• Jesús O. Barreto Abrams

Quiet the Panic in a Pandemic: Phone-Based Apps for Everyone


The uncertainty of the current pandemic (COVID-19) has lots of people feeling anxious, on edge, or worrying about the future. Sometimes you may tell yourself, stop thinking about COVID-19, or it can only get better, and it works. Other times, you may feel overwhelmed and stuck in your fear. When this happens, mental health professionals often recommend individuals use various coping strategies to manage their feelings. Such coping strategies may vary and include things such as, watching only 15-30 minutes of COVID-19-related news, deep breathing or even engaging in physical exercise. Below you will find some free phone-based applications (apps), for Android and iOS devices, that may be used during these difficult times of social distancing. #COVID #SocialDistancing #MentalHealth



The List: Apps for Adults


  • Mood Mission is an app that incorporates strategies for mental health in a game format. The app is set in mission formats hence the name. These missions are divided into emotion-based, behavior-based, thought-based, and physical activity in the app called mission type. After selecting the mission, an objective is explained and how the mission will help manage your mood. Once you complete the task, you will be asked follow-up questions on how it helped and your level of distress for research by Monash University. The app can be upgraded to include specific protocols for phobias. This app provides some beneficial coping strategies in a fun and easy to use format. Available in Android, and iOS.


  • What’s Up is an app that combines principles of two psychotherapeutic approaches, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). The app has four main areas: Help Right Now, Coping Strategies, Information, and Personal. In the Help Right Now section, you can find various activities to assist with your feelings such as Stop!, which contains deep breathing and grounding exercises, positive quotes and affirmations, a forum to talk to others, and helpful websites to understand the stress and mental health disorder. This app also has a section with a slew of coping strategies to assist you in identifying unhelpful thinking patterns and managing worries. In addition to this, What's Up contains helpful information about stress and mental health disorders, and an area to track your negative and positive habits. Check out the Android or iOS version.


  • MoodTools is an app focused on providing information about depression and how to manage depression. A section of the app provides information from symptoms to treatment approaches. One of the strengths of the app is that it lets you take a popularly used mood test to track your mood. Not only is the app educational, but it also includes various strategies on how to manage depressive feelings. Additionally, the app has a section called the Thought Diary, understanding the connection between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Also, it includes a video section with guided meditations, soothing sounds, and TED talks related to mental health. Lastly, the app contains a section called Safety Planning, which allows you to create a plan during emotional crises. Available in Android and iOS.

  • PTSD Coach VA is an app developed for by the Department of Veterans Affairs for trauma survivors. It is great for use with veterans and anyone else who struggles with anxiety or trauma. It is publicly available. The app allows you to learn more about the disorder, track symptoms associated with trauma, and manage symptoms. The Manage Symptoms section includes a variety of coping strategies like identifying and processing current triggers, muscle relaxation, and mental exercises. Moreover, the app provides skills on effective communication, how to maintain a good sleep schedule, and on interpersonal effectiveness. Take peek at the app on Android or iOS.

The List: Apps for Children


  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame is a bilingual (Spanish and English) app developed for parents and caregivers to use with their young children. It includes strategies to help your young child calm down with the help of belly breathing. Also, the app helps children problem-solve common challenges they may face such as feeling anxious at anywhere or upset when playing. These tools are available in Android and iOS.

  • Breathing Butterfly is a multilingual app created to assist with reducing stress, teaching children deep breathing by incorporating games. In the Breathing tab, the app uses very colorful animation and customizable butterflies when doing the breathing exercise that is perfect for children of all ages. The games are helpful, and are not only fun to play, but can serve as assistance when feeling emotionally distressed. This app combines critical coping strategies with fun games for a unique experience for children (and adults) on Andoird and iOS devices.


The List: Apps for All Ages


  • Breathe 2 Relax is an app created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. The use focuses solely on assisting with diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, which is known for its benefits to reduce stress, tension, and anxiety. It is useful for teaching you how to deep breath to relax your body, and as a result, feel better. This Android and iOS app is simple to use and uses both visual and auditory stimuli to guide you on how to learn a simple yet effective tool.

  • Smiling Mind is a mindfulness app for children and adults developed by psychologists and educators. The app has many videos explaining mindfulness, and it has a plethora of guided meditation. Children as young as age three can enjoy guided meditation incorporating body scanning activities, gratitude mindfulness, and grounding techniques. The application also has various mindfulness exercises to assist with sleep, self-compassion, and exploring strengths. It also has multiple activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. For example, in the 7-9-year-old range, you can find a self-portrait activity with the goal of having children engage in drawing and playing while incorporating gratitude principles. Take a look for yourself on Android or iOS.


Conclusion

These eight free apps may be helpful tools that are always at your disposal when needing to relax due to stress. The content of many of these apps overlap. Still, each of them incorporates a unique twist from mission-based activities (Mood Mission) to developmentally appropriate coping strategies (Breathe, Think, and Do with Sesame). At the same time, other apps are disorder-specific like PTSD Coach VA. Hopefully, one of them fits your needs and piques your interests to assist with your mood, thoughts, or behaviors. Despite these apps being easily accessible and available, if you are experiencing a crisis, contact your mental health provider, visit your local emergency department, or simply call 911.


Meet Our Guest Author

Jesús O. Barreto Abrams, MA, NIC is a doctoral candidate at Gallaudet University and a psychology resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He specializes in the provision of culturally responsive psychotherapy and psychological assessments. In addition to training in psychology, Mr. Barreto Abrams is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and adjunct faculty at various higher education institutions. #ASLBrainHealth

These were just a few apps to help during these times. Have more ideas? Feel free to leave a comment. Share this with others.

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