As most of you know, I feel very strongly about mental health awareness and helping people find the tools to manage their own mental health. As I have mentioned before, mindfulness is a wonderfully useful technique when it comes to cultivating mental strength and resilience. Therefore, when Thrive offered me a free month to try their app Feel Stress Free I gladly accepted the opportunity. This app is a stress management program specifically developed by mental health practitioners to help people effectively manage their stress and anxiety levels through a variety of breathing and mindfulness activities. I instantly knew that this would be of great use to many of you readers and I would like to share my experience of using the app for the past few weeks.
The Mental Health Problem
I find that apps like these are a great way to acknowledge the very real problems many people face daily when suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Many people feel like they need to suffer in silence or that it is a weakness to express how they are feeling. This lonely experience can make the symptoms even worse and this app goes a long way to helping people realise that they are not alone. What I appreciated the most about this app is that not only does it help you to manage your stress levels, but it also assists you in building resilience.
Easy to Use
It is such an easy app to use and my first impression of it was very positive. It is easy to navigate, has bright colours and soothing background ocean sounds, making it all very soothing and enjoyable to use. The layout even facilitates the relaxing atmosphere by setting the features over 3 different islands – taking away the need to actually visualize your happy place on some remote island. All the features and activities you will find on these islands are evidence backed techniques.
Every time you enter the app it evaluates what activities would be best for you depending on your mood and the reasons behind your mood. The mood meter allows you to swipe left or right depending on your current mood. After you have selected this it asks you a series of questions to determine why you are feeling this way or what specifically has caused this. Then it asks some more questions in terms of what thought patterns you had that led you to feel this way – I particularly liked how it would then help you to realize the error in negative thought patterns and how you can change your way of thinking to improve your mental well being. This thought trainer is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and helps people to re-frame their negative thoughts, which is super useful and does not require you to attend years of therapy sessions. You are also able to track your progress as you complete daily activities.
The app is made up of four main activities, that you will find on the first island. Depending on your mood, two activities will be suggested for you daily. The first feature is a Calm Breathing activity, a simple activity based on using slow, deep breaths to trigger a calming reflex in the body. This can be done over 3 – 15 minutes depending on your stress levels and amount of time you have available. I found it really helpful to increase my concentration while working, because I easily become overwhelmed when I have many different things to do at once. The second feature is a Deep Muscle Relaxation technique, that is based on an easy technique has been used for decades to help people relax. It leads you through a series of tensing and relaxing movements of certain muscles in the body, until you are acutely aware of the difference between a tense body and a relaxed body. The third feature is Meditation and the app leads you through a guided meditation and you can choose from a variety of lengths. Even a 5-minute meditation daily is enough to see results, but this technique does require practice to master. The fourth feature is a Self-hypnosis technique, that leads you into a hypnotic trance. Not everyone will be able to achieve this, but it may become easier over time, and once in this state, you choose a word that can be used in any situation to help you return to this state of ease.
On the other islands, you will find some extra features such as the Zen Garden and Message in a Bottle. The zen garden is quite fun and like a real one you can lose yourself in the process of creation, which is really fun and relaxing. Message in the bottle also allows you to send an encouraging message to other people using the app, which once again helps you to feel like you are not alone on this healing journey.
Feel Stress Free will cost you about £4.99 per month, which is a small price to pay for your mental health. It is definitely worth it and I have noticed a decrease in my anxiety levels over the last few weeks. However, it does not replace the need for a licensed psychologist if the feelings or problems are severe.