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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

10 Anxiety Relief Apps to Take the Edge Off When Stress Hits Hard

10 Anxiety Relief Apps to Take the Edge Off When Stress Hits Hard

Doesn’t it always seem to be the way that anxiety and panic attacks have a terrible habit of striking at the worst possible moment?

Sure, there’s never a *good* time to deal with them, but more often than not the stress hits hardest when we’re far beyond our comfort zone, with our usual anxiety relief tools well out of reach.

Perhaps we’re at a friend’s house, on the train or at the store. Wherever it is, when an attack strikes of the stress of the situation simply becomes too overwhelming, we could all use something quick, simple and effective to help us through it.

That’s where the leading anxiety relief apps we’re featuring today come in handy.

Over the past couple of years, a whole host of tools have come onto the market to help those dealing with stress, anxiety and depression gain some respite from their symptoms wherever they are, whenever they need them.

On the face of it, this is certainly good news. It means that however stress and anxiety manifests itself for you, and however you prefer to regain your calm, there’s a tool available that you can download and use at a moment’s notice.

But here’s the thing:

With so many of these apps now available, finding one that’s truly effective can take a long time and a lot of work.

Of course, there is an easier way.

Here, we’ve rounded up the very best anxiety relief apps currently available, each one tried, tested and reviewed to help you pick the ones that are going to work best for you.

1. Calm

    Deciding how to rank our top two anxiety relief apps was no easy task. Both calm and second-placed Breathe2Relax offer incredible value for a free app and have ultimately helped thousands of people to get their anxiety under control.

    In the end, however, it was Calm’s reputation as the world’s number one mindfulness and relaxation app which cemented its position at the top of the chart.

    Voted Apple’s App of the Year in 2017 and currently the third most popular iPhone app in the category of health and fitness, Calm offers a plethora of relaxing meditations.

    Each meditation comes with its own enchanting visuals and tranquil soundtrack, so you can always find one that’s just to your liking.

    Also available for Android devices, the app allows you to choose meditations ranging anywhere from a quick two to twenty minutes.

    Whilst the former can prove incredibly effective in an emergency, using the longer meditations on a regular basis can work wonders for keeping anxiety at bay and enjoying a greater sense of calm throughout day-to-day life.

    Like most of the apps on this list, Calm is free to download and has lots of free content that you can use right away. However, there are some options to purchase subscription-only content if you wish to.

    Best for: All-round stress-management and relaxation

    Rating:

    • iPhone rating : 4.8/5
    • Android rating: 4.6/5

    Available for iOS | Android

    2. Breathe2Relax

      Few apps have been more widely acclaimed nor as expertly put together as Breathe2Relax.

      As the name implies, the app helps you get through an anxiety attack by practising breathing techniques, with a particular focus on diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing.

      That said, this isn’t just as a great tool to use in an emergency.

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      Break it out regularly and practice some of the exercises whenever you simply want to enjoy a moment of quiet mindfulness or to help you feel fully relaxed before sleep.

      As you might expect from a tool developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, this one has plenty of science behind it. A series of videos and graphics can show you how stress is affecting you in different parts of your body, as well as offering the best techniques to tackle that stress.

      Simple, effective, and very easy to use, this is well worth a download for anyone dealing with stress, anxiety, or panic attacks.

      Best for: Breathing exercises

      Rating:

      • iPhone rating : 4.4/5
      • Android rating: 4/5

      Available for iOS | Android

      3. Self-Help for Anxiety Management

        Developed by a team of psychologists, computer scientists and students at the University of West England in Bristol, Self-Help for Anxiety Management (or SAM, if you prefer) is one of the most fully-comprehensive anxiety relief apps currently out there.

        Whilst other tools tend to focus specifically on one aspect (such as breathing exercises or meditation), SAM sets itself apart as a one-stop-shop for all manner of tools, tips and techniques for busting stress, reducing anxiety, and dealing with panic attacks.

        The ability to connect and communicate with other SAM users is particularly helpful.

        Dealing with anxiety can often be a very lonely experience, especially if you don’t have anyone around you who really understands what you’re going through.

        To address this, SAM comes with a secure, private social network that puts you in contact with others who are going through a similar experience to you.

        That being said, the best part of this app is the ability to put together your own personalized toolkit of things that really help you.

        So, instead of relying solely on a pre-defined set of tools, any time you come across a resource that works for you, you can add it to your toolkit.

        That way, whenever you need it, you’ve got instant access to all the things you know you can rely on to help you out when stress or anxiety is at its peak.

