Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 7 October 2016

Anti-anxiety apps - collection following a discussion on Twitter

Yesterday Caitlin Moran asked people on Twitter about apps that they use to help them with anxiety. I suggested WorkFlowy which isn't actually an anxiety-reducing app but a productivity one. However I do find that it's a great way to get things out of my head and stored somewhere else. It's a list-making app that lets you reorder, complete, delete, indent (and de-indent) list items and it makes my life so much easier that I think it could be considered within the genre of anti-anxiety! I use it much like Professor Dumbledore uses his pensieve.

Anyway I thought I'd collect together some of the other suggestions and post them here.

People take different approaches to managing their anxiety - there are mindfulness or meditation apps which focus on breathing or thoughts, others like to listen to white noise (it doesn't have to be hiss, it can be a clock ticking or rain) or music, some like to distract themselves with puzzle games like Tetris.

Other than WorkFlowy I've never used any of these and don't know if some of them might be able to cause harm as well as potentially making you feel better. I recommend being a bit skeptical about any health claims made. See also this article by Dawn Foster who found the experience of trying out mindfulness (and later the Headspace app) to be a distinctly unpleasant one, so these apps and techniques really may not suit everyone.

A few tedious* people poohpooed the idea of apps instead recommending getting outside or talking to actual people and that's fine for many, but not all.

Apps mentioned more than twice
Headspace (Twitter) "Headspace is meditation made simple. Learn with our app or online, when you want, wherever you are, in just 10 minutes a day" - mentioned 35 times

Buddhify (Twitter) "Remarkably good mindfulness-meditation app for iOS & Android. Made by " - mentioned 4 times

Pacifica (Twitter) - "Live happier. Daily tools for stress & anxiety alongside a supportive community. Available on iOS & Android" mentioned 4 times

Andrew Johnson (Twitter) "Meditation, Mindfulness, Relaxation and Stress Management Apps/MP3s. 11m downloads to date. Search for Andrew Johnson in your App Store." - mentioned 3 times

Calm (Twitter) "Join the Calm revolution and enjoy the amazing benefits of meditation. Our app and book will show you how:" - mentioned twice

Flowy (Twitter of its parent company) - a breathing focus app for people who experience panic attacks "Flowy: how a mobile game will combat panic attacks with kittens and robots" (Wired article) - mentioned twice

Stop, Breathe and Think (website) - meditation / breathing focus app - mentioned twice

SAM (website) - "SAM is an application to help you understand and manage anxiety.The app has been developed in collaboration with a research team from UWE, Bristol" - mentioned twice

Yoga Nidra (iTunes site) - yoga app - mentioned twice, yoga overall was also mentioned several times. There are also free 'yoga nidra' resources online, and other similar apps.

Other suggestions mentioned once
  • 7-11 breathing technique (variations to be found in Google search results)
  • Apps that lock you out of social media for a pre-set time
  • Booster Buddy (Google Play) - aimed at teens and young adults
  • Breathe (Apple Watch) - watch an enlarging and shrinking animation and breathe in time
  • Calm Down Now (iTunes) - claims to stop panic and anxiety attacks
  • Listening to music (as in actual music, not an app)
  • MoodKit (website) - mood improvement tools
  • Moodnotes (iTunes) - a thought journal / mood diary
  • MoodPanda (website) - a happiness tracking app
  • Noisli (website) - a background noise app
  • OMG I can meditate (website) - mentioned once but meditation mentioned 8 times overall
  • Plants vs Zombies 2 (website) - recommended by someone who enjoyed this "defeat the predators" game and its theme tune
  • QuilityApp (website) - mindfulness app aimed at parents
  • RainyMood (website) - relax with the sound of rain, thunder optional
  • Relax and Breathe (10 mins of watching the shape expand and contract, plinky music)
  • RespiRelax (French, iTunes) "RespiRelax vous permet de retrouver calme et détente en quelques minutes seulement et d’atteindre un état dit de 'cohérence cardiaque'" and, thanks to Google Translate that says "RespiRelax allows you to find peace and relaxation within minutes and to reach a state called 'cardiac coherence'" - last bit sounds like a dodgy health claim to me, as if it's claiming to interfere with one's heart rhythms!
  • Smiling Mind (website) - mindfulness meditation
  • Solitaire (the game)
  • Virtual Hope Box (iTunes site) - this app has also undergone a trial (data not yet published) about whether it can reduce self-harm among military personnel ( news website, website)
  • Wildfulness (website) - "unwind in nature and calm your mind"
  • WorkFlowy (website) - not an anxiety app, but a list / productivity app. It lets you type in new list items and reorder them (you can nest them as well). You can also use bold, italic and hashtags for easy searching later, and add a smaller-font note to any list item. I use it constantly both on desktop and phone and it's a brilliant way to manage multiple to do lists (I also use it at home for packing etc).
Other resources

How I made this post
To capture this information I searched on Twitter for to:caitlinmoran, went through the tweets and made a list of the apps mentioned, then used Ctrl+F to search on the page for each instance of the app's name, using the 'highlight all' facility. That let me estimate how often that word appeared on the page. You need to be a bit careful though as if you're searching for one of the apps, 'SAM', you'll also include anyone with that name.

*"seriously, can you just not", as they say. Whenever anyone asks a question about X on Twitter they invariably have to put up with helpful people answering that perhaps Y might be a better solution. I don't condone violence in general but consider yourselves the first against the wall when the revolution comes if this is how you choose to answer questions on the internet (unless there's a really good reason to do so).

Why yes, I did find preparing this blog post rather relaxing :)

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