stress that neg­a­tively af­fects our lives. A study by the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion shows that we've be­come a na­tion of “con­stant check­ers;” not only are we con­nected to our friends and fam­ily, we are one quick call or text away from work. In a so­ci­ety in which we're all tuned in to our de­vices, it's im­por­tant for us to find ways to turn tech into a helper in­stead of a stres­sor. The apps in this ar­ti­cle have all been ap­proved and rec­om­mended by clin­i­cians, pa­tients, and ca­sual users to help you al­le­vi­ate stress, im­prove self-care, and safe­guard your men­tal health.

Apps to Make You Happy & Re­lieve Stress

Cre­ative and self-im­prove­ment apps pro­vide a pos­i­tive out­let in the midst of stress­ful work­days or fam­ily get-to­geth­ers. Hap­pify ($11.99/month) aims to im­prove your life with guided ac­tiv­i­ties fo­cus­ing on ev­ery­thing from mind­ful­ness to lead­er­ship, pro­vid­ing re­wards for com­pleted goals and a com­mu­nity work­ing to­ward per­sonal growth. While you can ac­cess lim­ited con­tent for free, I highly rec­om­mend pay­ing for a monthly sub­scrip­tion so you'll al­ways have a new life-coach­ing goal to fol­low. Seven ($4.99/month) is an­other great app, which of­fers seven-minute work­outs you can do at home, at work, or on the go. Ba­sic full-body work­outs are free, or you can pay a monthly or yearly sub­scrip­tion for the full ex­er­cise li­brary that in­cludes tar­get ar­eas like legs or arms. Colorfy (free) brings the adult color­ing phe­nom­e­non to your iPhone and iPad. I use this app at fam­ily gath­er­ings, on pub­lic tran­sit, and other so­cial sit­u­a­tions where I pre­fer hav­ing some­thing to keep my hands busy. You can color the ba­sic li­brary for free or pay a weekly fee for new pages ev­ery week. And if you en­joy writ­ing, Mo­mento (free) pro­vides an im­mer­sive journaling ex­pe­ri­ence for you to record all your thoughts, fa­vorite ac­tiv­i­ties, and daily tri­als.

Some of us have clin­i­cal men­tal health is­sues that com­pli­cate our daily rou­tines. For peo­ple with so­cial anx­i­ety or gen­er­al­ized anx­i­ety dis­or­der, crowds and so­cial in­ter­ac­tions can lead to panic at­tacks in pub­lic spa­ces. White Noise ($0.99) lets you cu­rate playlists of sooth­ing sounds. You can mix looped tracks of dif­fer­ent sounds into a sin­gle track that you find ap­peal­ing. You can also ad­just the noise level, bass, and tenor of each sound. White Noise pro­vides an easy es­cape from the clamor of the day.

If you try the pre­vi­ously men­tioned tips and still find your­self reach­ing peak anx­i­ety be­fore lunchtime, down­load Essence (free) and take a deep breath. This free app has easy-to-fol­low graph­ics and sooth­ing tones to guide you through the 4-7-8 breath­ing tech­nique. In this tech­nique, you breathe in for four sec­onds, hold for seven, and ex­hale for eight. This tech­nique slows your heart rate and pre­pares the body for sleep.

Do­ing a quick work­out, tak­ing a break to breathe, and pur­su­ing cre­ative out­lets will help you main­tain a healthy mind­set dur­ing your nor­mal work­day rou­tine.

Track­ing Your Men­tal & Emo­tional Well-Be­ing

Some is­sues go be­yond feel­ing sad and deal­ing with ba­sic life stresses. If you're deal­ing with clin­i­cal anx­i­ety, mood disor­ders, de­pres­sion, PTSD, or other chronic men­tal health is­sues, then you prob­a­bly need more tar­geted so­lu­tions. Ther­a­pists of­ten rec­om­mend journaling and keep­ing logs of symp­toms ei­ther for di­ag­nos­tic pur­poses or to help ad­just med­i­ca­tion lev­els. The apps in this sec­tion are rec­om­mended for use along­side ther­apy as a way to log your symp­toms, your progress, and to give pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment, as well as cre­ate achiev­able goals.

For pa­tients with mood disor­ders, the App Store of­fers MoodKit ($4.99) and MoodNotes ($3.99). Com­bin­ing di­ag­nos­tic cri­te­ria with journaling tools, cog­ni­tive behavioral ex­er­cises, and cus­tom­iz­a­ble goals for you to set with your ther­a­pist, these apps work well in a ther­a­peu­tic set­ting. You can track your progress with skills like anger man­age­ment, cop­ing with change, and re­sponses to ex­ter­nal or in­ter­nal stres­sors.

