The last few years have left their mark on our bodies and minds, whether we have realised it or not.
According to experts, the impact of years of high cortisol levels as a result of the pandemic has had a sustained impact on our physiology, even leading to a sharp increase in seasonal allergies this year. Although, we are no longer in lockdown, one in four of us still report feeling lonely some or all of the time.
Although there is no substitute for real life connection, there is one silver lining to the world going digital since the pandemic: more mental health support is at hand than ever before, without the intimidation (and pricetag) of the therapist’s couch.
These are the best apps to download.
Calm is a mindfulness and meditation app designed to help users live a more anxiety and stress-free life. And with more than 100 million downloads and more than 700,000 five-star reviews, it is consistently one of the most popular mindfulness apps on the market.
The app offers guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing exercises and relaxation tools to help you wind down, switch off and fall asleep. With an accessible approach and vast content library, Calm is valuable tool for anyone looking to foster inner peace.
Headspace is a science-backed mindfulness and meditation app, providing tools and resources to help reduce stress, build resilience, and aid better sleep.
The app has a rich library of well-organised meditations, with guided sessions for beginners and less-structured programming for pros. It’s also a good choice for anyone who is meditation-curious, as it offers lots of short video options that make it easy to fit into your day. And there are also resources tailored to children and teens to make sure the whole family are feeling zen.
£9.99/month or £49.99/year; www.headspace.com
Talkspace: for live video counselling
Chat with a trained counsellor at any time. Take a brief assessment, pick your therapist and Talkspace will offer 24/7 online counselling, from live video chats to phone calls to text services. Options include online therapy with licensed therapists, teen therapy and couples therapy.
The digital counselling platform has been rated App of the Day by the App Store and has more than one million users to date. 98 per cent of users found it to be more convenient than traditional therapy.
From £199 a month, try.talkspace.com
Shout 85258: for free, 24/7 text support
If you’re feeling low, anxious, worried, lonely, overwhelmed, suicidal or not quite yourself, text ‘Shout’ to 85258 at any time of day or night and Shout will offer free, confidential mental health support from trained volunteers. It’s completely anonymous and won’t appear on your phone bill.
Once you text you’ll receive four automated messages before you are connected to an empathetic Shout volunteer. This will usually be within five minutes, but if they are busy it can take longer. The volunteer will introduce themselves and ask you to share a bit more about what’s bothering you. This might include feeling anxious, having relationship problems, addiction, depression, bullying, self-harm and suicide. You will text back and forth and share what you feel comfortable with.
The goal of the conversation is to help you reach a calm and safe place, with a plan of how to support yourself going forwards. As well as listening without judgement, our volunteers may provide you with further resources or tools to help you get more expert support.
Your conversation will only end when the volunteer is sure you are in a safe and calm place. Conversations tend to last around 40 minutes.
Another platform for private, professional virtual therapy. You’ll get matched with accredited, carefully vetted psychotherapists and have private and secure video and audio sessions online.
It’s pay-as-you-go and you can cancel free of charge up to 48 hours before a session.
All feelya registered therapists are UK based and highly qualified, registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
From £40, feelya.com
BetterHelp: for individuals, couples and teens
BetterHelp offers affordable, online counselling anywhere and at anytime so you can access therapy from your sofa. It’s the world’s largest e-counselling platform and is US-based but has thousands of registered users in the UK.
More than 100 million messaging, phone and video chat sessions have been completed to date.
From £31 a week, betterhelp.com
7 Cups: for teens and young adults
A free digital text service connecting people experiencing emotional distress with trained listeners. It’s totally anonymous and confidential and available 24/7.
For extra support, the app also offers online therapy for over-18s from £115 a month.
The app has more than 180 professional therapists and more than 300,000 trained listeners. 25 million people across the world have been helped so far.
Be mindful: for mindfulness
An NHS-approved digital mindfulness course. It costs £30 and is proven to have helped thousands of people reduce their levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and enhance and maintain mental health and wellbeing.
You can start immediately and learn at your own pace.
ieso: for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a method of talking therapy proven to be effective at treating anxiety, stress, depression and ieso is the NHS’ solution to providing it online for people at home. The only difference is your conversation is typed instead of spoken.
Research has shown that people are just as likely to recover this way, and many people have said they found it less daunting and easier to be open.
At the time of your appointment, you simply log in and speak to your therapist by typing back and forth. Typed conversation removes the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation, and can allow you to express your true, inner feelings. Sessions usually take place once a week and last up to 60 minutes.
Free in certain areas, iesohealth.com
Mindscape: for audio and music therapy
Mindscape is a mental health app launched by creative agency Cult in 2018, combining voice technology, artificial intelligence and science-led music therapy in one handy app.
Developed in consultation with mental health charity Mind, the app is aimed at people dealing with panic attacks or anxiety.
The voice app talks people through relaxing breathing exercises, before asking them questions about their current emotional state. It can offer practical tips for managing work, money, education and sleep and also has bespoke soundscapes tailored to the person using the app.
You can use Mindscape through your Amazon Alexa device at home.
Free to enable, download on Amazon Alexa
Tomo: for suggesting new habits
Chatbots are a fun way to interact with tech and Tomo is a bot that comes with some hidden benefits. The app enables you to ‘find healthy habits’ and record how you’re feeling, so you can keep track of what’s going on.
As you talk to Tomo, it learns about your lifestyle and how you handle challenges and then suggests new habits for you to try. Every time you complete a habit, Tomo invites you to share a photo of your achievement with the community, so you can receive virtual congrats from the Tomo cohort.
This virtual buddy system is designed to ensure your habits stick.
Wysa: for Covid anxiety
An AI chatbot you can use to vent or talk through negative thoughts and emotions. It’s totally anonymous and secure and uses research-backed therapies such as CBT, DBT and meditation.
For extra support, you can also receive text guidance from a qualified professional therapist. Daily messaging support and eight live sessions costs less than £77 a month.
The world’s leading health app evaluation agency, Orcha, has recommended Wysa as the best app to deal with Covid-related stress and anxiety.
HelloSelf: for tracking your progress
This London-based therapy app was founded in 2018 and offers a professional directory of clinical and counselling psychologists and CBT therapists. Their specialisms range from OCD to PTSD after a trauma.
All therapists are available for for video calls and the app uses tech to encourage members to engage with their treatment and track their outcomes.
From £100, helloself.com
Biamother: for expectant mothers
Becoming a new mother can be an emotionally overwhelming and isolating time.
With hormone disruption, physical changes and a shrinking social life to contend with, it can be helpful to get mental health support tailored to the specific needs of a new mother. Mums-to-be can benefit from pregnancy-focused meditations, podcasts and tips from experts about reducing pregnancy-related fears.
From £16.99 a month, biamother.com
Catch It: for tracking anxiety symptoms
Starting out as a joint project between the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester, Catch It was designed to help users better understand their moods.
If you have started experiencing chest pain, restlessness, lethargy or weird sweaty palms then Catch It can help you track your symptoms and catch anxiety before it spirals out of control. The app teaches users how to manage their feelings and mental health problems by looking for underlying stressors and causes in their lives to imporve the way we think going forward.