The coronavirus has a lot of us on edge, but our smartphones can help us breathe deep, meditate, change mental habits, get a good night’s sleep and more.

In a world turned upside down, it’s only natural that stress has become a part of the equation. The spread of COVID-19 has forced major disruptions into our lives: at work, home, school and church, sports and recreation, restaurants, entertainment and elsewhere. Many of our normal activities have been relocated, canceled, postponed or curtailed. Fortunately, humans are extraordinarily resilient and able to adapt to new environments and routines. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. From guided meditation to mindfulness training and calming techniques, here are some smartphone apps that can help you when you feel the pressure and anxiety building.

Anxiety Management

Self-help for Anxiety Management (SAM) helps users understand the root of their anxiety, monitors anxious thoughts and behavior, and manages anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection. There’s also a “social cloud” feature that lets users anonymously share their experiences with others in the community.

Meditation, Breathing, Relaxation

This next group of apps have multiple related functions. Calm is designed to help you “Sleep More. Stress Less. Live Better”; it uses music, audio and video lessons, and soothing scenes and nature sounds to achieve that. Headspace offers guided and unguided meditations as well as mindfulness training; use the free trial to check it out and then subscribe if it works for you. GPS for the Soul, the brainchild of Arianna Huffington and Deepak Chopra, incorporates biofeedback into the meditation and breathing regimen.

Breathe2Relax tracks your breathing and offers lessons in “diaphragmatic breathing,” a common relaxation skill used to lower stress. For mood tracking, consider My Mood Tracker. For sound therapy, try Digipill, which uses psychoacoustics in the form of customized 10-minute audio “pills” aimed at helping you: become less anxious, get more sleep, study better, lose weight or quit smoking, among other goals.

Yoga practitioners will be drawn to Pocket Yoga, which lets you create custom routines, access a library of poses and more.

Therapy and Emotional Support

7 Cups, which calls itself “the world’s largest emotional support system,” is a self-regulated community offering one-on-one and group chats with professional therapists and other “trained listeners.” There’s a free 24/7 chat feature, and confidential online therapy is available for $150 a month.

Some therapists are also offering videoconferencing sessions on apps such as FaceTime, Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Mental Training

Happify uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help those seeking to control their thoughts or feelings, break habits or make other major life changes. If you’re on a quest for a stress- and anxiety-lowering mental exercise disguised as a game involving friendly and angry sprites, look no further than Personal Zen.

Recreational Release and Fun for Kids

Ever used a squeeze ball or bubble wrap to relieve stress? Like everything else, physical stress relief has gone digital. Panagola’s Stress Buster equips you with “endless bubble wrap”: colorful bubbles you can blow up, pop and even turn into art, accompanied by various sounds of your choice. With Colorfy, you can mentally relax as you “paint” by numbers on your smartphone screen, choosing from thousands of designs awaiting your artistic touch. It’s like a digital coloring book for adults, though kids might also enjoy it.

Speaking of the kids, the popular Headspace app we mentioned above has added a series of breathing exercises, meditations and visualizations designed for the younger set. Headspace for Kids exercises are broken into age groups―5 and under, 6 to 8, and 9 to 12―can help them sleep, wake up, calm down, focus and practice kindness.

Kids actually helped create Positive Penguins, a fun and award-winning app designed to “help them understand why they feel the way they do and help them challenge their negative thinking.” The four penguins teach children that their feelings stem not from the situations they encounter but from their own thoughts.


In light of the quarantining and isolation forced upon us by COVID-19, we all may be craving that feeling of community. What better way to reduce your own stress than to do a good deed for someone else that makes his or her life a little better? Nobly – The Pay It Forward App allows you to post, and track the effects of good deeds while encouraging others to do the same.

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