Sometimes, you don't know why you're low. Is it stress? Anxiety? Anger? Depression? It could be anyone or all of these, or something entirely different. All you know is that you just want to stop feeling like that right now. These free apps offer instant relief from negative thoughts and feelings.
Importantly, none of these apps are claiming to be a substitute for therapy. If you feel such negativity often, it's best to seek professional medical advice rather than rely on apps. Think of these stress-relievers as a stop-gap measure or a temporary treat, rather than a solution.
1. You Feel Like Shit (Web): Self-Care Guide for Best Relief Practices
From having a glass of water to remembering to move around, there are a thousand small tips that can change your mood when you are feeling low. It's difficult to remember them all, of course. You Feel Like Shit (YFLS) is a free web-based guide that offers the right helpful reminders when you get that feeling.
The website asks the user a series of questions with multiple-choice answers, treating your mood relief like a small game. Each answer will lead to different suggestions, all of them based on tried-and-tested mental health practices, like mindful eating when you need a snack.
The order of the guide remains the same each time, which a few users have criticized as a deterrent to using the app regularly. That said, if you're in a funk and not thinking straight, the guide can have a reassuring presence for anyone who needs a quick checklist of best practices. YFLS is completely private, requires no registration, and remains free and ad-free.
2. Wuju (Web): Guided Self-Care for Negative Thoughts or Feelings
Self-care apps should get out of your way and let the user focus on feeling better. And no app exemplifies this as perfectly as Wuju does. This is a free and ad-free progressive web app, which you can add as an app on your home screen. Fire it up whenever you are thinking negatively or feeling down.
Wuju plays a calming tune at all times when you use it. Its guides are broken into two broad categories: thoughts (stress, low energy, anxiety, self judgement) and feelings (surface feelings, core emotions, mindsets, positive emotions, something else). Each of these has multiple things you might be thinking or feeling, which you need to choose.
Your choice starts a guided self-care exercise, wherein Wuju asks you to identify the level of your discomfort, tries to get to the root of the matter, and gently nudges you towards relief. Each choice has different mechanisms for relief, and you'll even be asked to write your thoughts or feelings at times.
Wuju maintains a historical record of all your sessions, available only to you on the current browser you use. There is no registration, nor does it need your personal data. Just use it whenever you're feeling low, and it'll try to help.
3. The Zen Zone (Web): Meditative Relaxing Games to Relieve Stress
You can deal with stress in various ways. The most healthy way is to find the root cause, see how you respond to it, and change your patterns. But this can feel like a rigorous exercise at times, and all you want is instant stress relief. That's when The Zen Zone's meditative games can help.
Developer Tim Holman calls this a "minimalistic meditation area", in which he has built three games that are small and oddly satisfying. We tried it out and can vouch for it. The idea is to start a game in the browser, choose how much time you want to spend on it, and then start playing it.
The three games are Swirl, Switch, or Break. In Swirl, use your mouse to erase a spiral, neatly taking your cursor from the center out or outwards in. In Switch, you'll get a panel of several switches, which you flip in the time allotted. And in Break, there is a series of circles, where if you hover your cursor over them then they will break into smaller circles.
The Zen Zone is like a virtual stress ball, giving you a space to act out your stress in a healthy way. It's a helpful distraction, especially in the office when you can't leave your desk, which is one of the best psychological tips to reduce stress at work.
4. Worrydolls (Android, iOS): Tell Your Worries to a Virtual Doll
Many people swear by a common advice to deal with thoughts of worry and anxiety: write it down. Actually putting your thoughts into words is found to be cathartic, relieving your mind of the burden. Worrydolls is a lovely little app that turns this practice into something more.
Each doll in the app represents a different worry. When you feel anxious thoughts, start a new worry doll, tell it why you are worried, and then the doll does the worrying for you. If the same topic has caused you to worry anew, you can also write out more entries to that Worrydoll, and see it as a timeline of worries related to one thing.
Once a worrisome topic has been resolved, you can update your Worrydoll with the result, and also write out what happened. It's here that the app questions you about whether the worries were as bad as you thought, giving you a much-needed reality check.
In essence, Worrydolls is basically a journal for your anxious thoughts. But with the cute avatars and the idea of giving each topic its own timeline, the app does just enough to make it different from a normal journal.
5. Breath Ball (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS): Guided Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief
Breath Ball is a free app for desktops and mobiles that offers guided breathing exercises that can help with stress relief, falling asleep, and other relaxation techniques. It features a ball that expands and contracts, telling you when to inhale and exhale with timed sounds.
The app features two of the best-known breathing exercises for stress relief and relaxation. The Cardiac Coherence breathing technique, also known as pranayama in yoga, asks you to inhale deep into your belly for five seconds, hold your breath, then exhale for five seconds. It has been proven to stabilize your heartbeat when you're feeling nervous or anxious, leading to a more relaxed state.
The other technique is Slow Paced Breathing, where you inhale for four seconds, but exhale for six seconds. It's a breathing exercise that has proven to be effective in quick relief for stress symptoms and even shows increased focus and concentration.
Breath Ball also includes other techniques like 4-7-8 breathing and COPD breathing, with more details on these in the app. You can also set your own custom breathing exercise. By default, Breath Ball doesn't play ambient sounds, but you can enable these in the app settings if you want calming background tunes while doing your exercises.
What About Long-Term Relief?
From breathing exercises to quick games, the apps in this list offer various ways to get instant relief from stress, anxiety, and negativity. But for long-term relief, you need to look at different choices.
Depending on what's on your mind and what you are comfortable with, you can look at options from professional help and therapy to anxiety-relieving apps and journals. The more important point, though, is noticing your patterns and seeking help when you need it.
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