Everyone suffers from anxiety now and again, but some experience anxiety more intensely than others do. These three apps are specifically designed to help the millions of Americans with anxiety disorders, but they’re great resources for anyone. They may not cure mental illness, but they function as great self-help tools to supplement therapeutic or medicinal treatment.
- Self-help for Anxiety Management (SAM)
This app is a great tool for keeping track of anxiety levels and identifying what causes anxious feelings. Users of the app can keep track of how they’re feeling throughout the day by checking in on the app and rating their feelings of anxiety, worrying thoughts, unpleasant physical sensations, and avoidance behaviors. The app allows users to see these ratings on a graph, which allows the user to track anxiety over time and pick up on what times of day anxiety seems to spike.
In addition to keeping tabs on anxiety levels, SAM provides users with mini-lessons on anxiety and what anxious thinking looks like. There are short guided tasks that focus on mental and physical relaxation and breaking the cycle of anxious thoughts, and a social cloud feature that allows users to reach out and get tips on dealing with whatever their struggles might be.
Free, available in the iTunes App Store or the Google Play Store.
- Breathing Zone
Breathing Zone’s developers boast that the app can help reduce high blood pressure in addition to helping decrease levels of stress and anxiety. With the help of your phone’s microphone, the app measures how many breaths you take per minute (bpm) and uses that value to generate a personalized target bpm. To reach that target number, you can create a weekly target and keep track of how many minutes of guided breathing you do each day.
Calming voice instructions guide your breathing, and simple visuals give a relaxed feel. You can choose from five different calming sounds to accompany your breathing, but if you’re in a quiet area without headphones, the app works great even without the guiding voice or soothing sounds. Simple and beautiful animations onscreen track when to breathe in and out, and show you how close you are to your target number of breaths per minute. This app is useful when you feel yourself getting anxious and short of breath; it can help you get your breathing back on track, bring down your anxiety level before it gets worse, and leave you feeling relaxed.
$3.99, available in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store. Limited features for the Android version.
This app, based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, focuses on long-term improvement. While apps like Breathing Zone are great for decreasing anxiety in a stressful moment, Pacifica focuses on breaking the long-term cycle of anxious thoughts and feelings. Pacifica, designed to be a daily app, will send you alerts throughout the day asking you how you’re feeling. It’s hard to remember to check in at any given moment, and the app’s reminders help you to keep track of your mood over time, as well as how you slept, how much you ate, and how long you exercised. In addition to mood and health maintenance, the app offers three other main features: Relax (a daily meditation), Thoughts (a daily reflection), and Experiments (daily efforts to face your fears). The Relax function includes breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques; Thoughts provides a place for you to speak aloud and record your feelings; Experiments guides you through challenging yourself daily to face what you’re afraid of.
Pacifica also has a space where you can create or join both private and public groups, so you may work to combat anxiety within a community of other people who understand. The developers of Pacifica did a lot of good research when creating this app, and as a result, it’s informative, professional, and comforting.
Free, available in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store. To unlock features beyond those listed above, buy a subscription for $3.99 a month or $29.99 per year.
SAM, Breathing Zone, and Pacifica are three great apps that will help you to reconsider your anxious thoughts, get your breathing back on track, and make real improvements in the levels of anxiety that you experience every day. Armed only with your phone and a positive attitude, you can make a lot of valuable progress. If you feel these apps are helpful but not quite helpful enough, talk to your doctor about treatment options such as medication or therapy.