5 apps to help you through the crisis

Let’s be honest: This year straight up sucks.

There is no way around admitting that. It sucks not having a convention to go to, it sucks not being able to see a friend and it sucks not even knowing for how long we will live like that.

 

We are all affected

In different ways and with a different magnitude

And I am the first one to admit that those are pretty much “luxury problems” given how hard people from broken homes, people in countries without free healthcare and people working on the front lines of this crisis suffer. Yet, as a psychologist, I know it is futile to remind yourself that “others have it worse” when you are suffering. And on a closer inspection, “seeing friends” and “having events we look forward to” are ressources, coping mechanisms even, that now fall flat.

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Combined with the state of our world having changed so drastically and so fast, with images from news outlets and the fear for our loved ones, we have a lot to cope with. And even if the intensity of how affected we are depend on so many things, none of us are left completely unaffected. We might suffer to different intensities (which is important to remember), but we all suffer.

We are stuck at home, in one way or another and we are likely stressed and grieving (read this brilliant article in the Harvard Business Review about it). Isolation is not healthy for us, even if it is the best thing we can do right now. There is nothing we can do to make the crisis go away – but we can chose how we respond to it.

 

Especially when you are stuck at home and in isolation, you are the one person tasked with taking care of yourself.

 

And that is surely not an easy task, when daily structures and places you used to go to fall flat. Or when barriers break away and suddenly the place you relax at and you work at merge into one. Or when your work has suddenly become so much more stressful – as if the situation was not intense enough as it is.

Coping with the crisis – with apps?

There is a lot happening right now. And a lot of it is going on inside of our heads. As a psychologist (M.Sc.) with a special interest in resilience and mental health apps, I want to share my knowledge with you.

Disclaimer: The apps I am suggesting to you are just tools. And not every tool is useful to everyone! It’s perfectly normal if one thing just doesn’t do the trick for you. Another might. Also these tools are designed as a support for mental health, they are not meant to replace therapy and/or medication. Please consult with a specialist if you have mental health issues that need treatment. And do not hesitate to call a crisis hotline if you are contemplating to end your life. Talk to specialists! The crisis will pass and you deserve to live and see the world reawakening. <3

 

Why apps though?

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

We live in a pretty gamified world these days. And holding our phones, just to do something has already become quite the habit to many of us (definitely to me). And while there is a lot of criticism of this habit around, I think our phones are just tools and it always depends how we put them to use. Actively using something that already feels so natural and comfortable to us can be helpful, if you want to introduce new habits to your life. Because self care and coping strategies can sometimes feel a bit… weird and esoteric to us. I, for my part, would never have started meditation, if there weren’t such great apps for it that keep it pragmatic.

I think that apps can help us overcome societal stigma which is still associated with doing something for the sake of mental health. Especially as a preventive measure in tough times like these. Apps allow you to learn and try coping strategies in private and many of them come for free (at least the limited version). They can support you in doing something that’s good for you, getting a new perspective and helping you understand what’s behind complicated feelings. Or they can motivate you to start healthy habits, like regular workout routines!

A word of caution

As mentioned before, apps can not replace a therapist and/or medication. But it does not requite a preexisting condition to feel under the weather these days. Another aspect where you should be careful is that next to the apps I have tried and I am suggesting, there are also shady apps out there that I can absolutely not recommend. For example, there has been a controversy about the largely promoted service BetterHelp. Please be wary of those services as they can do more harm than good. Always check for reviews from people that were not paid to promote a service! (Like me, who has – contrary to my regular itch to put affiliate links in everything  – not even checked for affiliate programs here. Topic’s too important for that.)

 

My top five apps to help you through the crisis

 

1. SuperBetter

 

Photo by Kirill Sharkovski on Unsplash

SuperBetter is not actually an “app” – even though it does have an app for mobile – but it is best enjoyed via its website superbetter.com. SuperBetter helps you build a skill named “resilience” which basically means the power to bounce back from crisis and hardship. Sounds just like the thing we need now, right?

It might be a bit of hopeful thinking but I think the skills this app taught me about two years ago really help me deal with everything what’s happening today. But you don’t have to take it from me – take it from the science proving that SuperBetter works!

An aspect I really love about SuperBetter is that it is super-gamified. You pick a superhero name, you pick your goal and as you move through one of its many packs and fulfill its tasks, you collect XP (experience points) in different skills. As a gamer, I can really appreciate that! Also the tasks are really interesting and help you change your perspective, get active and attribute meaning to all that is happening.

Pro Con
Completely Free Phone app still a bit buggy
Backed by Science Only available in English
Gamification on fleek
The story behind SuperBetter

Recommended for: Everyone dealing with the crisis. Seriously, everyone should give it a try!

 

2. Headspace

 

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Headspace is the “you probably heard of me” of apps. It has been promoted back and forth over the web and is one of the two famous meditation apps (7mind being the other).
Headspace teaches you meditation and mindfulness basics and it cuts all the crap and gets straight to the point. No spiritual talk, no weird esoteric stuff.  Just a very very pleasant voice (talking about male English voice here, which was the basic when I started meditating with Headspace) teaching you the basics of mindfullness. And fantastic animations helping you understand concepts that might be hard to grasp.

Due to the crisis, Headspace offers more of its packages for free than the usual free version includes.

But why meditate? Because meditation helps you to grow a mindset that helps you deal with the crisis. With meditation and mindfulness, your connection with your body as well as your emotion grows. You learn “listening to yourself” (in lack of better words), meaning you recognize easier how you feel which enables you to live through your emotion and letting go. You learn how to experience emotion in a way that does not make it seem as bad as it is. You will learn to be honest with yourself. Also its very relaxing and inspiring to take a few minutes of your day to just sit and meditate.

