At the end of the day we all want to unwind and find our zen, but it’s easier said than done. If you’re anything like me, I’ve got my phone pretty glued to my hand and it’s entirely to my detriment – but given the political and social climate we’re living in these days and the job I have, it’s a must to be on my phone more often than not. When the weight of all that there is the worry about and do starts to get to me, I can feel it – both in my heart and in my head. More and more lately, my anxiety and tension seem to be creeping up and causing me suffering I do not want.
Everything is impacted by stress (overwhelm). Especially sleep and mental clarity. Work, relationships, home life, friendships, self-talk, health and self-care are all impacted by stress. I swear – sometimes I’m to the point that I swear you can see (just like in the cartoons) the steam blowing out both ears.
My first response is usually to lash out and make a loud pronouncement of my stress…as though NO ONE could possibly know the pressure I feel (lies) – not cool. Next, if that doesn’t work (it usually doesn’t), I often want to give up – because I’m too overwhelmed to think about the next right step to care for myself. In those moments I often reach for the anxiety pills in my purse or desk drawer – especially if I’m not in a space where I can even talk myself to a calm moment, where I can plan. I know you know. They cut to the chase when I’m too far gone or simply don’t have time or patience to utilize other techniques. But lately I’ve been employing a few tools that are quite good at calming me down and helping me unwind and relax (sometimes preemptively, before I even get stressed). And they’re right at your fingertips …on your phone. Haha!
These are good tools to enlist when I’m alone and have the sense and wherewithal to stop and self-soothe and when I have time. I find them ideal for when I’m at home or have 15 minutes or so to spare, perhaps a lunch break or when it’s bedtime. I have definitely seen a reduction in my reaching for those little pharmaceutical helpers – and in my mind, that’s always a good thing. I hope you find them enjoyable and helpful too.
My Top 6 Apps (in no particular order):
ios and android compatible
Falling asleep can be one of our biggest challenges after breast cancer - in addition to being under other stressors. Staying asleep can be even harder without the aid of sleeping pills. The Rain Sounds app has a variety of rain settings and adjustments (more or less lightening and thunder, animal and insect noises, etc.). You can even layer sounds like fire, music, leaves, wind, water, and so much more). You can set a timer for up to 8 hours or use no timer at all. Researchers say leaving sound on all night is a good idea in case you wake up, it's easier to fall back asleep in the same environment that you fell asleep in. So whether you like the sound of rain on a tent, thunderstorms, or calm peaceful rain on the lake, there is a setting for you.
Are you chasing joy but finding it hard to feel it? The Bliss app wants to help you increase your happiness and motivation. "Unlock a happier, more successful life with the most powerful, scientifically-proven exercises from positive psychology." The app prompts you throughout the day/week to jot down and create a habit or recognizing what makes us happy and grateful. The app is intended to create mindfulness, inspiration and confidence. Sometimes we need a little nudge and Bliss will provide it with scheduled exercises. In time, with regular use, we rewire our brain to (as they say) "look on the bright side."
The Headspace app is a great way to start your day or recenter yourself in throughout the day with guided, mindful, meditations. No experience required! The best part is that you get 10 free guided meditations to help teach you how to meditate. Just 10 day’s practice has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits, from improving sleep and relationships to reducing anxiety and stress. Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace and a former monk, will guide you through every step as your personal meditation coach. From there you can subscribe. The reviews are outstanding and we can all afford a few minutes out of each day to stop, relax and breathe. Meditation is proven to help with chronic pain, depression, anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, productivity etc. They even have SOS sessions for those "melting down" moments! BONUS: we especially like Headspace because this earlier year they partnered with Lacuna Loft to give cancer patients a free 1yr subscription.
The Calm app is your all-in-one app. If you don't like lots of apps on your phone, I recommend this one. When you open Calm you have 34 screens/sounds to choose from - which is nice if the sound of water isn't your thing. You can choose summer crickets, a crackling fire, white noise (like flying in a plane), wind, blowing reeds in fields of grass - you simply have lots of options. PLUS it's not just the sound. Whatever you choose comes with a live screensaver... so if you're listening to fields of grass sway, you're also seeing a beautiful green pasture move to and fro under a blue sky with white puffy clouds. It's awesome. From there you can select music, meditation or sleep. Music provides categories, like focus, relax, and sleep with corresponding tracks appropriate for the mood. Mediate provides sessions for all sorts of needs you might have like, anxiety, emotions, self-care, relationships, even kids! Sleep provides real bedtime stories to help us find sleep. You can select fiction, music, nature, kids, non-fiction and even foreign languages! This app seems limitless. You'll find plenty of free options in addition to locked items that you can unlock with a subscription. It's not too pricey either (if you think you'll use it a lot). 12.99/mo or 4.99/mo billed annually or if you're in it for the long haul, 299.99 for life!
This incredible app came to me from my daughter. Sometimes our kids can recommend the BEST stuff! Polyforge is the ultimate relaxing game with calming, changing, ombre colors and beautifully calming, ambient sounds. I highly recommend using earbuds to truly experience this app. The game consists of geometric shapes with a circling, floating, wedge that you must hit each side of the shape with - in order to advance to the next level - which is a new shape with one more side than the last one, like beautiful crystals that grow exponentially. The challenge is that the wedge is circling in the opposite direction of the circling shape. You can absolutely get lost, taking your time to work your way to bigger and even more gorgeous, colorful shapes. I go slow because I like to practice my timing and if you have the agility you can get pretty fast at it, plus it's melodic like a xylophone symphony. If you hit a side of the shape more than once, it bounces off and you only get so many missed attempts before having to repeat that level over again. This is something I like to do at lunch, when I can't sleep or when traveling. Kids love this too! My five year old grandson asks to play whenever he visits me! You can even challenge friends who have the app and satisfy your competitive side.
Last but not least, and one of my favorites, is the 21-Day Meditation Experience with Oprah & Deepak. This has been around for a few years now and I employed this tool heavily after my own breast cancer diagnosis. My anxiety was at some all time highs during that first year. Sleep escaped me more than it found me. I cried all the time. But listening to the 20 minute or so guided meditations were everything to me. It brought me inward, helped me breathe, and gave me focus on the here and now. They routinely offer newly themed month-long meditations (a new one each day with the option to journal and join closed groups and discuss topics, etc.). The experience is FREE while it's live. And while it's live you can go back, up to 5 days at a time, and relisten to previous day's meditations before they are locked again. Afterwards, you can purchase the sets online. I always wait and do them for free when they are live. And who doesn't love Oprah? The beginning of each day has an intro message on the topic from Oprah. It's like she's right next to me, sharing her innermost secrets to finding meaning, peace and serenity. Then Deepak comes on and begins by briefly talking about the meditation focus, the mantra, and he gently walks you into the mantra until you float off into a deep, quiet, solitary space with lulling music that carries you until the chimes ring, letting you know it's time to open your eyes. And voila! You feel fresh, light, in tune and grounded.
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