Five of the best apps to help reduce stress and anxiety

From yoga and guided meditation apps to a personal journal, here are our top picks

Learn the basics of yoga at home with the Daily Yoga app. Photograph: iStock

Learn the basics of yoga at home with the Daily Yoga app. Photograph: iStock

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Life is stressful. Whether it is office politics, traffics jams or personal issues raising your anxiety every day, we could all do with a little less stress and a little more relaxation. As always, there’s an app for that; here are five suggestions for quick stress busters.

Daily Yoga

(Free version, paid from €12.49 per month – on iOS, on Android)

When it comes to yoga, I’ve gone through several types. Regular yoga (made me a bit stretchier), pregnancy yoga (the source of several good naps at the end of my pregnancy), Bikram yoga (uncomfortably sweaty, to put it mildly).

These days, I prefer to keep my less than expert sun salutations to a more private setting, so apps that can help guide me are a very useful tool.

Daily Yoga caters for all levels, from beginner to advanced, and claims to teach the basics of yoga in two weeks. You don’t get the expertise of a teacher spotting when your position is slightly off, but it will give you the basics, or help you keep up your own yoga practice at home.

There’s a scheduling feature that adds your yoga practice to a daily calendar too, so you aren’t tempted to skip out on it. There are some free sections in the app, but you can upgrade your membership to one of the two Pro levels to gain access to more of the workouts.

Extra workouts and poses can be unlocked by earning coins through checking in daily, watching ads and so on.

Calm

(Free trial, €50 per year – on iOS, on Android)

Calm was voted the 2017 app of the year on iOS and it’s not difficult to see why. Log in and you are greeted with a list of top goals. Would you like to reduce anxiety or build your self-esteem? Develop gratitude or increase your happiness? Maybe a combination of all of them?

Calm offers guided meditation to help you relax, and soothing bedtime stories to help you sleep. A new section to relax your body demonstrates stretching routines to help wake you in the morning, boost you in the afternoon, wind down in the evening, or simply destress your back. The music section offers up soundtracks of rain falling or relaxing compositions to help you unwind. Even if you only have a few minutes, it’s a stress buster in app form.

Zen Sand

(Free, in-app purchases – on iOS)

“Fortune and flowers do not last forever”. “A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.” With such pearls of wisdom being bestowed between levels, how could Zen Sand not be relaxing?

That’s before you get to the music and sound effects, which sound like something you hear while hanging around the reception area of a spa. The idea is that you direct the falling sand into jars on the screen with only the aid of some well-placed bamboo canes.

It’s a game of logic, with some nice visuals and a relaxing soundtrack. Is it addictive? Yes. Is it relaxing? Mostly.

HelloMind

(Free trial, €13 per month, on Android, on iOS)

If you need more than a bit of guided meditation, HelloMind offers some self-hypnosis too. When you log in first, you answer some questions about your current issues. Stressed over work or personal problems? Procrastinating or piling on the work?

The app will recommend some treatments for you, and you are ready to get started. There are “boosters” too, short sessions that will give you a quick stress buster or advice on how to deal with your love life issues.

Reflectly

(€3.99 a month, €47.99 a year, on iOS, on Android)

Ignoring the fact that the addition of “-ly”, “-y” or “-ify” to the end of words to create a unique app name raises my stress levels a notch, Reflectly does a good job of prodding you into sharing your innermost thoughts.

It’s a personal journal, an AI-driven diary that will allow you to do a complete mind dump in private so you don’t regurgitate your emotions all over social media. And let’s face it, there are some things that you may regret sharing with the general group, such as the embarrassing crush you may have developed, or what you really did last summer.

Back in the day, it was a locked diary, but 10 seconds with a paperclip would get you into most of them. Reflectly uses a slightly more secure version – biometric data stored on your phone – and takes you through a series of questions ranging from “how was your day today?” and why to what makes a good friend and what superhero you would choose to be for a day.

There are daily reflections to add to the list too, such as if there has ever been something you changed about yourself that you wish you hadn’t, and some audio to go along with them.

Sure, your eyes may glaze over at the mention of “actionable insights” and the advanced statistics that Reflectly promises, but it’s strangely cathartic to answer some of the frankly ridiculous questions.

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