I, like many people, spend a lot of time on my phone. A lot of the time I am texting or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. But I also use a number of mental health apps that I find extremely helpful. There are many popular well-known apps such as headspace and Calm that many people more qualified than me have reviewed. But I wanted to share with you all some of the apps I use to improve and maintain my mental health. Whilst also highlighting some of their pitfalls for you to keep in mind.
The premise of the app is that you can log in when you feel the urge to self-harm and choose options to comfort, distract, express, release, breathe or male a random selection. I most commonly chose the distract function to start off with and then would move on to express and/or breath once I had calmed down enough to be able to do other activities. The distract function was really helpful as it would give commands such as ‘count down from 1400 in sets of three’. Once the urge to self-harm had begun to subside I would do a breathing exercise or an exercise expressing my feelings. I really like the diverse options for activities on the app as well as the cute and engaging design. My main complaint with the app is the use of a password. There have been several times where I have felt so distressed that I have kept entering my password wrong, locked myself out of the app and ended up self-harming. So proceed with caution and make your password basic.
I use What’s up? mainly for the grounding exercises but I probably underutilise it. When you first log on the app includes options for help right now, coping strategies, information as well as a personal diary section. The coping strategies and information section are filled with great reminders for in-between therapy sessions. The help right now feature is filled with goodies for helping in a crisis. This includes breathing exercises, grounding exercises and challenges to negative though patterns. I am really impressed by the variety of activities on this app. Recently, I became quite distressed on a plane and needed to ground myself. I used the app for over half an hour going through ‘name five movies’, ‘name five green things you can see’ and ‘name five animals who forage’ type questions. I thought for sure there would be a point where they started repeatingbut they didn’t. A con of the app is that it isn’t the most visually appealing app and can be a bit boring to look at.
eMoods is the app that I use to track my Bipolar symptoms. The app features tracking points on scales that can be viewed as monthly and weekly graphs. What I love most about this app is that it is customisable. I can add my own tracking points. So whilst it comes with the basics like depression, anxiety, mania I have been able to add my own specific symptoms and early warning signs. I have even added yes/no options for my daily self-care so I can see if my self-care is starting to slip and do something about it. eMoods also features a daily notes section. Sometimes I treat this section like a journal and write and write and write. Other times I just write the basics like ‘uni, psychiatrist, movies, studied’. This note section is really handy for pinpointing triggers. So if I look back on my graphs and see I started to get depressed on the 23rd last month I can look at my notes section entries of the days leading up to see if something happened that could explain my slip. My only qualm with this app is that the data saves to the phone as opposed to the app. So when I got a new phone a couple of months ago I lost all of my mood tracking from the previous year, which was really disappointing.
Treat is an interesting mindfulness app. When you log on it gives options to rest, recalibrate, recover and reduce tension. It is actually designed for mental health and medical professionals to use in between clients. My Psychologist recommended it to me because she thought that due to my training in Psychology I would appreciate being related to on that higher level. She was absolutely right. I sometimes get frustrated using other apps because they explain things that I already understand. It sometimes feels like they are talking down to me. Treat does not do that. The section of Treat that I use most often is the rest section. I use the meditations to help me get to sleep, especially when I am in foreign places. One of the best things about the Treat app is that it asks you how long you have and specifies your meditations to your time frame. This is great for fitting in mindfulness into a busy day. If I had to complain about the Treat app in any way that would be to say that sometimes the names of the meditations can be confusing/misleading. Pretty minor issue, really.
Apps play a huge role in helping me to manage my mental health when I am between therapist visits. These apps, due to my complex needs, are more suitable for me than some of the more mainstream apps. They help me to manage my self-harm habits, self-care, mood symptoms and trauma symptoms. Apps are a great tool to improve mental health, regardless of if someone lives with a diagnosis or not.