Mental Health Apps
We are living through a very stressful time. Even as the COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease, we remain anxious about our finances and savings. Social isolation is testing relationships. Our important plans such as vacations, conferences and weddings are on hold indefinitely. Going to the grocery store feels like completing scavenger hunt a through a minefield as a contestant on Survivor. To make matters worse, in-person mental health services haven’t been available and the demand for virtual counseling has increased.
Stress, anxiety and depression are serious health issues that should be treated by medical professionals and trained counselors. During the pandemic, the BC Government is working hard to provide targeted support.  But until you’re able to access such assistance in a timely manner, there are apps that can help provide intermediary relief.
Depression and General Anxiety – Moodkit
Moodkit draws upon the principles and techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is a widely-recognized and commonly-used therapy method that helps individuals become aware of their inaccurate or negative thinking, so they can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively.
Moodkit consists of four core modules. Over 200 Moodkit Activities, accompanied by examples and tips, teach methods for managing your mood. The Thought Checker helps users identify and work through negative though patterns. The app’s Mood Tracker charts your daily mood over time so you can track your progress and setbacks. Lastly, the Journal section is a place to record daily observations, notes to share with your medical professional and random thoughts.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks – Rootd
Rootd helps get users through panic attacks, educates them on the physiology and psychology of anxiety, and teaches coping mechanisms. Personifying anxiety a.k.a. “the monster inside,” the app’s cartoon monster Ron is “scary at times, but also super friendly, so nothing to fear in the long run.“
When they feel a panic attack coming on, users can push the big red button at the bottom of the screen. This launches the Rootr, where users can follow a set of prompts to return to a sense of calm. Since panic attacks are never convenient, the app never requires data or Wi-Fi connection for the Rootr to work.
To prevent panic attacks or at least reduce their frequency, Routr’s Lessons help users identify the source(s) of their anxiety and make short- and long-term lifestyle changes to address these sources. Deep breathing exercises and guided visualizations also help users develop coping mechanisms to get through attacks with greater ease. A statistics page will show users whether what they’ve learned is helping reduce the frequency and severity of their attacks.
Meditation and Sleep – Calm
When it comes to meditation and sleep, Calm is consistently rated #1 on the Apple app store and has been downloaded more than 50 million times.
Calm offers guided meditation sessions on topics such as breaking habits, self-esteem, forgiveness and focus. Multi-day meditation programs range from 3 to 21 days, making the app appropriate for beginner, intermediate and experienced meditators. And with podcast-like Masterclasses and daily new 10-minute programs as well, it’ll be a long time before you run out of material on this app.
In addition to the meditations about sleep, Calm offers Sleep Stories and (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) ASMR recordings to add to your bedtime routine. While the Sleep Stories are more geared towards children, they can also provide a relaxing transition into sleep for adults. And if you’re never tried ASMR, you may be surprised by the results. ASMR is the body’s response, felt as tingling from the neck down the spine, in response to certain auditory stimuli such as whispering and other repetitive noises. Many people find it extremely relaxing.
General Mood – Happify
If you want to take a lighter, yet still research-based approach to improving your mental health, Happify provides science-based activities and games to help users overcome negative thoughts. It claims eighty-six percent of frequent users are happier within two months.
Happify distinguishes itself from other mental health apps in at least two ways. First, its games and exercises provide a more flexible approach versus more traditional therapy methods. Second, the app quantifies the user’s starting point and progress with a single “happiness score” out of 100. Working towards a concrete goal (an increased score) can be a real motivator for some individuals.
Positivity – Day One Journal
If your symptoms are mild or you feel you’re just being brought down by the negativity on the news and your social feeds, Day One Journal can help you start a multimedia gratitude journal. (Gratitude journaling is the practice of making time daily to think about and record the things going on in your life for which you are grateful. This not only forces you to think optimistically in that moment, but can provide a record of positivity to fall back on when negativity beckons.)
Day One Journal stands above its competitors mainly due to its multimedia format. While other apps simply give prompts to which you can type answers or a daily reminder to write something, Day One Journal is more like a personal, positive-thoughts-only Facebook page. In addition to typed entries, you can upload video and audio files, geolocate, post photos and add drawings. The app also provides access to podcasts, blogs and a Facebook community to help you remain engaged and inspired. And, if you really like your final product, Day One can even turn your journal into a professionally printed book.
 If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately by calling 911 or the BC Crisis Centre at crisiscentre.bc.ca
 Please visit www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/virtual-supports-covid-19
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