I struggle with anxiety quite a lot, particularly in regards to bigger events and attending university, so I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 apps and top 5 tips that have really helped me manage my anxiety in more difficult situations in the hope it can maybe help someone else.
I use the free versions of all these apps listed and they are perfect for my use, however, some of these apps offer paid upgrades to unlock more features if that’s something that you’d prefer!
1. Stop, Breathe, Think
I was recommended ‘Stop, Breathe, Think’ by a friend and I’m so glad I gave it a try. This app offers meditation, yoga and breathing exercises and I really enjoy completing the activities the morning of a stressful day or just before bed. The thing I love most about this app is that you’re prompted to take 10 seconds to check in with your feelings and then log them on the app. Once you’ve done this, you’re automatically recommended a few different guided meditation tracks (usually a shorter 3-minute task and a longer 10 minute one) based on the way you’re feeling that day. I really enjoy using this on nights I’m feeling too anxious to sleep and most of the time I doze off halfway through the track!
I love how simple this app is to use and the fact that you are offered at least 3 different activities once you check in every day (there are more offers for paid users). Usually, I’m recommended one yoga exercise and 2 guided meditations, and some days I have completed all three. This app has really helped me learn some breathing techniques, and I’ve listened to some tracks so many times I can now recite them in my head without even using the app! I know guided meditation isn’t something that appeals to everyone, I found it really awkward at first because the calming voices just made me laugh, but now I genuinely swear by them when I’m feeling particularly down or anxious and it has really helped me. You can also set reminders via the app to encourage you to log your feelings and complete a little activity which is super.
This app doesn’t have to just be used on down days though, if you are feeling really positive on a certain day and log this in the app it offers some kindness and more mindful practices to spread warmth and love to others. I absolutely love the addition of this to the app and I haven’t seen anything else like this at all. It’s just such a lovely idea and so I would recommend this app whether you struggle with anxiety or not because I definitely think we could all use time to stop, breathe and think! (See what I did there)
This is my absolute lifesaver could not live without app. I honestly don’t think I’d have gotten through all 3 years with university without it, and I know it’ll be my most used app once I start back in September. This app has gotten me through panic attacks in the middle of lecture halls and anxious thoughts on public transport and just made my daily activities much more bearable!
‘Flowy’ is a really simple game, where you are responsible for a little boat sailing in the sea and you use your finger to swipe and avoid any obstacles whilst collecting coins. However, there’s a little cloud that is blowing the boat along and you’re encouraged to take deep breaths in time with the cloud whilst playing along! I honestly think this is so smart because I find it so hard to manage my breathing when I’m feeling anxious or panicky but using this app really helps me regulate my breaths. There’s little clouds that cover the screen during the inhale part so you can solely focus on your breathing and then when it’s time for the exhale the clouds shift and you manoeuvre the boat for the duration of your breath.
It doesn’t even end here though, there’s also a practice mode which is a continuous mode to allow complete focus on your breathing and a section called ‘Calm School’ where you can track your anxiety levels, which is then displayed in a handy little graph.
The idea of combining breathing exercises along with a little mini-game is just so genius to me because the focus of keeping my little boat safe whilst managing my breathing has taken me away from loads of panic attacks through the distraction alone! I used to have this app running constantly when I was in lectures and it would ease all of my panicky feelings allowing me to get through my work. I love that this app is customisable too, where you can change how many breaths per minute you are aiming to practice but the default 6 breaths that came pre-set have never failed me!
Honestly, if there’s one app from this list you’ll download or give a go, I 100% recommend it’s this one! Flowy has helped me in so many ways and I am just in awe of how amazing it is.
3. Relax Melodies
This is probably one of the most popular apps I’ve seen recommended for helping with anxiety but it definitely has helped me a lot! Whenever I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I love to listen to the sound of the ocean because I find the roar and song of the ocean so calming. I love this app because it has so many water sounds, which I love layering up to create the most beautiful sounds. Honestly, I don’t really rate many of the other sounds on this app – I like the nature ones like the fire crackle and the thunder and lighting sounds, but the more vocal sounds and music based sounds are really creepy! I mainly use this app on the go, again on public transport or sometimes in my car when I’m heading somewhere that makes me feel really anxious because the sound of the ocean rushing around just soothes me so much.
It’s worth downloading this app for the nature sounds, it has some lovely animal noises and city sounds which are also great, but out with the nature-based audio, there’s not much else that I find helpful.
Out of this list, I probably use Headspace the least since discovering Stop, Breathe, Think. Headspace is really similar in the fact that it’s guided meditation, however, I’ve found that Headspace is more valuable with a paid membership and so I’m reluctant to use up all the freebies as I’m still undecided about paying for it.
Saying that, Spotify is doing a deal just now where if you are a premium user you can get 3 months of Headspace free which I’m considering adding on to my package. I just feel like this is one of the apps that is good but has way more amazing offers if you can afford to pay which obviously isn’t the case for everyone. The free meditations I’ve tried though have been so calming and lovely and I’ve listened to a few of these when I’m out and about too. I love the voice in these meditations as it’s a male when most other tracks I’ve heard have all been female, and I just find them really soothing to listen to. I do also like the ‘Singles’ tab where you are able to pick individual tracks to listen to, however, these all seem to be locked in the free version of the app which is quite disappointing.
