Since school has started, I’ve found myself increasingly overwhelmed by the sudden changes to my schedule, and the stress of trying to balance it all has definitely taken a toll. For the past three weeks since my classes began, I’ve been testing out various phone apps that are designed to help with your mental health in numerous different ways. These range from meditation to sleep tracking to journaling, but I find that even the seemingly insignificant parts of our daily routine can take a toll on both our physical and mental health. My favorite part is that all of these applications are free, so if you find that any of them pique your interest, you can also download and give them a try.
Headspace is an app that focuses on combining a little bit of meditation into a hectic schedule. It has soothing audios that give instructions on how to relax and focus on your surroundings and body. Personally, I found that my muscles tensed up on their own from the constant stress I’ve put myself through recently, so it felt physically calming to have a small amount of clarity in my mind. The best part for me was that the audios are extremely short. I tried the 3-minute meditation every morning, and it didn’t add too much time to my morning routine, but it clearly made a positive impact on my stress levels. I find that focusing on my surroundings and breathing is not something I do very often, but I did notice that I felt significantly more relaxed and alert afterwards.
This app is designed with young people in mind. It offers AI therapy for anxiety and depression by having text conversations and has additional features such as anxiety monitoring and a personality test. It is known as a “pocket therapist,” because the app is always there to talk and the use of AI gives you more personalized responses, so you really feel like you’re having a conversation with another person. Sometimes it’s hard to reach out and talk to someone about sensitive issues such as our mental health, but I really loved how this app used both scientific data and positive encouragement to make me feel better even on dark days.
An application that focuses on journaling your thoughts and feelings is something that a lot of teens find overrated. While journaling definitely is not for everyone, I decided to give this app a try because my tendency to bottle up my emotions is something I want to change about myself in order to better my mental health. Having an outlet to vent is almost therapeutic, and the app’s security system made me feel more assured that my thoughts were just for me. If writing is not to your taste, the app also has a “mood tracker” feature where you simply click the emoji that best describes how you feel that day. Seeing how my emotions would change over time was very interesting to me, and helped me realize that whatever I was anxious about on one day would likely be forgotten by the next.
With online lectures, my biggest concern is staying focused. It’s tempting to go on your phone and scroll through social media while your professor drones on in the background, but Forest has a unique solution to that problem. The interface is simple to use: all you need to do is set a timer for yourself and not open your phone within the time frame. In the meantime, Forest will grow an adorable plant for each time you complete the timer, and over time you’ll be able to grow your own little forest. The part that motivated me the most was that the tree would die if you weren’t able to stay off your phone, so I’d find myself more committed to my tasks in order to avoid that.
The classic student planner. Especially with online school, I feel that each of my courses is swamping me with work and tests to prepare for, and I’m constantly feeling like I’m forgetting some important upcoming event. This app also has a web version, which calms my anxiety because I can check my schedule whenever and wherever I am. It even allows you to set the priority level of each homework assignment so that you can easily prioritize your time and not leave anything to the last minute. If you aren’t already using a student planner, myHomework’s interface is easy to navigate and accessible wherever you go.
My personal favorite app I tried was Fabulous because of the clear effort that was put into it. It works by giving you short challenges, such as making sure you drink water every morning for three days. I really enjoyed the feature of the daily letters, some of which were written by a “future you” that thanked your past self for wanting to start a journey to better themselves by working on their mental health. The user interface is extremely fun and brightly colored, with bells chiming and positive celebratory messages as you complete each task. This app felt almost like a game, but the implementation of a routine, regardless of how small it may be, is extremely important in order to maintain a healthy mind.
As students, we’ve all had to pull some late nights in order to finish an assignment, and ended up regretting it the next morning. While this app doesn’t promise to change our poor time management skills, it does allow us to get more from our shortened sleep time. It tracks your movements and gives you insights on the duration of your REM stage, as well as how “efficient” your sleep was. I really enjoyed how this app lets you set a time frame for your wake up phase so that it will not wake you up when you’re in the deepest part of your sleep cycle. I find that this feature ensures that I don’t wake up groggy, and I’ve noticed that I almost never need to hit the snooze button. Additionally, the app has soothing alarm sounds, such as birds chirping and ocean waves which slowly increase in volume, that will wake up even heavy sleepers like myself without having to jolt you awake. Sleep is definitely an overlooked aspect of our mental health, but going for prolonged periods of time without properly sleeping has extremely negative effects on our mental health and can make the stress of daily life much worse. Using an app that will maximize the benefits of sleeping is a low-effort way to ensure you are at your best.