Many people I know are talking about the steep rise in impatience that characterizes our culture today. Due, in part, to advances in technology, life has become accelerated, and we demand speed. We choose computers that promise the fastest processors and we order goods from companies who promise the fastest delivery times. Why watch a television show that only airs once a week, when you can watch an entire season in three days? This expectation for instant gratification is even seen in the rise of new therapies whose names offer a promise of speed: “Solution-Focused Brief Therapy” and “Immediate Release Technique,” are two examples.
Realistically, I cannot offer a guarantee that a particular approach will ensure the fastest route to your therapeutic destination. But in keeping with the times, there are some ways you can use your phone or tablet to immediately manage the symptoms of your anxiety, while you work in conjunction with your mental health professional on longer-term solutions.
Tablets and smartphones have long been touted for their ability to help us stay connected via social media, to be entertained by games and to manage routine tasks, such as responding to emails. However, there are also many programs that are designed to relieve a variety of psychological symptoms, especially anxiety. The following is a small sample of my favorite apps that can quickly reduce your anxiety symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Apps: Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to psychotherapy that focuses on behaviors and patterns of thinking that influence a person’s mood. Users can reduce anxiety by recognizing maladaptive thoughts and actions and replacing them with healthier ones.
- Anxiety Coach (Mayo Clinic): This inexpensive IOS self-help app helps you master your anxiety by teaching you about anxiety and its treatment. It will then guide you through real-life activities that you may be avoiding because they make you fearful.
- Mood Kit: Currently available in IOS only (an android version is in beta testing), this simple and effective app was developed by two psychologists. It includes four integrated tools to help you engage in mood-enhancing activities, identify and change unhealthy thinking, rate and chart your mood and create journal entries.
Relaxation and Meditation: Research supports the use of daily meditation or mindfulness exercises in reducing anxiety and depression (Hoffman et al 2010).
- Simply Being – Guided Meditation: With this affordable app, users can customize several features, such as length of the meditation (5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes), the type of sounds (if any) in the background. Good for beginners or those more experienced in meditating.
- Headspace Guided Meditation: The free version of this app offers an introductory course in meditation. If you choose to become a subscriber, you will gain access to a large variety of meditations and courses, including mini meditation sessions.
- Breathe2Relax: This free app helps users learn the anxiety management skill of diaphragmatic breathing. The user can customize background images and sounds as well as the pace of each inhalation and exhalation while developing the skill of gradually lengthening the breath.
- Relax App: Combining relaxing music and animation, this simple app is a favorite of most of my patients. Users guide a star flow by moving their fingers across the screen. Patterns change depending on how many fingers you use (user tip: upgrade to the paid version for $1.99 to eliminate intrusive advertisements).
By including one or more of these apps into your everyday routine, you will find a greater sense of calm and an improved ability to manage your anxiety when it arises.
Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169-83.