Have you ever seen the commercial that asks you to do nothing but breathe for 15 seconds while you listen to falling rain? If you’ve played along, you might have been surprised at how good just a few seconds of inactivity and relaxation can make you feel.
That’s the premise behind stress management apps. While they cover different techniques like meditation, relaxation, and anxiety reduction, they have a common purpose – to make you feel better.
The Best Stress Management Apps
What Do Stress Management Apps Offer?
You could compare stress management apps for your mind, body, and spirit to physical fitness programs. Just as you could lay on the floor and do crunches or push-ups, most people like the idea of a regimen through guided instruction or prompting.
It’s the same with stress management. You could do it on your own, but a managed program with reminders, instructions, and formal techniques will keep you on track, and you have a better chance of sticking with it.
While stress management apps employ different practices, they serve to de-stress, calm the mind, and help you to focus your thoughts in healthier, happier, and more productive directions.
Meditation is proven to be one of the most effective stress-reduction techniques. But a simple directive of focusing on your breath and trying to clear your mind of thoughts could be stress-inducing for most people. That’s where guided meditation comes in handy. Using a guided meditation app is an easier way to tap into the benefits of meditation. You’re taken on a journey through single-focused visualization, setting aside your to-do’s and worries and replacing them with the sights, sounds, and images provided by your guide.
Relaxing Music and Soundtracks
A stress management app that provides relaxing music and soundtracks is a similar concept to a guided meditation. Some of the audio files cross over into the meditation realm with soothing sounds like rain falling, ocean waves, and birds chirping. It’s effortless listening to relaxing music, so it’s a relaxation technique that you can focus on to rein in your thoughts. Alternatively, you could use it throughout your day, on your commute, or even while you work.
Help with Sleep
Using a stress management app to help with sleep will lull you into a peaceful state. The best sleep apps include soothing music, ambient sounds, and other comforting audio, similar to what you’d find in a sleep machine. But the apps have some additional benefits, like timers (so you don’t lie awake worrying about turning the app off), meditations, visualizations, bedtime stories, and sleep trackers.
Like most stress management apps, those focusing on breathing exercises cross over into other areas, like meditation, mind training, and sleep support. Breathing exercise apps are appealing for calming the body and mind because they’re “quick hits,” While you could spend several minutes following breathing prompts to lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety, even a 30-second session makes a difference. Breathing exercise apps include breathing countdowns, different breathing patterns that redirect your focus, timed reminders, and heart rate monitors.
Unlike the calming exercises in stress management apps like breathing, sleep, and meditation, mind training apps have different benefits. Mind or brain training apps assist with memory, focus, and thought redirection. You’ll find that mind training apps are premised on interactive games, quizzes, and puzzles. They’re self-guided programs that can help with mood elevation, decision-making, and healthier responses to stressful situations. You could equate mind training apps to little therapists that you can carry around with you.
Artistic Stress Reduction
If you’re familiar with art therapy, then you’ll quickly get the gist of artistic stress management apps. Like mind training, they come in all virtual shapes and sizes. You’ve got online coloring books and design your own space apps. Other artistic stress management concepts include photo manipulation or self-guided “learn to draw” apps. It’s a different way to accomplish the same thing: calm your mind, develop a singular focus, slow your breathing, and ease anxiety or depression.
Are Stress Management Apps Effective?
Stress management apps are convenient ways to employ anxiety-reducing techniques. That convenience is one of the reasons why these types of tools are so effective. They’re inexpensive and always within reach.
As they’re designed to relieve stress and worries, they have built-in tools for reminders, encouragement, and tracking. So, you’re not only reaping the benefit of the service but helpful little nudges to cue you to use it.
Benefits of stress management apps
Here are just a few reasons why you’ll find stress management apps to be useful.
- Free or inexpensive
- Plenty of options
- Handy – download to your smartphone or tablet for instant access
- Not time consuming – some apps require less than five minutes for optimal benefits
- Similar to in-person classes or services
- You can track your breathing or heart rate to see immediate changes
- Every app has multiple sessions, soundtracks, or projects to keep users engaged
- Many are available on smartwatches
- Proven methods of stress reduction (breathing, focus, meditation, music, etc.)
Can I Get Therapy Help Through Stress Management Apps?
Many therapists use a multi-pronged approach in their treatment plans – meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, visualization, art, and music supplement in-office or online sessions. So, there’s already a built-in therapeutic component to stress management apps.
You could consider these types of tools as self-help therapy. You’re on your own, without the supervision or support of a therapist. They can be instrumental in alleviating everyday stress or the added challenges of isolation and social distancing brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
But if you’re looking for actual mental health treatment, whether for anxiety, depression, and other conditions, you might want to consider combining stress management apps with online therapy apps.
There could be some overlap between therapy and stress management apps. But you won’t have the benefit of a professional guiding your treatment with stress management apps alone. So, if you’re interested in checking out what online therapy has to offer, we’ve got some detailed information on some of the best providers, and you might be surprised at the convenience and cost-effectiveness.