Pro Con
Free package for the Covid-19 situation Full version is not free
Great explanation through animations Meditation might not be your thing
Available in many different languages Takes up a lot of space on your phone
Meditation without bullshit

Recommended for: People willing to give meditation a try

 

3. 30 Day Fitness Challenge

 

Photo by Ayesh Rathnayake on Unsplash

A fitness app? Well sure!

Mind and body are way more connected than our western view on it teaches us. Working out releases all those good happy chemicals and the feeling after a good workout is just the best thing ever. Keeping fit is important. And the 30 Days Fitness Challenge helps you to work out with your own bodyweight in the confines of your home. Also it takes in how skilled you already are and helps you continously get stronger and fitter. It’s such a good feeling to improve day by day.

 

Pro Con
Free package for the Covid-19 situation Full version is not free
Workout is very balanced Advertising for super annoying apps ugh
Available in different languages That computer voice gives me nightmares
Easy to use Lacks stretching! Don’t forget to stretch

Recommended for: Everyone who doesn’t have a fixed workout routine yet.

 

4. Sanvello

 

Photo by Finn on Unsplash

Sanvello is a mental health app. And it’s pretty serious about it, claiming to tackle even anxiety and depression.

You can already see by the careful way I pick my words that I am slightly wary of that – talking from the privileged perspective of someone in Germany, where healthcare is pretty universal and covers psychotherapy and medication. I would always advise to go that way rather than use an app. However, I am also aware that everyone getting to see a therapist and getting the medication they need is quite utopic and mental health apps based on cognitive behavior therapy are just more available and easier to attain, especially when situations like this one make it hard to seek out help.

And Sanvello seems pretty legit. I tried it out and it comes with powerful tools for self-therapy which cognitive behavior therapists would offer you as well.

A feature I find particularily useful is the moodtracker. You can track your mood over the day, as well as your health and coping habits. That means you will be able to see how certain behaviors or circumstances affect your mood! This can help you take better care of yourself, especially when quarantine days turn into a blur and you feel depressed and then realize “oh wow I just haven’t eaten”.

Another great feature is a tool for analysing your thoughts. If thoughts spin out of control, you can use the tool to analyse what is even happening, what is realistic and whether there is no possibility to think differently about it.

 

Pro Con
Paid plan is free during Covid-19 Usually not free
Great moodtracker I am unsure of the “therapy” aspect
Tools for analyzing your thought English only
Teaches you skills from cognitive behavior therapy A bit too euphoric about its effects

Recommended for: Everyone strongly affected by the crisis – but please do not overestimate what it can do for you.

 

5. Pinterest

 

Photo by Nathana Rebouças on Unsplash

I can see your raised eyebrow(s) through the screen, I swear. Yes, Pinterest! And believe me, I have very good reasons for recommending this.

Learn with Pinterest! Pinterest is such a fantastic visual search engine for learning new things. And learning new things is the best thing you can do when life is slowing down. I do not mean this in a “make yourself marketable” capitalist kind of way but from the simple perspective of someone who knows that curiosity is like a natural remedy to anxiety. Also, when all you see is the four walls of your home, day by day, your mind suffers from it. Your brain practically yearns for new experiences! Let it connect some new synapses by looking up new skills. Why not learn knitting? Makramee? What about drawing? Creative writing? Blogging? Natural cosmetics? Leathercraft? SHOEMAKING??? The world is full of interesting things! Treat yourself to it and collect all the tutorials.

Dream with Pinterest! Maybe your life is not what you want it to be right now. And that is okay. We all thought our life would be different at this point. But apart from thinking of the worst possible outcomes, why not dream of the best possible outcomes? Why not dream of your perfect life? And even if it is a bit kitschy and naive, I will share what I dream about: I dream about having a little self-sustainable farm. I love searching information on gardening and keeping livestock or about beekeeping and building my own furniture. Or even how solar cells work. Maybe your dream is completely different and you dream of living in a top-floor apartment in a big city – but even for that livestyle, you can research everything.

Plan with Pinterest! And of course, as a cosplayer you can already plan on photoshoots you want to have by collecting inspirational images. Maybe even together with your cosplay group and photographer. Or you plan your meals with a partner and cook a new thing every day!

 

Pro Con
All of those possibilities Scam pages that just want your clicks
You can curate and share your collections Truly horrifying clickbait (she put a SPOOn iN hEr YoGhuRt- you WONT BELIEVE what happened NEXT!)
Private collections possible Sometimes you register with your real name and collect a gallery full of propaganda posters as inspiration for a photoshoot which you will have to justify before a future employer and boi is that awkward
Teaches you skills from cognitive behavior therapy People thinking essential oils cure cancer are just one click away

Recommended for: Everyone willing to learn something new & everyone who loves to dream a little dream 🙂

 

 

These are my top 5 favourite apps to help you get through this crisis.

And you might have noticed it is mainly about some core skills:

  • Finding meaning and dealing with the situation in a resilient way
  • Being mindful and compassionate towards your emotions
  • Keeping your body active
  • Learning how to deal with stress as well as arising feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Keeping your mind active and curious
  • Dreaming a little dream

Of course, one thing will work better for you than another. Be curious about trying them out, not too frustrated and demanding if it does not work out for you. And always remember: We will get through this. The situation is not going to last forever. We can only respond to it with as much thought, compassion and solidarity as we can make up.

I wish you and your loved ones all the best for it <3

If you happen to try one of the apps and it works for you, I would be super happy to know of it. Also if you have an app or a habit that helps you get through the crisis, please tell us in the comments.

Also if you wouldn’t mind me going off-topic and talking about psychology-stuff, please tell me.

 

Yours,

 

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