I might update my package to paid, even just for the free trial, and see if I get more use from Headspace but I am a definite Stop, Breathe, Think fan at the minute as I feel you get way more without having to pay.
5. Happiness Planner
Ah, the Happiness Planner! I was so excited when this app was released as I have admired the Happiness Planner for the longest time but could never justify the price to myself. This is a free app and you get full access to all the features for your first 2 weeks and then it goes up to £2.99 a month. I loved my free trial of this app, but again, I can’t justify paying money for an app – it’s just not my thing. Instead, I’ve been using the categories to make little handwritten or mental notes about my day and I’ve really enjoyed using it this way. I’m planning on picking up a real, physical Happiness Planner so I feel I won’t need this app as much, but as a kind of try before you buy I’ve really enjoyed using it.
Also, for the price, you do get a lot per month for such a low price which is amazing. I just don’t feel like I use apps enough to justify paid memberships! I have definitely felt much less anxious and way more positive focusing on these daily prompts though – I enjoy focusing on what I’m excited for each day, reflecting on how my day has been and how I can make tomorrow better, so I feel like the app is really useful for these prompts.
There’s also a little tab in the app where you can get an inspiring quote every day, which is included in both the free and premium membership, and so this is a lovely addition to when you’re feeling a bit negative because it does really help pick you up!
Top Tips for Managing Anxiety
I thought I’d also share my top 5 tips on dealing with anxiety in this post as I’ve found a few things over the past few years that have really helped me begin to manage my mental health. It is worth saying though, that what works for me might not work for you, and there are so many ways to look after yourself and help yourself feel less anxious – these are just the top 5 things that have worked for me!
I have a huge phobia of feeling and being sick and this is just completely magnified when I am feeling anxious or panicky. I’ve found that something that really helps me relieve these feelings is to always carry a bottle of water around with me and sip on it when I am feeling anxious. Since I started suffering from panic attacks regularly I’m rarely far from a bottle of water and it just helps me feel so much better. I feel like it calms my mind too because the process of manually getting a bottle out of my bag, opening it up and feeling it in my mouth really helps me focus on something other than the anxiety rising in me.
Again, like drinking water, we all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep but I feel like tiredness really amplifies any feelings of anxiety I may have. As I’ve gotten older, I love my bed anyway so this is a really easy tip for me to follow and along with the help of a guided meditation, I find it so easy to drift off to sleep quickly and feel so refreshed in the morning. As I’ve made a conscious effort to try and get more sleep, whether it’s getting to bed earlier or just having a nap when I feel like I need one, I can honestly say my anxiety levels have dropped and I wake up feeling more and more positive each day.
When people say ‘declutter’ it usually means to tidy your room or house or study space or whatever – just to physically tidy some aspect of your surroundings. For me, I like to declutter my relationships and my mental surroundings. I regularly go on social media deleting/muting sprees where I get rid of people who are making me feel negative or down and that I don’t interact with or want to have in my life. Social media is a really huge part of my routine and so doing this helps me feel much more positive and happy with my daily activities.
Also, I am a huge advocate of getting toxic people out of your life, and so if you feel like your relationships need a declutter – there’s nothing wrong with doing it! I spent a really long time when I was first struggling with anxiety surrounding myself with people who made me feel bad about myself because I was too scared of being lonely, but it’s worse to surround yourself with negativity. My life has improved so much since I have left all the negative people I used to be so obsessed to interact with and I can’t recommend it enough. If a friend or partner is constantly putting you down and making you feel worse about your condition, mental health or feelings there’s nothing wrong with saying goodbye and putting yourself first. It’s definitely brightened up my life.
Another thing that has really helped ease my anxiety is to make sure I’m looking after myself. This can be anything from painting my toenails, spending 10 more minutes in the bath just relaxing or taking my year out from university. I love all kinds of self-care activities and I feel like if something makes you feel good and eases any negative emotions, it should definitely be classed as self-care. I always aim to make sure I’m feeling great, and I love taking nights off to stay inside and have a pamper and Netflix night because that’s what makes me feel good! It’s not selfish to put yourself first and nothing wrong with wanting to feel our best so I definitely recommend fitting some me-time into your routine.
For some ideas you can check out my A-Z of Self-Care Ideas which will be continuously updated with all sorts of activities – so keep your eyes peeled for that!
The last tip, but one of the most important for me, is to talk to those around you and tell them how you feel. I genuinely believe that my anxiety in most situations has totally halved because I have been so open about it with my loved ones. My boyfriend gets the majority of it, and he’s seen me at my absolute worst, but we are both learning to manage those bad days and he is able to fully support me because I’ve told him about the thoughts and feelings I experience during a panic attack or on a particularly anxious day.
It’s so tough to manage this all on your own, and it’s so important to chat to someone you trust about your anxiety – I can 100% promise it will feel so relieving and really help you feel more able to manage it. A huge thing for me was feeling like I was letting people down when I was too anxious to go and do certain activities, but since being so honest with those around me it’s not something that’s ever been mentioned and I have found it so much easier to reassure myself that everyone still loves me.
They always say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and as cheesy as it sounds, I can totally guarantee there haven’t been truer words ever spoken!
So, those were my top 5 apps and top 5 tips for how I manage my anxiety. I really hope that this super huge essay post has been helpful and let me know if you try these apps or tips out! Also, leave me a little comment letting me know any apps or tips that you find really help with your anxiety.