As someone who practically came out of the womb as an anxious person, I’ve learned a number of coping mechanisms that don’t include medication. I prefer natural remedies like yoga, tea, breathing techniques, or even making lists.
Until recently, though, I never realized how many apps exist to curb an anxiety—from help for generalized stress to aids for specific issues such as audio hypnotic treatments designed especially for people who have jitters when swallowing pills. Hundreds exist, and I’m all for taking advantage of that fact—we live in a digital world, so why not use iPhone apps to relieve our worries?
On top of that, I’m the kind of person who will do anything to avoid paying even a single cent for an app. So, here, five free options I found meant to relieve all kinds of uneasiness.
Pacifica focuses on daily goals. Open the app, and you’ll be prompted to choose whether you want to improve your mood, feel less stress/anxiety, feel less anxious in social situations, or live a healthier lifestyle. The app will ask you to rate how you’re feeling morning and night with optional notes to see if there’s a pattern of things that make you feel stressed or happy.
This is one of my favorite apps I discovered because of the variety of things you’re able to do with it. After documenting your mood, you can try relaxing techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or even visualization techniques. There’s also a section to input your goals and thoughts, journal-style. And you can track your sleep, eating, and exercise habits too, since they also play a crucial role in stress and anxiety. Group boards and chats for people who experience different types of stress or just want to talk it out exist within the app too.
Adult coloring books have been touted for their ability to calm nerves and relieve stress, so it’s no wonder someone created a virtual version with the same intent.
As the name suggests, there are many different owls just waiting to be electronically colored. Choose your favorite, from the elaborate to the simple, and decorate it with 14 different hues. It’s kind of mind-numbing and calming, but the disadvantage of this over a real coloring book is that it keeps everything neatly in the lines for you. Therefore, there’s less of an intense focus.
This app focuses on self-hypnosis to stop anxiety, though there are also other options on the app for people trying to overcome bad habits, lose weight, or even quit addictions. Most of the specific treatments cost an extra $2.99, but there are some really detailed ones there: options for anxiety related to being alone, toilets (!!!), sharks, highways, needles, and more. Choose what you’re after and the sound you’re interested in (ranging from silence to clouds) and fill out your profile. After hitting play, your phone will darken and a male voice will start instructing you to relax, think deeper thoughts, and focus on deep breathing techniques.
For some reason, the guy’s voice bothered me, but it reminded me of yoga sessions in terms of a low, deep voice telling you how to get relaxed. It’s a really interesting concept, and perhaps it could work well for people who are into this type of thing. I imagine that it would be good to listen to while commuting to work, especially in a busy city like New York.
Consider this app a personal therapist of sorts. You can use it to connect with and talk to “anonymous, trained volunteer listeners,” or just try simple calming activities, which range from emotional wellness tests to documenting thoughts in a “gratitude journal” or watching brief, uplifting videos.
There’s also a separate community with threads on anxiety and stress and how to cope, which users can connect and respond to. If you’re someone who likes to vent, I could see how this app could help. I personally wasn’t sure what to say once connected to a stranger across the world, though.
According to reviews, the users of the app use it both for falling asleep and relieving stress and anxiety. You can choose soothing sounds from rivers, oceans, rain, birds, thunderstorms, cats, and more. The most interesting part? You can actually layer the sounds, and they’ll play all together. The app lets you select up to 12 sounds at a time. So, if you’re traveling somewhere new and feeling anxious, you could essentially re-create the sounds of your home by selecting things like city ambience, oscillating fan, rainy day—there are tons of options.
The urban rain sound is particularly realistic. I’ll definitely be using this app the next time I’m far away from home. In fact, I wish I knew it existed when I moved to New York City for college!