Demonstrating just truly how far-reaching the digital revolution can be, a recent trend in phone apps steps into the traditional domain of health, medicine, and therapy. On top of the sheer ingeniousness of some of these ideas, you might be amazed at how sophisticated the hardware on today’s smartphones can be. From apps to let you know how stressed you are to others that tell you what to do about it, here are five outstanding entries in the war of gadgets vs. anxiety.
Not, as it may appear, a virtual chamomile tea, this gadget for Android and Apple miraculously monitors sleep cycles rather than knock you out. After you designate an approximate time to fall asleep and alarm time to end the cycle, your iPhone differentiates between different levels of sleep you cycle through, and even notes how many times you wake up. If Sleep Time sees that your REM cycles are wanting you’ll know why you feel ill-rested.
GPS for the Soul
Not at all as New Age-y as it sounds, the technology at the center of this app is a little mystical. Believe it or not, the camera lens on an iPhone is sensitive enough to register heart rate and its variability, which together are an index of stress levels. The app then crunches the reading into a point on a color spectrum – dark red, say – that corresponds to an emotional state (out of balance, e.g.) Finally, based on your color reading, the program suggests a “guide,” a sort of metronome for a breathing rhythm to get you in sync. The whole pipeline seems complicated, breathing, but the process is simple, effective biomechanics.
After the last two apps, you may be expecting your phone to hit your pressure points for you, but this handy how-to amounts to the same. Your phone will display a detailed map of the points you’ll press with a finger in order to increase blood flow strategically – and alleviates somatic stress. For a handful of change on top of the already cheap $1.99, you can get tutorials on how to use acupressure to curb stress-habits like smoking and comfort eating.
The great outdoors is filled with rhythmic rustling, trickling, and tapping that can lull you to sleep or even trigger ASMR, but even if you live in a rural area, wild sounds are anything but predictable. This Android-only app carries a library of Mother Earth’s soundtrack, but with state-of-the-art sound technology and a good pair of earbuds, this can compete with a nap in the woods.
Finally, no round-up of stress relief methods would be complete without a mention of hypnosis, which is what this free Apple app is all about. As opposed to the meaningless mantras of meditation, hypnotic suggestion works by sending positive signals to the brain, which sends out the message to calm down. Users claim that simply listening to these 30 minute sound programs three times a week produces an observable shift in anxiety levels. Especially if you’re highly susceptible to hypnotic influence, do not listen to while you’re driving or performing any other activity in which nodding off could be hazardous.
There are dozens of other stress-busting apps on the market (or for free), but as many are variations on similar themes, the list above gives you a fair cross-section of what’s out there. Still if these titles make you hunger for more of the same – or something different altogether – look onward: there’s a squeeze-and-shake stress-relief virtual rubber duckie waiting for you.
Uma Campbell is a freelance writer from Southern California. She loves finding natural ways to fight stress and anxiety, and has recently started using apps on her phone and has found it very helpful. If you wanted to view more of her writing, you can visit the Soothing Walls website where she regularly contributes.