Placement students Tsvetina Ivanova and Kristian King, discuss anxiety apps and how they can help you…
In a modern world everybody relies on their mobile phones for a whole range of activities such as communicating, information gathering or just filling some time while waiting. Given their almost constant presence in our daily routines, they begin to play a significant role in our lives. As with everything, there are pros and cons of this tendency.
So why not try tipping the balance by using your phone to improve your wellbeing? One property of the mobile phone that can definitely be beneficial is the use of self-help apps.
We have decided to post a blog reviewing apps that can help you deal with various issues each month. For this month we decided to focus on apps tackling anxiety. As the first months of university pass by it is normal to feel anxious due to the new environment, people and course demands.
Being in control of your thoughts can be a challenging task, especially in the fast-paced daily routines that most of us engage in. It’s hard to keep track of how much we worry about something, especially given the fact that a single worry can emerge into so many different thinking patterns.
Here we have reviewed a couple of useful apps and websites that aim to help manage anxiety in different ways. Finding what works best for you is a crucial process that requires patience and a lot of self-awareness. So be patient and give yourself some time to find the best approach (that may not even be listed below).
The app is a great guide to self-control and solution-oriented approach to your worries. Its main idea is to encourage you to categorize your worrying in specific ways that can help you deal with them more easily.
When you notice a worrying thought you can click to add entries in your ‘Worry box’ (which can be secured with a password). The app then takes you through a couple of menus in order for you to think about if your thought is important or not and if it’s controllable or not. In the end of this process you are asked to write down or choose from a list a coping statements that can help you fight the worry or start thinking about it differently.
In this way your Worry Box offers the chance to reflect on the meaning of your thoughts. This provokes you to notice things about them that maybe you haven’t paid attention to before. It also allows you to look back to previous thoughts that perhaps are irrelevant in the present moment. This can be extremely useful for evaluation.
There are also audio exercises that teach you coping strategies or invite you to use Worry Box imagery and self-talk to learn how to put your worries away.
For those of you who prefer reading, a great range of articles covering things like the cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) approach to managing worry are one click away.
Self-Help Anxiety Management (SAM) (Free)
Self-Help Anxiety Management is an excellent tool for coping with anxiety and gives some really useful side notes about what anxiety is to begin with. Whilst using the app you are able to input your feelings of anxiety at the present moment. This is recorded over time, giving you a timeline of your anxiety. SAM also lets you input your anxieties and thoughts so you can see them out in front of you, where you can deal with them while clearing some headspace. The opportunity to see how it has progressed and fluctuated and in which manner the anxiety has manifested (feelings, thoughts, physical sensations and avoidance) is another great feature of the app.
You can also input these worrying thoughts into a few stress relieving formats. For instance, you can type in the worrying thought and you can tap it to float it away which can be surprisingly soothing. One very useful aspect of SAM is the social cloud feature which is an area where different users can connect and post their anxiety concerns and receive support and advice from people experiencing similar things.
TalkLife is a peer to peer support network, it provides a safe environment to discuss with others your life’s ups and downs, some of which may not be so easy to share with friends and family in daily life. This app is worth getting if you want something that is purely peer support, where everyone there is looking for support or looking to help others with comments or virtual hugs. You can choose to post anonymously, but the app has guidelines on behaviour and administrators to moderate behaviour within the network so it is ok to use an alias. TalkLife has some censorship of messages where potential issues are flagged up, advising you not to reveal a ‘triggering’ message.
Another service TalkLife provides in another app is TalkLife Connect (a paid weekly service), which connects you with an online therapist. Sometimes you might prefer to talk to a therapist that is independent of your university setting and maybe gives you a different feel of confidentiality. If you do prefer this then why not give it a try with the first free session and then decide if you want to continue using the service? Initially your conversation will be in real time and afterwards you can message your designated therapist who will be notified of your message and will reply at an appropriate time. The therapist you talk to will be the same each time unless you request a different one.
Note that as a Cardiff University student, you are entitled to free counselling sessions in person and online from the Student Support Centre.