        Best for: Putting together your own anti-anxiety toolkit

        Rating:

        • iPhone rating: 3.9/5

        Available for iOS

        4. HeadSpace

          With HeadSpace, you start off with a free trial version and then have the option to pay for premium content. Whilst that may not make it the ideal app for everyone, it does have plenty of benefits that make it a worthy inclusion on our list.

          The free version provides a complete course that teaches basic meditation techniques that you can use in a variety of situations to feel calmer and enjoy mindful living.

          Often, one of the biggest problems facing those with anxiety is that of racing thoughts; taking relatively benign situations (or those which would otherwise be only mildly stressful) and blowing them up into huge, terrifying ordeals.

          Most of the time, these terrifying ordeals never actually occur in the real world, but because we’ve created such large, vivid representations of them in our minds, we feel as though they’re entirely real.

          The result, of course, is heightened anxiety or a full-blown panic attack.

          HeadSpace addresses this by focussing on mindfulness — bringing us back into the present moment through a series of guided meditations and enjoyable animations.

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          The latter help teach valuable mindfulness skills that can help not just with stress and anxiety, but in tackling everyday life situations such as eating healthy, exercising and getting a restful night’s sleep.

          Best for: Mindfulness and meditations

          Rating:

          • iPhone rating : 4.9/5
          • Android rating: 4.6/5

          Available for iOS | Android

          5. Worry Watch

            Worry Watch is one of the few anxiety relief apps out there available exclusively for Apple devices. It’s also one of the few apps that you’ll need to pay up front to use.

            However, if you have $2.99 to spare, then you’ll find it well worth taking a few moments out of your day to download this very useful tool.

            Unlike other apps which help you to cope once the stress or anxiety is already at its peak, Worry Watch does something much different.

            It helps you to track and identify the trigger situations that cause much of your anxiety in the first place.

            Using the password-protected journal, you can log all the situations, circumstances, and people that cause you the most anxiety. You can even categorize different types of worry and note down how high the level of anxiety is that they cause.

            In turn, this can help you develop new coping strategies or come up with alternative ways of doing things which avoid those trigger situations.

            Revisiting these events, you’re also likely to see that the things you worried about the most never turned out even half as bad as you expected. In the long-run, this can help boost your confidence and reduce anxiety when going into similar situations.

            Best for: Identifying anxiety triggers

            Rating:

            • iPhone rating : 4.5/5

            Available for iOS

            6. MindShift

              Dealing with stress and anxiety can be terrifying and exhausting no matter what you’re age.

              Yet for teenagers and young adults, it can be practically debilitating, preventing them from enjoying the best possible opportunities in life as they work their way out of high school into the wider world.

              Developed by the Canadian charity, AnxietyBC, MindShift remains one of the best tools out there for helping young people overcome this crippling anxiety and develop effective coping strategies for almost all aspects of life.

              Through a combination of learning exercises, meditations, and tools, MindShift helps users to change the way they think about anxiety and stop it from controlling their lives.

              A highlight is the “chill out tools,” designed to aid relaxation and mindfulness. These can prove particularly effective in stressful situations or in helping youngsters whose sleep is affected by anxiety.

              Elsewhere, breathing exercises and various strategies can be taught to tackle a series of issues including social anxiety, panic, conflict, and riding out the intense emotions that play such a big part in the lives of growing young people.

              Best for: Teenagers, and young adults with anxiety

              Rating:

              • iPhone rating : 3.7/5
              • Android rating : 4.1/5

              Available for iOS | Android

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              7. Pacifica

                Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has long proven to be incredibly effective in coping with stress, anxiety and depression.

                Pacifica takes the most prominent principles and most useful tools of CBT and packs them into one helpful app, along with meditations, mindfulness exercises, and more.

                By far one of the most beautifully designed apps featured today, the app is like having your own CBT therapist in your pocket at all times.

                Once downloaded, you can keep a private journal to record your thoughts and log trigger situations (much like you can with Worry Watch). The CBT-based analytics tools can then help you to break the negative thought cycles that cause much of the stress, anxiety or depression about a certain event or circumstance.

                You can also set daily goals and challenges and work through audio lessons and activities designed to teach you new ways of coping with your anxiety.

                As with other apps, there’s also a social component where you can connect and share stories, tips and advice with other users.

                Pacifica is free to download and use, but some content is only available via a paid subscription.

                At time of writing, said subscription will cost you $8.99 per month, $53.99 per year, or $199.99 for a lifetime membership.

                Best for: CBT-based exercises

                Rating:

                • iPhone rating: 4.7/5
                • Android rating : 4.5/5

                Available for iOS | Android

                8. Inner Balance

                  It’s unique, it’s innovative, and it’s very helpful, so why does Inner Balance rank so far down on our list?

