The pursuit of appyness

Apps are now taking their place alongside healthy eating and regular exercise as a means of managing work stress and anxiety. Here's a few that can significantly help.

Australia is a great place to live, but the actual ‘living’ part is one area that’s not looking so flash – work/life balance is becoming increasingly disproportionate. According to the latest OECD Better Life Index, the average Australian worked a total of 1,693 hours a year, in comparison to the OECD average of 1,176. 

Working for longer than desired hours can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing, and anxiety levels are creeping up accordingly. Approximately 14 per cent of Australians will now be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period of their lives. More than ever, it is important for one to know how to deal with stress. 

Importance of apps

Apps are now taking their place alongside healthy eating and regular exercise as a means of work stress management combating stress and anxiety. There are a range of apps that can significantly help.

This may be a strange idea for some, using the technology that often robs us of our work/life balance; however smartphones can to remind us to take a break, go for a walk, or turn off our screens, meditate, or engage in a pleasant activity that elevates our mood.

A recent study release by The Australia Institute think tank found that the balance between work and life is deteriorating for four in 10 people.

Key reasons for this include expectations from employers to work longer hours and feelings of job security. 27 per cent of those surveyed felt insecure about their job and 46 per cent said they expected to work longer hours.

Different apps on how to deal with stress at work

In the face of a skewed work life balance, there are a number of popular apps that focus on lowering anxiety:

Buddhify - tracking your phone and computer use -- this app will remind you to take time out from your day, providing guided meditations to help you refresh, when you are most in need of a break.

Personal Zen – Focusing on two blue faces in a green field may seem like a bogus measure to alleviate anxiety, but according to leading neurologists and studies in Clinical Psychological Science, this app can really help. The premise of the game is to look at one happy and one angry blue face that appear in a field of grass - and then bury themselves. A line of grass sprouts from where the happy face dug its hole and your task is to quickly draw that line with your finger. To say it’s a very strange game is an understatement, but it really distracts you, which is a key component of anxiety alleviation.

Happify –developers of this cheerily named app believe there are five essential skills for happiness - savouring, thanking, aspiring, giving, and empathising. Providing small daily exercises and games e.g. clicking on balloons with positive words, or listing things that you are grateful for lead to rewards that build over time. The app also quizzes you on your happiness and tracks your results, which over time become more positive.

Equanimity – Essentially a timer for meditation, this minimalist app times your meditation and alerts you when to finish. The goal of this app is to show how frequently you are meditating, and for how long. Users are encouraged to maintain their meditation streak upon seeing their progress.

Positive Activity Jackpot – Created for military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the app pushes the user to engage in enjoyable activities.Pleasant Event Scheduling may sound like a made up term, but for professional behavioural health therapy, it’s a tried and true measure. Using a jackpot lever and built-in GPS, the app generates enjoyable local things to do like physical exercise, mini golf, or water sports. If you don’t like the activity, you can pull the lever again.

Studies on such apps for the purpose on how to deal with stress have shown lowered stress levels, and consistent use over time can cause a rewiring in the brain called neuro-plasticity.

Choose anti-anxiety apps that engage in the present and that you find enjoyable to use. Not only are you more likely to return to that app, your chance of lowered anxiety is much higher. Try to opt for apps that are also back by clinical studies with proven results.

Paul Lin is the CEO of the app strategy and development agency Buuna.