Your smartphone doesn’t have to be a source of endless anxiety.
I won’t sugarcoat things: It’s a challenging time to take care of our mental health right now.
With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are confined to our homes, fearful for our health and that of our loved ones. We’re trying to adapt to disrupted routines and being bombarded with sensational news stories.
It’s a lot.
A pandemic has introduced all sorts of new obstacles in taking care of ourselves — and it’s understandable that we might find ourselves struggling to cope with daily living.
Luckily for us, there are helpful tools available right on our smartphones. And as something of a self-care nerd, I’ve tried just about every single app you can imagine.
With all of the fear and uncertainty, I’m grateful to have a digital toolkit available to me. I’ve created a short list of my favorite apps that are keeping me steady, with the hopes of giving you a boost when you need it most.
While it would be ideal to have a loved one or mental health professional available to us at all times, this isn’t always an option for many of us.
Enter Wysa, a mental health chatbot that uses therapy-based practices and activities — including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness, mood tracking, and more — to help users better manage their mental health.
Whether you’re up late at night trying to fend off a panic attack, or just need some coping tools around anxiety or depression, Wysa is a friendly AI coach who can help you navigate those difficult moments whenever they come up… even if it’s 3 a.m.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Wysa’s developers have made the AI chat feature, as well as its tool packs around anxiety and isolation, completely free.
It’s definitely worth exploring if you find yourself struggling to reach out for help, or just need some additional coping skills.
BoosterBuddy might seem cutesy, but I truly believe it’s one of the best mental health apps out there. Not to mention, it’s totally free.
The app is designed to help users get through their day, particularly if they live with a mental health condition. (Bonus: The app was created with input from young adults living with mental illness, so it’s tried and true!)
Each day, users check in with their “buddy” and complete three small tasks to help them build some momentum for the day.
When they complete these quests, they earn coins that can then be exchanged for rewards, allowing you to dress up your animal friend in a fanny pack, sunglasses, a tasteful scarf, and more.
From there, you can access an extensive glossary of different coping skills organized by condition, a journal, a medication alarm, a task manager, and more, all in one central app.
If you just can’t seem to pull yourself out of bed and need a little more (gentle) structure to your day, you definitely need BoosterBuddy.
While Shine requires a subscription, it’s well worth the price, in my opinion.
Shine is best described as a self-care community. It includes daily meditations, pep talks, articles, community discussions, and more, all pulled together to help you weave a solid self-care practice into your everyday life.
With a focus on self-compassion and personal growth, Shine is like having a life coach with you everywhere you go.
Unlike a lot of meditation apps on the market, Shine isn’t pretentious. The guided meditations themselves are equal parts powerful and accessible. Shine uses everyday language and an uplifting tone to reach users who might otherwise be put off by other apps that take themselves a little too seriously.
Bonus: It was created by two women of color, which means you won’t get the hokey, appropriative woo stuff you might find in other apps.
There’s a strong focus on inclusivity and accessibility, making it an amazing tool to have and a great business to support.
When you feel your anxiety starting to escalate, #SelfCare is the app you should reach for.
This beautifully designed app allows you to pretend that you’re spending the day in bed, using soothing music, visuals, and activities to help ease you into a more restful state.
Now more than ever, small moments of respite can keep our heads above water. With #SelfCare, you can decorate your space, draw a tarot card for inspiration, cuddle a cat, tend to an altar and plants, and more.
It offers encouraging words and relaxing tasks for a moment of mindfulness and calm — and who couldn’t use one of those right about now?
While all of these apps have something to offer, it’s important to remember that some of us will still need professional support.
I’ve tried a number of therapy apps, but Talkspace remains my favorite by far. I discuss my own experience and advice at length in this article if you’re curious.
Online therapy is hugely important now that so many of us are self-isolating in light of COVID-19. If you find that your life has become unmanageable for whatever reason, there’s no shame in reaching out for help.
While an app isn’t going to end a pandemic, it can help us fortify our mental health and build resilience during a critical time — and well into the future.
Sam Dylan Finch is an editor, writer, and digital media strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s the lead editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline. Find him on Twitter and Instagram, and learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.