Self-care is much more than just luxury indulgence, it means nurturing your own mental health. Luckily, apps are becoming a more popular and more accessible way to maintain mental health on the go.
It’s time to level with each other. While the ‘treat yourself’ movement coined by Parks and Recreation has its place in the life of any person too frugal to spend a little extra on themselves, this is not the essence of self care.
Mental health is nurtured, not spoiled. As Lizzo so famously headlined, “Self care is rooted in self preservation, not just spa days and mimosas.” Although I understand that Lizzo and I aren’t licensed experts, it’s not news to anyone that therapy and regular mental healthcare is important to treat the slew of mental health issues that affect one in four people.
Mental Health & Travel
For those of us who are traveling often, anxiety and depression don’t get packed away in our bags and left at check in. Traveling can act as a threat multiplier for mental health issues and can exacerbate the problems we may think we’re leaving behind. The World Health Organization confirms this:
“Under the stress of travel, pre-existing mental disorders can be exacerbated. Furthermore, for those people with a predisposition towards mental disorder, such a disorder may emerge for the first time during travel…
Mental disorders are not rare among travellers. Overall, mental health issues are among the leading causes of ill health among travellers, and “psychiatric emergency” is one of the most common medical reasons for air evacuation, along with injury and cardiovascular disease.”
So, what do you do when you need a little help while on the road? In my experience, as someone often on the go, in-person therapy is just too expensive, inflexible, and inconvenient. I’ve turned to apps and have discovered some I think are so good; they may work for you too.
Finding Good Online Therapy
Now, you may think, ‘how ironic that this guy is preaching self-care by telling me to get in front on my screen more.’ Fair enough. However, on top of the reasons already mentioned, in-person therapy just isn’t for some people and sometimes, minor hits of anxiety, depression, mood-swings, or other mental health hurdles can be fixed with the immediacy of what apps now have to offer. Indeed, there is heated debate over therapy apps versus in-person, but research is already showing that apps can be just as effective, especially when more than one is used. However, online therapy also requires a little due diligence and the American Psychological Association posted a pretty helpful checklist to go through in finding the best help online.
Personally, I prefer to use apps on my phone, since it’s my most used electronic device, is always accessible, and I have plenty of transit time to kill these days. Here are some of the most useful on-the-go therapy apps, starting with the basics:
Free Mental Health Apps
Happify – FREE
Happify is a pretty wonderful app for anyone trying to stay positive during tough times. The app bases itself off the idea that emotional well-being can indeed be measured.
It also uses cognitive behavior therapy (CBT in tracking positivity, gets you to actively practice gratitude in regular activities, and even has games that emphasize the use of more positive language.
While the good news here is that the app is technically free, to access statistics that track emotional well-being, you have to pay $11.99 per month.
What’s Up? – FREE
What’s Up? uses CBT and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (APT) in helping its users cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and anger.
Whether it’s playing the app’s question game to keep you present, putting your problems on a catastrophe scale to keep things in perspective, or joining in group discussions, the app does give you a bang for your buck (that you’re not spending).
Best Depression Apps
Moodnotes – $4.99
This is one of my favorite apps as it’s pretty user friendly, and for a cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) app, this is pretty important.
Apps like Moodnotes use CBT in getting your to track your thoughts, emotions, and moods through prompted check-ins and daily reminders. This way you can begin to connect the dots between how much food, sleep, or down-time your getting and how it relates to your overall well-being.
Pause: Mindful Moments – $1.99
Keeping in the realm of simplicity, the popular app Pause applies Tai Chi practice to keep users focused, mindful, and grounded.
The concept is simple, slowly move a giant color blob around your screen with your thumb while it grows bigger and bigger. While the imagery is mesmerizing, the app forces you to slow down as the exercise will shut down if you move the blob too fast.
It forces you to center yourself and your thoughts on what is supposed to be a calming activity and away from all else.
BetterHelp – $40-70/week
BetterHelp is one of the best remote therapy apps out there, allowing you to choose from thousands of qualified therapists. As someone who often takes time to test out new therapists before finding one I’m comfortable with, this app was great in not just finding the right counselor for me but also one with a schedule that matched with my own.
BetterHelp allows you to set up scheduled appointments which is a big plus for anyone with a tight schedule. This is definitely a better app for people looking for a more professional relationship with a therapist. However it does run a higher cost of $40-70 per week.
TalkSpace – $45/month
This app has received a lot of talk, as it’s become one of the most popular therapy apps right now.
Like BetterHelp, you have plenty of professional therapists to choose from, and it allows you to message them at any time of day. This doesn’t guarantee they’ll message back immediately, but if you feel you need more time, a big perk of the app is that you can video chat with your therapist, which can make the experience more personable.
Luckily, It is much cheaper than some of its competitors with rates starting at $45 per month.
Self-care is much more than just luxury indulgence, it means nurturing your own mental health. Sometimes, you have to mitigate mental health issues on the road and this can be inconvenient.
Luckily, apps are becoming a more popular and more accessible way to mental healthcare these days. There aren’t many studies on the effects of mental health apps yet, but some already suggest they’re just as effective.
Apps like Pause and Moodnotes help with mindfulness, depression, and anxiety, and are overall pretty affordable
There are plenty of free mental health apps like Happify and What’s Up? that are easy to use and engage with on the go
There are apps that can connect you directly to professionals like TalkSpace and BetterHelp. These are still cheaper than in-person therapy, more accessible, and flexible to difficult schedules. You can always complement therapy with other anti-anxiety and anti-depression apps too!