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5 apps to combat anxiety


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Being half-way through my third year at university, I am no stranger to the sleepless nights, erratic mood swings and ever-impeding sense of doom that come hand-in-hand with a life of excess stress and heightened anxiety.  In a world of never-ending deadlines and constant criticism I found myself developing a number of not so healthy coping mechanisms just to get from one end of the day to the other - coping mechanisms which were not only harmful to my health, but which rarely brought me the state of calm I had set out to achieve. 

But coping with anxiety shouldn’t have to take you to unhealthy extremes. Recently I talked myself into downloading a number of apps that I hoped might be able help me reach the end of my degree without murdering a lecturer, fleeing the country or becoming an alcoholic. To my great surprise I found a fair few which actually seemed to work!

So for those of you who, like myself, feel in urgent need of counselling without the cost or commitment, I have produced a little rundown on just a few of the most effective apps I have come to in my bid to combat the impeding symptoms of stress and anxiety university life has inflicted, many of which are (at least initially) free to use.

5. I Can Be Free: Relax, remove Fear and Anxiety

From promoting promising a better night’s sleep to overcoming your darkest phobias, this app makes a lot of promises. But while we cannot honestly promote I Can Be Free as a miracle cure for your deathly fear of heights, it might just be able to provide you with a tool to tackle anxiety, whatever the trigger may be. Through a series of directive audio sessions set to calming music, this app is designed to modify your coping strategies and arm you with new ways of dealing with challenging or stressful situations.

By selecting your core feeling at the time of anxiety, whether that be embarrassment, fear of change, or loneliness, the app will then direct you to an audio session targeted to relieve your anxiety by tackling the emotional trigger you have identified.

Even if you don’t find the actual audio files particularly effective, the mere practice of identifying those emotions which trigger your feelings of anxiety might yet be enough to start you on the road to dealing with the very root cause of that anxious state.

4. Headspace

This initially free and beautifully designed app is available for both Android and Apple.  The app encourages an initial ten day trial to learn the basics of meditation as a means of taking a step back from the stresses and pressures of our generally highly-wired lives. 

This app is particularly useful for those whose days feel so jam-packed that they just can’t imagine having the time to set aside for all of these mindfulness exercises they’ve been reading about in magazines or the daunting half-an-hour recommended by apps like Digipill. Each exercise is only ten minutes long, making these medative lessons the perfect length to fit into a coffee break, a space between classes or meetings, or even for that oh so stressful morning bus journey at the dreaded peak of rush hour.

And, if you find yourself falling in love with the meditative strategies this app introduces in its free trial, the subscription version provides an innovative progress tracking feature to help you visualize your progressive journey toward a more relaxed and mindful self.

3. The Graditude Journal

This one is not a free app, however there are free version of it available of both IOS and Android. To be honest, the app itself is not particularly necessary if you have the motivation to keep up the techniques the app encourages.

Gratitude Journal, sold as ‘the life-changing app’, has the cutesy appearance of a handwritten journal, customizable with a variety of handwriting fonts. The app provides daily prompts and uplifting quotes to encourage you to notice the little positive in your everyday life. This is another mindfulness technique proven to provide better peace of mind and a more positive outlook.

By logging all of the little things that you are grateful for, whether that be the time you had to grab a coffee on the way to work, or that your housemate did your washing up for you, or simply that the rain stopped long enough for you to get to the bus stop. You can log using pictures or writing, and the general idea is that by logging these little details you will begin to recognize the positive in the everyday more so that the negatives – leading to a more optimistic state of wellbeing.

2. Digipill

This app has been described as a form of self-hypnosis and has had soaring reviews since its launch in 2013. The app uses what is called psychoacoustics, soothing audio-track’s designed to guide the subconscious into a state of hypnosis and, while in this state, recondition the mind.

The app can be used to condition all sorts of behaviors, whether your aim in using the app is to relieve stress, to lose weight, stop smoking or even to increase you motivation or concentration. The acoustic ‘pills’, as they are aptly referred to, contain between 15 and 30 minutes of audio recordings, each specifically designed to target that behavior or emotion you are struggling to overcome.

Once you have downloaded the app and tried out the free pill, all subsequent Digipills are available for download at a cost of as little at 69p each, with the price increasing depending on the length and content of the particular pill you need. But despite the cumulative price, the potential of this app in providing you with a renewed sense of ease and wellbeing should you use it effectively, tuning out of the everyday to set aside that half-an-hour of mental-reconditioning, might just be the next best alternative to a real psychotherapist.

1. Pacifica

Pacifica is designed around a type of therapy known as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which looks as identifying and targeting the innate cycle of fear which is causing your anxiety.

Admittedly this app is quite a commitment, but it is certainly one of the most useful out there in terms of targeting anxiety and relieveing stress. It contains a number of useful features such as a mood tracker, which by prompting you to rate your mood encourages you to notice how and why your moods fluctuate, right down to the daily challenge feature which works with you to face and overcome a particular anxiety through a series of small challenges that work toward a long-term goal.

Like many of the other apps I have reviewed, Pacifica also contains a series of mindfulness audio tools, but unlike many of the apps Pacifica has an additional community feature which allows users to communicate and share their own stories, anecdotes or motivational thoughts. This added support system, along with CBT features, is what makes this app my personal number one recommendation.


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