Stressed out? These apps may help, and they're all cheap or free.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Apps to the rescue. If you need help calming down, these apps could help lift your spirits, or at least help you temporarily forget about the results.
If you're seriously stressed, to the point where you feel actual panic (or something close to it), focused breathing can help. True to its name, Breathe2Relax (Android, iOS) provides guided breathing exercises based on your level of stress. The interface is a little clunky, but you get lots of information and how-to help along with the exercises. It's a free app.
Meditation is one of the best paths to relaxation. There are countless apps designed to help you learn the practice, including 10% Happier, Calm, Headspace and -- my longtime favorite -- Buddhify.
Available for both Android and iOS and priced at just a few dollars, the app includes more than 200 guided-meditation tracks, all of them categorized by mood or activity: traveling, going to bed, feeling stressed and so on. Most lessons range from 5-10 minutes, so they're easy to incorporate into your day. There's a membership option ($30 per year) that unlocks more features, but it's not required.
Does self-hypnosis work? HelloMind has earned a 4-star average from both Android and iOS users, suggesting the app mostly delivers on its promise to help you combat fear, anxiety, stress and other issues.
A "treatment" for any such problem consists of 10 sessions, each lasting about half an hour. Your goal is to complete them within 30 days. HelloMind charges $13 for an unlimited monthly subscription or $120 for an annual one.
Yep: read a book. Studies have shown that reading for pleasure can increase empathy (which I'd say is vital right now), improve relationships, reduce the symptoms of depression and even help you sleep better. Just make sure to activate "night mode" on your phone or tablet so looking at the screen doesn't disrupt your sleep.
Of course, it doesn't have to be the Kindle app; any e-book app will do. The idea is simply to sink into a great piece of fiction and forget your troubles in the process.
Music soothes the savage beast -- it can also lower your blood pressure, relieve stress, help you sleep better and more, according to a 2014 study. So slip on some
, hit up Pandora (or your favorite music app of choice) and ease into some Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or the like.
Your smartphone and an inexpensive VR headset can transport you far away (virtually speaking) from reality. For example, Provata VR for iOS offers guided mindfulness meditations set in a variety of pleasing locales: beaches, waterfalls, even underwater reefs. You can enjoy some content for free, but a subscription costs $3.99 per month or $36 annually.
Android users can check out Relax VR: Rest & Meditation (iOS), a similar experience but with photorealistic (rather than computer-generated) locales. It's $2.99.
If you happen to own a
Samsung Gear VR
headset, you can escape into any number of great experiences that will help you relax. I'm partial to Land's End VR, which is part puzzle game and part therapy session. Seriously, it's so peaceful and relaxing, you might just want to sit in your favorite comfy chair and hang out, puzzles be damned.
Have you found other apps to help you relieve stress? Name them in the comments!