There are a slew of websites and applications that can be used to help encourage, improve and maintain mental health. Everyone can benefit from a mental health boost, even those of us who are just having a bad day, or going through a rough patch and may be experiencing emotional symptoms at a subclinical level. For those experiencing symptoms at a clinical, or diagnosable level, websites and applications such as those can help maintain effective coping strategies, help promote mental wellness between appointments, and can also be used as a tool to help facilitate psychotherapy.
The links provided below are sites that I have heard good feedback on from a variety of both friends and patients. It is important to note that the effectiveness of coping strategies varies – both by individual preference, but also situationally; what works in one context may not necessarily work in the next. That is why it is important to build a toolbox of useful interventions that you can pull from when you need to.
As I discussed in a previous blogpost, the best treatment for anxiety is deep breathing, mediation and relaxation. There are plenty of websites that have guided relaxations that you can listen to. Guided relaxations are similar to meditations, in that you are instructed to close your eyes, and take long, slow, deep breaths. The point is to focus on your breathing so that it is steady and slow. Meditation typically instructs us to clear our minds and focus on nothing but our breath; this is difficult for someone with anxiety, because our minds tend to be racing with thoughts, and it is difficult to simply “stop thinking.” The guided relaxations give us something to listen to. Sometimes it is specific direction about how to breath, and sometimes it is a visual image to focus on, such as a relaxing beach scene.
Here are some of my favorite links:
Headspace – The Headspace app is a great mindfulness and meditation app that offers free 10-day meditation programs, with guided meditations in 10 minutes or less.
UCLA offers great links for a variety of breathing exercises:
If you tend to be stressed and overwhelmed at work, here are two options for quick anxiety-reducers:
www.calm.com - One of my absolute favorite websites. Pick your preferred nature scene (such as ocean waves or a dripping rain), and your computer screen is transformed into a relaxing oasis. Simply watch while listening to relaxing sounds, or do a guided relaxation in as little as two minutes. There is also a coordinating app available for iphone and Android.
site to www.calm.com, this site presents a relaxing ocean scene paired with the subtle sound of crashing waves. The kicker here is that a timer counts down 2 minutes – encouraging you to take a small break from your day and relax. If you try to move the mouse or keyboard before the timer is up, the screen flashes FAIL. Your screen doesn't lock and you can easily leave the page, just as you would any other website. The idea is that 2 minutes it not a long time, but it is long enough to take a breather and decompress.
http://www.donothingfor2minutes.com - A similar
I previously dedicated an entire blog post to the art of mindfulness, but it is worthwhile to reiterate the helpful sites here. The aforementioned app, Headspace, is a great introduction to the benefits of mindfulness. Additionally:
Mindfulness of Your Hand is a good guided mindfulness tool.
Mindfulness Daily provides mindfulness-based meditations that can be used daily. Once installed on your phone, the app will prompt you with reminders throughout the day to check in with yourself and your surroundings.
Are you having difficulty falling asleep? Often anxiety and insomnia go hand and hand, and ruminating or recurrent thoughts keep us from being able to fall asleep. A relaxation geared toward falling asleep can be helpful.
The UCLA site has a great relaxation for sleep:
Additionally, soft sounds or relaxing noises can be helpful, as it gives us something to listen to, and hopefully distract us from the worries of the day, or the to-do list we are going over and over in preparing for the next day.
Relax Melodies is a great, free app with over 50 soothing sounds, including thunderstorms, melting river, wind in leaves, and frogs. The best part is that you can set a timer so that the app will turn off on its own – hopefully after you have already fallen asleep. (The fireplace is my favorite).
When experiencing anxiety, it is not uncommon to feel the negative tension throughout your body, particularly in your neck, shoulders and head. A good way to relax those muscles and release the tension is through a progressive muscle relaxation.
When talking about sadness and depression, I constantly ask questions about underlying thoughts. Thoughts drive our emotions and our moods. One of the most helpful homework assignments that I use for sadness is a thought log, asking people to record their thoughts whenever they find themselves in a negative mood, whether sad, angry or frustrated. After a few days of thought tracking, you can then go back and look for patterns in the thoughts: do you tend to catastrophize? Do you always think in terms of black and white, with no middle ground? Self-awareness of these types of thought patterns is the first step in changing your thoughts, and therefore, controlling your mood.
Thought Diary Pro is an app designed to help you keep track of your mood and corresponding thoughts.
Moody Me is an app that helps you track your daily mood and activity, so that you can start making links between triggers and emotions. The app also allows you to take pictures of things that make you happy, so that you can play them back when feeling down.