square bulletMobile Apps for Self-Care

June 22, 2015

From: Julie McGinty, MSW Intern 2014-2015 for Trauma Informed Oregon

Here at Trauma Informed Oregon, we have been asked by some of you: “What are useful mobile applications (apps) for self-care?”  Part of my internship at TIO this past year was to create and sustain a self-care plan, which led to me thinking about how I could introduce apps into this plan and I have learned what has worked and not worked for me.  This blog post serves as a way to share some helpful apps that I use around self care.

What do we mean by self-care?

The School of Social Work at the University of Buffalo defines self care as “activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short- and longer-term health and well-being.”   Put simply by Trauma Stewardship ( self-care is a way for us to be able bring our best selves to work everyday.

Let me be clear: self-care does not replace the need for organizational changes that better support our workforce, nor does organizational change take away the need for us to have our own personal self-care practices.  Self-care and organizational support need to both exist for a more balanced work environment.

Before I begin describing some apps that I personally use, I want to provide a few caveats:

  • There is very little regulation around creating apps, which means that anyone can create an app, so with anything unfamiliar and new, please use caution.
  • I use my apps on an iPhone so this review may not include apps that are available on other devices.
  • All the apps I use are free, so there may be some great ones out there that are paid apps, but I have not used them.
  • These apps are specific to me and may not be accessible, applicable, or even interesting to every person, so I encourage you to explore ones that personally work well for you.

Three categories of self-care include: Maintenance, Regulation, and Brain Breaks.

Maintenance self-care practices can involve support for your physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, etc.

Water Alert is an app that I downloaded in an attempt to meet my recommended daily intake of water.  While at my desk at work, I would find it so easy to forget about drinking water.  This app is great! It allows you to customize what your daily intake goal is and track your progress.  The best part though is that it sends alerts to my phone, so when I lose track of time, I am reminded to drink water.

C25k (Couch to 5k) is a running app.  I started using it a few years ago and went from walking to being able to run a 5k.  It gradually increases the duration and distance of running each day in a manageable way and tracks your progress.  What I especially like about this app is if I get off track and miss a few days, I’m still able to continue.  I might have to go back a few steps, but it does not require that I start over.  The developers also offer a 5k to 10k app.

Regulation involves activities to help the body release and metabolize stress reactions.

Breathe2Relax is an app that helps aids with diaphragmatic breathing, which can help to calm your body’s stress reaction.  This app provides a guide for timed deep breathing.  I like this app because it is pretty straightforward to use.  I simply open the app, click on the option that says “Breathe” and it begins to display when and for how long I should inhale and exhale.  I can also control the length of inhale and exhale breaths.  Having a clear and simple app is critical when your body’s stress reaction is in gear.

Brain Breaks are short (5-10 minute) breaks that allow your brain to recharge.

Buzzfeed is what I use for these short breaks.  This app has a ton of content, including recent news headlines, funny stories, music, sports and so much more.  Because having so much content can be overwhelming, there are two areas that are my go-to with this app: cat videos and recipes.  It gives my brain a chance to focus on something different and makes me happy because I love cats and food.

The most important thing with trying new apps or new practices is to pick one thing and try it for a short time to see if you like it before creating a whole new routine.

Here are a few resources if you are interested in this topic:

Do you use any apps for self care? If so, post in the comment section below!