Who might this blog post be useful for?: Anyone that experiences anxiety, clinical or otherwise. These strategies may be particularly helpful for people who experience panic or anxiety attacks, or trouble sleeping.
What study skills challenges can this app help you overcome?: Difficulty managing anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or having panic attacks.
What is the tool or study skills strategy?: Relaxation apps and strategies, mindfulness, distraction and personalised soundscapes.
It’s important to note you do not need to be formally diagnosed in order to benefit from these strategies, everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but for people with an anxiety disorder these feelings become overwhelming and can start to dominate your life and seriously impact your wellbeing. If you are concerned anxiety is becoming a part of your every day life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder and could benefit from speaking to your GP.
Pause is a relaxation app for anxiety. This app was recommended to me by a friend who often has Panic Attacks, and found it really helpful. Pause works on the principle of slowing down and becoming present in the moment (a mindfulness principle), as you slowly move your finger around the screen with the orb growing larger the longer you continue this movement. Prompts will tell you to slow down if you’re moving too quickly, and remind you to keep going if you stop. This might be more helpful than the .gif mentioned below if you find it difficult to concentrate without some interactive feature like the prompts and changing orb size.
A viral .gif?
A similar technique I find really helpful with panic and anxiety attacks is this viral .gif. I know it seems pretty ridiculous, but I promise it is the simplest and most effective measure I have ever found to help with my anxiety. Save this on your phone, bookmark it on your browser or add it to a playlist on YouTube. As long as you can access it when you need to, this little .gif is the best friend of anxiety sufferers everywhere.
I have often been told to try breathing exercises and counting to 5 with each breath, but before you get used to doing this by yourself (and even if you’ve been trying for a while), it can be really difficult to control your breathing and mentally count in numbers when you feel like you’re about to die and you can’t catch a breath. Having an external stimuli to focus on can be really helpful to help you get some control when you feel like you have none at all.
The following video is a great verbally narrated guided breathing exercise, and you can access the full transcript of this breathing exercise on the Duff the Psych website. This video might also be really useful to combat dissociation, as it constitutes a grounding technique and re-affirms the viewers physical presence and safety.
Similarly, here’s a 10 minute version, with no words and soothing music in the background. You can use this for mindfulness practise, or to help you sleep, not just when you are having a panic attack.
Despite your best efforts, you might find that no amount of soothing .gifs and new age music can pull you out of how you feel right now. In that case you might need more of a distraction. My partner has been known to read me jokes from this Dad joke website until I stop hyperventilating or crying long enough to laugh like an absolute fool. If you have friends or family that support you with your anxiety you can try asking them to distract you next time you panic. If you don’t have anyone that you feel comfortable enough to ask that of, you can also try watching a really inane but intricate video on YouTube. I like watching acrylic nail tutorials and sneaker restoration videos.
You can find a previous blog post which mentions multiple colouring apps in ‘Mindfulness and relaxation apps – part 1‘.
Lake is a free colouring app for reducing stress and anxiety available on iPhone and iPad. It won the Apple Design Awards 2017 and has a really visually pleasing interface and cute canvasses to colour in. It also offers realistic brushes with varying textures.
These apps allow you to select from and customise soundscapes and set timers on them to help you relax. Similar apps can be found in my blog post ‘Apps for people who experience Anxiety or Sensory Sensitivity’.
If you find that distraction can’t help, try to remind yourself that you are not alone, and you’ve felt this way before and survived every time.
Thanks for reading,