Do you struggle with too much stress? That almost seems like a trick question. These days, most of us seem to be battling stress most of the time. And as we know, stress can literally kill you. Stress will also spread to the people who work with you, so that soon, your entire workplace will feel anxious and overwhelmed.
This is why it's so important to stop stress quickly, before it gets out of hand. Fortunately, technology--so often a cause of stress in itself--can be instrumental in helping you cut stress down to size.
Here are some gadgets and apps that help you attack stress in different ways. They can calm you in the moment when everything is going wrong, help you with meditation, use biofeedback to make you relax, and even help you get to sleep. Check them out--there's sure to be something on this list that will help you tame the stress beast. (All apps work on both iOS and Android; some have Web versions as well.)
Headspace bills itself as a gym membership for your mind, and that's as good a description as any. What's great about the app is that it begins with a free, 10-day program that gets you started on mindfulness meditation in only 10 minutes a day so you can get a good idea of how the app works. Paid subscriptions (which start at $12.95 a month and range up to $419.95 for a forever subscription) give you access to a wide range of programs from daily exercises to targeted approaches that can help you bring mindfulness and relaxation into every part of your life.
This app is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people help themselves by changing their own behavior and thinking patterns. Pacifica also incorporates wellness and relaxation methods for a well-rounded app that helps you track your moods and thoughts, set daily goals, and use relaxation techniques to eliminate stress. Subscriptions start at $3.99 a month with free cancelation after the first week.
3. Self-help for Anxiety Management
This app, usually shortened to SAM, was developed by a team of psychologists, computer scientists, and student users at the University of the West of England in Bristol. It's free and incorporates a variety of anxiety-reducing methods, including mood tracking and information and anxiety-reducing exercises. You can also anonymously join a community of other SAM users.
Calm is a meditation training and relaxation app that offers a free seven-day meditation program. It also offers relaxing nature scenes with sounds, as well as music to help you relax. There's a library of guided meditations as well. The initial program is free; full access ranges from $9.99 a month to $39.99 a year to $299.99 for a lifetime subscription.
This free smartphone app has a very specific and limited purpose: Breathe2Relax will teach you to breathe from your diaphragm. That may not sound like much, but such breathing has been shown to reduce stress and many meditation experts including Google's Chade-Meng Tan, recommend mindful breathing as the first line of defense when stress strikes.
6. Relax Melodies
Relax Melodies provides what it says: relaxing music and sounds to promote relaxation and help you sleep. There are a variety of melodies to choose from, and you can incorporate your own music as well. There is a free version and a $2.99 version.
The Muse headset comes with a hefty price tag of $249. Why would anyone spend this kind of money? Not only is this by far the most elegant and user-friendly of brain-wave biofeedback devices, but also people who use it say it has helped their meditation practice and allowed them to be calmer. Some say the device got them meditating regularly when they couldn't do so on their own.
Muse records your brain waves (hence the high price) and gives you feedback in the form of calmer or less-calm weather to let you know how what your brain is emitting. That makes it both easy and pleasant to calm yourself and bring the nature sounds back to their calm state.
In a different approach to biofeedback, emWave2 uses a pulse sensor to track your heartbeat and helps you relax and slow that beat. With practice, users learn to slow their hearts and reach a relaxed and happier state, and the device comes with heart-slowing "games" you can play and you can use emWave2 while performing other tasks. At $199, it's also a pretty pricey device so if you're choosing between this and Muse, the decision should come down to whether you want a meditation aid or a device that will help you learn to slow your heartbeat and relax.
9. Stress Thermometer
If you don't have hundreds to shell out on biofeedback, the Stress Thermometer costs $21.95 device that will give you a taste of how biofeedback works. It operates on a simple premise: When you're tense, your hands get cold; when you're relaxed, they warm up. By measuring the rapidly fluctuating temperature of a finger, the Stress Thermometer can help you learn to relax.
10. Stress Squares
If you want an even more inexpensive approach to biofeedback, there are Stress Squares, made by the same company as the Stress Thermometer, which cost $13.55 for a set of 100. The principle is the same (cold hands = stressed/warm hands = relaxed). The adhesive-backed squares can be attached to a card or piece of paper or cardboard and they change color according to the temperature of your hand.
11. Brookstone Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager With Heat
And then there's massage, a supremely effective stress-buster. If you can't take the time or money to go get one from a professional massage therapist, you can still fight stress by using massage devices, especially on your neck and/or upper back. Brookstone's Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager With Heat is a popular and effective device at $119.99.
12. HoMedics Thera-P Shiatsu Kneading Massage Pillow
A different sort of massage device, the Thera-P Shiatsu Kneading Massage Pillow delivers a vigorous Shiatsu-style massage at a cost of $29.99. You'll have to lie on the pillow to get the effect, something to consider if you're planning to use it at work.
13. Acupressure: Heal Yourself
If you don't like the idea of a mechanical massager, or don't want to spend the money on one, you can also release your stress, or get a friend to release it for you, by pressing on specific acupressure points. Acupressure: Heal Yourself is a $1.99 app that tells you exactly where those points are and how to use them for reducing stress, relieving pain, and even fighting addictions such as smoking. You can't hurt yourself or anyone else with acupressure, even if you're new to it. Sounds worth the two bucks to me.