Inner Balance is a free to download app that requires buying the Inner Balance Sensor for iOS that connects to your iPhone or iPad and clips to your earlobe to measure your heart rhythms. It is a meditation app that aims to build up your self-coherence over a series of meditation based exercises. Coherence regarding the app means having your breathing patterns and heart rate falling into steady rhythm together. This is achieved by using a colour based guide on inhalation and exhalation, which remains green if you are remaining coherent. The app guides you through three to five minutes sessions three times per day which is a strategically structural way of managing your wellbeing. It also promotes the ability to do the following:
- Transforming your response to stress and quickly rebalancing your mind, body and emotions
- Increasing your ability to think clearly, be more intuitive and make better decisions, especially under pressure
- Improving health, increasing resilience and wellbeing and maintaining personal balance
- Decreasing stress and burnout in chaotic and changing environments
- Maximizing creativity and innovation
- Boosting performance and overall intelligence
Pacifica aims to provide anxiety, stress and depression relief using tools based on Cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, relaxation and health. The app works day by day to help you progress. It uses a daily mood tracker whereby you can review your mood history. Daily challenges emphasise the day by day style of the app. Pacifica also uses audio exercises that help improve relaxation and mindfulness. It analyses your thoughts by allowing you to record spoken thoughts and enabling you to see their contribution to anxiety, resulting in a more balanced and informed thought cycle.
Pacifica also has its own social community where you can share content and vote on them to promote them further. You can also pay a monthly fee to give you unlimited use of the tools on offer.
Relax Melodies (Free)
If your anxiety is inhibiting your sleep, then it might be worth checking out Relax Melodies. This app lets you select sounds and melodies of your preference and tweak the different sounds in terms of volume and time. You select your playlist, relax and drift off to sleep. This is a super simple app that gets results and it’s also free! Relax melodies come with 52 ambient sounds, 4 Brainwave beats and you are free to include music from your own library.
Different users can create and share their own playlists, so you can see if what works for them works for you. Different mixes may work for different types of relaxation as well. For example, some may aid with sleep, others may add to a spa day and some may help you calm and focus to do some work. The app also has articles on sleep, with tips on how to develop better sleeping habits.
Mindshift is an app focused on teens and young adults that aims to get those suffering from the adverse effects of anxiety to change their habits regarding their anxiety. If you feel that anxiety is controlling larger portions of your life (while extra help may be appropriate), then this app may be suitable for you. The app will enable you to use more helpful ways of thinking, teach you to relax and give you the ability to identify what steps you need to take back control from your anxiety.
While Mindshift helps against everyday anxiety, it also has more specific tools to help combat:
- Sleep Count
- Riding Out Intense Emotions
- Test Anxiety
- Social Anxiety
- Performance Anxiety
AnxietyBC is a wonderful website that is led by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia. The website aims to raise awareness about anxiety disorders and allow access to evidence-based resources and treatments.
Their resources are widely varied some of which include newsletters and videos published on YouTube, some of which actually give tips on using their app Mindshift that we already mentioned. They also encourage open discussions and exchange of information on anxiety and anxiety disorders via their Facebook page.
Moodjuice Self-help Guide
Anxiety – Moodjuice Self-help Guide is a great self-help guide that allows you to immediately print of the content of the page. The page includes self-assessment questionnaires that could possibly guide you through your own self-appraisal of anxiety symptoms, information on what is anxiety and its common causes and maintaining factors and tips on reducing anxiety and challenging unhelpful thoughts.
The website provokes the reader to look for possible strategies that would work for them and actually requires them to break down these solutions into smaller manageable steps. It also offers some great guidelines on relaxation and breathing techniques that you can have a look at your pace and convenience. You can also take advantage of the listed further self-help resources including books, articles and other websites.
Please don’t forget that our wonderful Counselling, Health and Wellbeing team have also gathered a list of useful resources to help you understand and cope with Anxiety on the intranet pages (you have to log in with your student ID and password in order to access those).
Contacting Counselling Health and Wellbeing
If you are struggling to improve your wellbeing, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we would be happy to provide you with some support. We offer a range of flexible support options including:
- Counselling and Wellbeing Appointments
- Face to Face, Online or Telephone
- Wellbeing Walk-in: Drop-in Service running Monday to Friday
- Wellbeing Workshops
- Therapeutic Groups
- Wellbeing Champion Support
- Self-help resources
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in service at our Student Support Centre in Cardigan House at the Heath, on Wednesday afternoons 3pm to 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a peer ear and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, check out their video.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.
Your feedback and help please
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Tsvetina Ivanova, Placement Student and Kristian King, Work Experience Student, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.