How to use Technology to Combat Anxiety
Anxiety is sneaky. We can be walking around the house doing chores and not even notice that our shoulders are tense, our jaw is clenched, we are breathing in a shallow manner, and our mind is racing 1000 miles per minute. When we do this all day it can lead to tension headaches, neck, shoulder and back aches, trouble relaxing, an increase in cortisol, high blood pressure, to name just a few side effects. If only there were a way that we could be reminded to check in with ourselves, take a deep breath, notice where we are tensing, let go of our thoughts, and relax. Oh wait... there is!! We live in an age of cellphones, social media, apps, and all things electronic. A benefit of all of this is that we have information and services at our fingertips, including apps that help us to relax, breathe, and pause.
The Benefits of Meditation
If you Google "benefits of meditation" you will get over 24 million results. Some of the top benefits are: reduces stress and anxiety, increases self-awareness of your thoughts, body, and emotions, can increase your attention span, can increase your feelings of goodwill toward others (loving kindness meditation), may help decrease dependencies, can help alleviate pain, and can improve your sleep. For some extra research you can read here, here, and here.
I will also say that there are risks with meditation. If you have a history of trauma meditation can put you in tune with thoughts or feelings in your body that you may not have dealt with. If you begin to meditate and traumatic memories surface, or re-surface, it would be helpful to reach out to a therapist trained in trauma therapy. Also, even for people without a trauma history, one of the ways humans survive is to bottle up thoughts and emotions and hide them away (hello addiction...). Meditation can make you aware of your body, of your thoughts, and all of the things you have been keeping bottled up. It is best to start meditation is a slow way. If you decide to try meditating, or to try to get back into a practice, start with a 5 minute meditation daily and work your way up to increasing amounts of time. Sitting with the discomfort you feel is part of the exercise and growth that meditation can create. But, especially at first, it can be uncomfortable.
Apps for Meditation Practice
There are several apps that are free to download and use, at least initially. They can help remind you to take deep breaths, provide guided meditations, and can help you fall asleep. I will first list the apps I have personally used and found success with. At the end I will list some articles if you would like to do a little more research before committing to an app. All the apps have free content, but some of the content is locked... like sleep meditations and some deeper work. So you can continue using the free content, but if you like using an app for mindfulness I suggest choosing one and subscribing so you can unlock all of the content.
In the google play store it has 3.5 stars and 10M+ downloads.
Right now, when you download, it says "Weathering the storm... Now available: a collection of meditation, sleep, and movement exercises for the current global crisis. Free for all."
Some of the exercises are free, but to upgrade you can pay $12.99 per month, or $69 for the year. There is a free 7 day trial of the upgrade, so I suggest using the free meditations and exercises first and seeing if you like it before subscribing.
You can type in the app what you want to search for. You can search for stress & anxiety, personal growth, kids & parenting... just to name a few. There are short meditations (1-5 minutes), or long ones, up to 120 minutes. There are videos that teach meditation techniques, and there are reminders that will pop-up to signal when it would be a good time to stop and take a few deep breaths.
In the google play store it has 4.5 stars and 10M+ downloads.
When you download Calm it asks you several questions to personalize your recommendations in the app to help you focus on your goals.
Calm has a 7 day free trial for their upgraded services, and after that it is $69.99 for a year plan.
When you open the app you can choose to meditate, listen to soothing music, do a quick breathing exercise, take a calm "master class", or do a sleep meditation. This app has a "daily calm", a 10-minute meditation that is different every day.8 There is an option to do a daily mood check-in and you can track your moods and write notes about what was going on that day. This can help if you are trying to uncover your source(s) of anxiety, depression, anger, and happiness. You can set a reminder to do your check-in daily. You can also set a mindfulness reminder to keep on track with your meditations daily. There is a section called "Calm Kids" that has sleep stories, meditations, lullabies, and soundscapes.
3. Breethe - Calm, Meditation, Sleep & Mindfulness
In the google play store it has 4.2 stars and 100K+ downloads.
Upon opening the app it asks "What can we help you with?" and allows you to choose as many as you want. The app provides a free 14-day trial and after that it is $12.99 per month.
The app provides "my place" which is content based on your answers to the initial sign-up question, sleep, meditation, well-being, and music. They offer a meditation called the "Daily Breether" that is 10 minutes long. There is a "getting started" section with meditations you can use in various settings. For example there is a meditation for sleep and a meditation for public places (awake with your eyes open). The second section is "Inner Wellness During Coronavirus", with meditations including "My family drives me nuts", "financial anxiety", and "dealing with loneliness".
4. Aura: Mindfulness, Sleep, Meditation
In the google play store it has 4.1 stars and 500K+ downloads.
When you open the app it asks what you are seeking (it only lets you choose one) and asks some demographic questions. It also asks you to set a reminder up front. Your first 7 days are free, and after that it is $11.99 per month, or $59.99 for the year.
The app checks in with you to begin and asks how you are feeling. Then you set the music and sounds you want to hear, and then you begin your first short meditation. This app provides meditations, life coaching, stories, and music. It also has a space to write journal entries to you can log about your feelings. Using it I felt it was a little pushy with the notifications. It also has less features and content than I found on Calm and Headspace.
If you would like to read about more apps that are available, feel free to check out these other articles: