An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 4/27/17.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In the short-term, low level stress can help us focus and improve our performance. It can give us the boost we need to finish a big project or make an important decision. However, I think we can all agree when we say that an overabundance of stress is the absolute worst.
First, a quick primer on stress: Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. When your brain perceives a threat (anything from a fast approaching deadline to a fast-approaching wild animal), it signals your body to release a burst of hormones that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. This “fight-or-flight” response fuels you to deal with the stressful situation at hand. Once the threat (or stress-inducing trigger) is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal, relaxed state. However, given the nonstop complications of modern life, many of us rarely return to that relaxed state, merely hopping from one stressor to another.
Chronic stress occurs when we are constantly dealing with stressors, resulting in the constant drip (or flood, no judgement) of stress hormones in the body. Chronic stress is not only emotionally draining, but it is also pretty terrible for your overall health – it quite literally affects almost every system in your body. Chronic stress increases your likelihood of experiencing a slew of health issues including cardiovascular disease, disordered sleep, disordered eating, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and digestive problems.
Stressed about being stressed yet? Never fear! There are plenty of easy steps you can take to manage your stress, and even lowering your stress by small amounts can have big health benefits. To help you start your less-stressed lifestyle, we gathered several apps that can be helpful in managing your stress levels.
Headspace is a simple meditation app designed to help you be more relaxed and mindful. The app offers meditation and mindfulness exercises that are between two minutes and an hour long. You can enroll in their free 10-day meditation boot camp or subscribe to access their larger content library.
Happify is an app that promises to be your “personal happiness trainer.” Happify is a library of de-stress games, motivational articles, quotes, and audio tracks from psychology coaches and successful business people. Once you’re downloaded, the app asks to you complete a short questionnaire which reveals your current emotional state before suggesting tracks or games for your current mood. The app hosts a wide range of stress-management activities that are based on evidence-based interventions in the fields of positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Inspired by the slow gestures of tai chi, Pause is like a gamified version of a lava lamp. You move your finger slowly around the screen, following any pattern you’d like. The slower and more deliberately you move, the bigger the splotch of color under your finger grows. Move too fast, and it shrinks again.
Breathe2Relax is a helpful app for anyone who wants to practice deep breathing. The diaphragmatic breathing techniques taught in the app are designed to reduce stress and promote calm. The app guides you through breathing exercises and offers the option of listening to music during each session.
This is a great app for meditation beginners if you don’t want to deal with an ongoing subscription. It features 80 guided meditations (with very soothing British voices) designed for specific situations and feelings, such as meditations for waking up, going to sleep, dealing with stress, and more.
7 Cups of Tea
Both a website and an app, 7 Cups of Tea connects you anonymously with trained active listeners. It also offers mindfulness exercises in a step-by-step format. The app has over 160,000 trained listeners and licensed therapists to choose from. Anyone having serious or persistent problems with chronic stress and needing a bit more guidance might use 7 Cups of Tea as a way to dip their feet into the world of counseling.
Do you have any other favorite calming apps? Let us know if the comments below!