We’ve compiled a shortlist of apps essentially designed to help you help yourself. These apps have an air about them where they almost listen, and really hear what you have to say (sometimes without needing to say anything at all) and then they tuck your daily thoughts in a warm, cosy, comforting blanket and look after them for you, all while you spend the rest of your very valuable time figuring out how on earth to function here. Its metaphorical, but very visceral.
As most of us students are rarely without our phones (we’re just so connected… aha… cry), apps geared towards identifying and relieving symptoms of mental health disorders as well as generally improving our mindsets seem like a step in the right direction. While some of these apps might be familiar to you, you may be pleasantly surprised by the variety out there that provide immediate support and/or relief for mental health-related issues and general self care sessions.
Its important to say that not everything works for everyone – so if some or none of these apps work for you, there are plenty of other options out there to self-lead self care. Don’t feel disheartened or panicked, or that you are the problem. Its like Marmite, you will either love it (and adopt it into every aspect of your life) or, it simply isn’t for you. Don’t stress, there’s plenty of other spreads, your Biscoff is out there somewhere.
If you struggle to concentrate while studying, find working for long periods of time overwhelming or get easily distracted by your phone, this is the app for you. Set the timer for up to two hours and plant a tree that grows while you focus. Turn on the sound effects to work alongside birdsong and natural noises for ultimate relaxation. This app can help to build up a positive mindset towards work, reducing work-related anxiety by breaking it down into timed chunks. You are rewarded you for your focus by keeping track of how many trees you plant in a ‘forest’. Forest is an app that reminds us to be kind to ourselves and recognises that our little successes are worth rewarding when working.
FREE WITH SPOTIFY PREMIUM! Used at your leisure, this guided meditation app can provide either immediate relief from ensuing panic or a long-term structured routine aimed at reducing anxiety and negative thoughts. Guiding you through mindfulness exercises in relatively short audio clips, this app may become part of your daily routine. Based on your needs — be it productivity, exercise, falling asleep, stress or motivation — you can listen to guided meditation and take part in breathing exercises. Unfortunately, after the basics and some free tracks, there is a cost of £9.99 per month for all the features.
An app that lets you create a soundscape specific to your mood. If you are feeling ‘Anxious’, ‘Confused’, ‘Annoyed’, ‘Alone’ among others, you can distract yourself by tapping on the screen and building up layers of music that correspond to how you are feeling. This app is effective at distracting you and may be helpful for preventing panic in stressful environments like when on public transport or waiting in a queue. Best used with headphones.
Record how you feel each day in a journal protected with a four-digit pin for privacy. This app allows you not only to record your emotions and thoughts, logging what you were doing and how you felt at the time, but also encourages you to reflect on the experience and exchange negative thoughts for positive ones. Great for overthinkers and those who sometimes struggle with or are confused by their emotions. This app encourages you to see your progress, however small, tracking minute changes that are personal to you. If you stick with it, it can be very rewarding!
An interactive game that guides you through breathing exercises, gentle ‘poga’ (panda yoga) and non-strenuous workouts. Perfect for use in breaks between studying to keep you active and energised, although probably not suitable for the library.
Student Health App
Endorsed by the NHS, this app offers concise but thorough advice specifically aimed at students on all manner of health-related topics including: Skin, Love & Sex, Travel, Drink & Drugs, Healthy Living, First Aid, Common Ills and Mind. For each health-related issue there is information about causes, symptoms, warning signs, self-care and action to take, making this a good resource to consult if you are worried about your (mental) health. The ‘overviews’ for the mental health sections are extremely informative and complete with up-to-date facts, useful for anyone suspecting they may have a mental health issue and wanting to know more.
A collection of recordings — between 3 and 11 minutes long — aimed at motivating and reassuring listeners. The featured tracks (‘a confidence boost’, a ‘guided body relaxation’, ‘mindfulness in 3 minutes’ and a ‘relaxation boost’) are good to listen to for morning motivation, perhaps while eating breakfast or cleaning your teeth, or, alternatively, when you need to wind-down in the evening. The only downside to this app is the number of in-app purchases you are encouraged to make to access more recordings.
A collection of stimulating but simple cognitive exercises perfect to distract or focus an anxious mind. This app features virtual recreations of satisfying actions like ‘click pen’, ‘bubble burst’, ‘chop it’, ‘clean mist’ and ‘colouring’ that are effective ways to engage your brain if you are feeling a little sluggish or distract your mind from that one thing you can’t seem to stop thinking about. Unfortunately there are quite a few pop-up adverts that can be interrupting.
Hopefully these short reviews will encourage you to explore the variety of apps aimed at managing mental health and to consider some of them in your daily life to make things a little easier. There are lots more out there, so keep searching. Stay tuned for our next Mental Media post where we will be discussing a different form of media!
For more apps like these, you can visit the NHS library (https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/) where apps are recommended for specific health-related issues.
Written by Kitty Bushell.