I'm a big fan of life hacks, simple things that make life easier. Technology—love it or hate it—can help all of us manage stress and anxiety better. (Stay tuned for a post about how some technology actually increases our anxiety!) Here are three apps I regularly recommend to clients:
This web site and app might be the best intro meditation app I've found. We all know that meditation, when done right, can reduce anxiety, and calm.com is a great place to play around with the foundations of mindfulness meditation. Calm claims to "bring clarity, joy and peace to your daily life," and it's not a far-fetched statement with its smart instruction and clean interface. The relaxation sounds like Tibetan bowls and rainstorms are top notch if you're into that sort of thing.
I discovered this app after I read The New Yorker article entitled "Headspace is Enlightenment for Your iPhone." Who wouldn't click on that? The interface is user-friendly, but not nearly as luxurious as calm.com, which is why Calm might be more enticing for beginners. But Headspace brings some street cred. The man behind the app is not a bunch of Silicon Valley tech guys looking to capitalize on the booming meditation market. Instead, it's Andy Puddicombe, a forty-something British meditation teacher, who trained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk before creating the iPhone app (with a bunch of Silicon Valley tech guys). He translates legitimate monastery-worthy meditation techniques for the secular modern times, and even has programs tailored specifically for anxiety. So if you want to meditate and are interested in tradition, Headspace might be a good choice.
Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit. Their tag line is: "Put down your phone and get back to your life." Bravo! Clearly, Moment is odd man out on this list. It's not a meditation app, but in my mind, it's more powerful because it brings real-time attention to our habits. Out of all of these, Moment might just be my favorite. It is also the most infuriating, simply because it can be difficult to look at your habits honestly: Did I really spend that much time on my phone today? Oh shut up, Moment! Quit judging me! But the first step in changing your habits (and therefore your life) is actually knowing what's going on. We can only bring calm to our lives when see how mindless and distracted we are all the time.
You might have noticed that none of the apps are the classic "reduce anxiety app" that litters the app stores. I personally don't think those do a lot of good. But these three apps are aimed at making lifestyle changes. They get to the root of anxiety and work to train your mind in a different way, and that creates lasting change. And that's what the best anxiety therapy does.