                  One word:

                  Price.

                  Sure, the app itself is free to download, but if you’re going to actually make any use out of it, you’ll need to shell out around $130 for a wearable sensor.

                  If you have that kind of money available, then this is certainly worth the investment.

                  What it does is looking at the physical effects of stress and anxiety, and helping to get those effects under control in a way that promotes calm, relaxing feelings.

                  When stress is high, or when we’re in the midst of a panic attack, our breathing and heart rate shoots through the roof.

                  Inner Balance teaches users how to monitor this. It also teaches how to get breathing, heart rate, and emotions all in alignment, turning anxiety into calm and reducing the overwhelming sense of fatigue that can often follow an attack.

                  Best for: Tracking and improving the physical effects of stress or anxiety

                  Rating:

                  • iPhone rating: 4.7/5
                  • Android rating: 3.6/5

                  Available for iOS | Android

                  9. Panic Relief Free

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                    Though all of the tools we’ve listed here do a great job in reducing overall anxiety levels and promoting positive mental health in the long-term, Panic Relief goes one better:

                    It provides emergency support when you really need it the most – in the middle of an actual panic attack.

                    As we’ve already discussed, a panic attack can send heart rates haywire and make breathing incredibly erratic.

                    Naturally, this makes it harder to concentrate, which is why it’s very helpful to find that Panic Relief is so quick and simple to use, even when you’re at the height of an attack.

                    Once you’re in, you can access four animated tutorials that talk you through proven techniques to minimise the physical effects of an attack, slow your breathing back to a normal pace, and ultimately help you feel more relaxed.

                    Best for: Dealing with panic attacks

                    Rating:

                    • iPhone rating: 4/5
                    • Android rating: 4.6/5

                    Available for iOS | Android

                    10. Rain Rain Sleep Sounds

                      Finally, we get to an aspect of our lives that can cause us the most problems when it is impacted by high-level anxiety.

                      All those racing thoughts, worries and stresses can often leave us tossing and turning through the night. This lack of sleep then affects our ability to function the next day and causes us no end of health problems. As a result, we often find our anxiety increasing, and thus the vicious cycle continues.

                      Rain Rain Sleep Sounds looks to break that cycle by providing a menu of endless soundscapes designed to help users drift away into a peaceful night’s rest.

                      Most of the tracks are different forms of rain (such as rain falling in the city or at the seaside), but a few, such as crackling fires and thunderstorms, may be more to your liking.

                      Choose one high-quality track, set it to play, and it will keep on doing so all through the night, lulling you into a restful state so that you can wake up fresh and ready to tackle your day.

                      Best for: Getting a peaceful night’s sleep

                      Rating:

                      • iPhone rating: 4.8/5
                      • Android rating: 4.4/5

                      Available for iOS | Android

                      The verdict: Picking an anxiety relief app that’s right for you

                      From physical health to mental and emotional anguish, anxiety can manifest itself in many forms.

                      The good news is that no matter which of those forms you’re struggling with the most, there’s an app that’s tailor-made to help you with it.

                      Finding it impossible to get out of a debilitating panic attack? Panic Relief is just the thing.

                      Need help maintaining a sense of calm throughout your day-to-day life? HeadSpace or Pacifica may be more to your liking.

                      That being said, there’s nothing to say you have to download just one app and stick to it.

                      Since almost all of the tools featured here are free to at least try out, why not choose a handful that look to be the most helpful and test them for yourself?

                      You never know, you may just find the one thing that makes all the difference when it comes to taking control of your anxiety and leading a happier, calmer life.

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                      More by this author

                      Chris Skoyles

                      Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

                      5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) 13 Ideas on How to Help Depression That Just Won’t Go Away 10 Anxiety Relief Apps to Take the Edge Off When Stress Hits Hard Anxiety vs Depression: What’s the Difference and How to Deal with Them? What Does Anxiety Feel Like? (Types and Symptoms of the Invisible Killer)

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                      Last Updated on January 21, 2021

                      5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

                      5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

                      Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

                      However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

                      How Does Stress Show Up?

                      On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

                      According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

                      While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

                      Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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                      On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

                      Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

                      Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

                      1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

                      When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

                      One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

                      Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

                      Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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                      Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

                      2. Sweat It out

                      There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

                      According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

                      “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

                      Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

                      3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

                      Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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                      In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

                      Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

                      Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

                      Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

                      4. Interrupt Your Day

                      When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

                      If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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                      As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

                      5. Get Some Energy Work Done

                      Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

                      Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

                      In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

                      You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

                      Final Thoughts

                      Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

                      This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

                      More Self-Care Ideas

                      Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
                      [2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
                      [3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
                      [4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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