Using Your Smartphone to Stress Less

by Beth Kelly

Image courtesy

Image courtesy "adamr" @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it comes to technology, we sometimes think of ways it can add stress to our already hectic lives. There are emails to send and text messages to check, not to mention countless ways we can drive ourselves to distraction with social media. Daily life turns up plenty of other stress factors including overwork, tiredness, and financial and health concerns. Your constant connection to the world isn't really helping you manage all your responsibilities, either: it’s helping to create more stress for you. A study from Kent State University on students showed that frequent cell phone users had a lower GPA, greater dissatisfaction with their lives, and more anxiety than their peers who weren't classified as "frequent" users.

It can be good to know that sometimes being "plugged in" can work in our favor to help eliminate or manage stress, not just cause more of it. While it may, at first, seem counter-intuitive to use your phone to bring down your anxiety and better your mental (and physical) state, as HealthITjobs.com explains, "new mobile apps are giving users more control over their health and treatment, and better ways to track their own medical data."

Here are five mobile apps that can help you take a second for yourself.

Soundrown

One good way to manage stress is to find ways to take brief, meditative breaks. Whether you need periodic breaks during the rigors of a day at the office or a way to help you wind down before you sleep at night, the Soundrown app for Android provides ambient noise to help you in your efforts to relax. They offer various environmental sounds of rain, birds, waves, and fire. They even provide the typical sounds you'd hear in a coffee shop, which for some people prove to be soothing! The app requires Android 2.3 or higher.

Calm.com

If the idea of ambient noise sounds appealing, but you'd like your meditation time to be a bit more guided, there's calm.com. Both a website and an app for iPhone or Android, calm.com also provides soothing sounds with the addition of a voice-over guiding you through relaxation techniques. You can time your relaxation break for 2, 5, 10, or 20 minutes.

iSleep Easy

It’s difficult to manage stress when you’re tired. Lack of good, deep sleep can lead to irritability and distraction at work and at home, exacerbating whatever stress you may already be feeling. A new app from Meditation Oasis.com is iSleep Easy, which you can use on your iPhone or iPod Touch. The app comes with nine guided meditations. You can play these with or without music or background sounds that you choose from a selection of provided options. The Sound Mix feature enables you to mix different combinations of sounds, or to play sounds without the guided meditations if you prefer. There are preset playlists but you can also set your own.

Breathe & Relax

How about an app that reminds you to breathe? That may initially sound like a strange idea, but it can be a helpful one. Stress sometimes makes us so physically intense that we breathe more shallowly. A gentle reminder to take a deep breath can be a big help. Breathing deeply and slowly sends messages to your brain that will help your body, including tense muscles, to calm down and relax. With the Breathe & Relax app, available for iPhone and iPod Touch, you can program your own breathing reminders, either voiced or visual. You can utilize the Breathing Breaks and Breathing Exercises features to help you learn to breathe more effectively.

The Mindfulness App

This inexpensive app from MindApps provides guided meditations to help you be more mindful and aware throughout the day. Not only that but research has shown that meditation can reduce feelings of anxiety or depression, both of which are so common during the winter months. You can go short or long with these meditative breaks, which can be 3, 5, 15 or 30 minutes in duration. In addition to choosing the length of the meditation, you can also set location alerts that remind you to set aside time to meditate at a given place or time. The meditations are presented by various teachers of mindfulness techniques. The app has recently been updated and is now available for Android devices.


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