Re­cov­er­ing from an eat­ing dis­or­der, man­ag­ing your PTSD, or deal­ing with gen­er­al­ized anx­i­ety dis­or­der? There's an app for that too. iCBT ($5.99) lets you track your neg­a­tive thoughts and feel­ings as well as iden­tify cog­ni­tive dis­tor­tions

“It’s im­por­tant for us to find ways to turn tech into a helper in­stead of a stres­sor.”

for you to share with your ther­a­pist. Re­cov­ery Record (free) specif­i­cally deals with eat­ing dis­or­der meal track­ing. For PTSD, there's PTSD Coach (free), an app by the US Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs. PTSD Coach has a symp­tom log as well as ex­er­cises for symp­tom man­age­ment.

For a general cog­ni­tive behavioral coach­ing tool, check out Paci­fica (free). Along with track­ing your symp­toms and record­ing your jour­ney via text, Paci­fica of­fers a voice recorder jour­nal for a per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ence. For an ad­di­tional monthly fee of $3.99, you and your ther­a­pist can cus­tom­ize ex­er­cises and weekly goals for you to fo­cus on be­tween ses­sions. To track your anx­i­ety, down­load Worry Watch ($1.99), an app that lets you track the length and fre­quency of anx­i­ety at­tacks.

Any of these tools can im­prove your ther­a­peu­tic ex­pe­ri­ence by show­ing your progress, cre­at­ing achiev­able goals be­tween you and your ther­a­pist, or help­ing you es­tab­lish treat­ment pro­to­cols for nec­es­sary med­i­ca­tions.

Med­i­ca­tion Track­ers & Cri­sis Man­age­ment

Re­mem­ber­ing to take med­i­ca­tions is hard for ev­ery­one, but men­tal health and the side ef­fects of re­lated med­i­ca­tions can add to over­all stress lev­els when you're try­ing to stay healthy. The apps in this sec­tion can help you stay on track, eas­ily share your emer­gency con­tacts, and com­mu­ni­cate your med­i­cal needs if you go non­ver­bal.

Medis­afe Pill Re­minder (free) lets you sched­ule your med­i­ca­tions as well as record any side ef­fects, and it sends re­minders to your smart­watch. DoseCast ($2.99/month) and MedCoach (free) will give you re­fill re­minders and sync your records with your doc­tor so that you can keep your phar­macy up to date and stay on top of your own treat­ment plan.

Sim­i­lar to Ap­ple's free Med­i­cal ID fea­ture in the Health app, Emer­gency Con­tact (free) puts your doc­tor's con­tact in­for­ma­tion, as well as your ba­sic health con­cerns, on your Lock screen in case of emer­gency. You can cus­tom­ize the dis­play to meet your pri­vacy and med­i­cal needs. Emer­gency Con­tact even lets you in­clude the num­bers for fam­ily or friends you've des­ig­nated from your con­tact list.

For pa­tients who go non­ver­bal but are still able to com­mu­ni­cate, look into Emer­gency Chat (free). Cre­ated by an app de­vel­oper with Asperger's Syn­drome, Emer­gency Chat puts your cri­sis needs in the hands of peo­ple who want to help. You can add your med­i­cal sta­tus to the wel­come screen ahead of time so that you don't have to worry about ex­plain­ing what you need mid-cri­sis. The app also has a text-based chat func­tion, which you can use with an­other per­son by pass­ing the phone back and forth.

Feel Good Apps & Men­tal Health

If you've spent any time on the App Store, then you know that apps claim­ing to pro­mote men­tal health are a dime a dozen. It's easy to cre­ate col­or­ful graph­ics, add cheer­ful mu­sic, and toss an­other feel-good app into the mar­ket. That's why I've se­lected apps by read­ing clin­i­cian rec­om­men­da­tions and pa­tient re­views, and I've taken into ac­count cog­ni­tive behavioral ther­apy tech­niques. The apps I've shared won't solve any prob­lems overnight, but they're good tools to help man­age symp­toms and move your men­tal health in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.

Tam­lin Day is a Me­dia and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Ma­jor at Ma­har­ishi Univer­sity. He has writ­ten for the univer­sity blog and has been pre­vi­ously pub­lished in the Rio Re­view and Breathe Free Press.

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