Mental Health Awareness Week: the best apps for self-care

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Governments worldwide have seemingly committed to invest heavily into mental health, but that doesn't help the millions right now who are suffering from anxiety, depression, panic attacks and much more.

However, tech companies are aware of how long their users spend preoccupied with their devices, possible to the detriment of their wellbeing, which is why there are some useful features to help limit how long we spend using some of the most popular apps.

There are also a couple of apps for both iOS and Android that can help you communicate any anxieties or other mental health issues that you may be battling against every single day.

Importance of mental health

Many people deal with their mental health in different ways - from running, to reading, to playing an instrument. They are all important methods for managing mental health in the best way that you see fit. 

It’s only in recent years that companies such as Apple and Google have done their bit by introducing features to make some apps inaccessible when a time limit has been reached. For example, you might use an app such as Instagram more than any other, so it can help to keep some moderation to protect your mental health when it counts.

Read on to find out how to access those digital health tools, and for some recommended apps that can help you develop strategies to cope when you're feeling stressed or anxious.

iOS and Mac - Screen Time

Since iOS 12 and macOS Catalina, Apple has made efforts to help users measure their time spent on apps, and create limits that can be changed based on your usage.

In iOS, go to Settings > Screen Time, or in macOS, Apple Menu > System Preferences > Screen Time. Here you’ll see an option called App Limits, which will be able to set a timer on any app installed on your device.

You can set any time limit you wish, and even have it enabled on certain days. Once the timer runs out, you can add 15 minutes to extend your time with it, switch the timer off for the day, or simply close the app.

 MindShift CBT - Anxiety Relief 

A well-designed app that appeals to all ages and is available on most Apple devices

MindShift CBT - Anxiety Relief simply asks how you are every day, and then tries to guide you in improving your health if needed. Available on iOS, iPadOS and macOS, it’s a free app that tries to help you deal with any anxiety, stress or panic that you may be suffering from.

It works out a curated CBT strategy that you can take on when you need to, and lets you note down any reasons or situations that cause you to be overcome with worry or other anxieties.

Thanks to Apple’s Catalyst service that enables iOS apps to run on Mac computers running macOS 11 and above, you could have the app active in the background during the workday, and freely note down any anxieties, or work through some CBT guides if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Android - Digital Wellbeing

Available on Pixel smartphones alongside a majority of devices running Android 9 Pie and above, Google’s Digital Wellbeing tools can be found in the Settings app.

Similar to Screen Time on Apple’s devices, they let you see just how much time you’re spending on certain apps, and restrict your time with them by setting a timer.

This can be set between five minutes and 24 hours, and once it runs out, you’re unable to use those apps for the rest of the day.


An innovative AI chatbot that learns about your mental health

Available on the Google Play Store, Wysa is a fantastic AI chatbot. Over a period of time, you interact with Wysa and communicate your mood through the days. Eventually, the app offers mental health tests such as GAD7 for anxiety and PHQ9 for depression.

The UI is easy to navigate, and even the color scheme has a calming influence as you browse its helpful features. Wysa's website also touts a premium access version for employers and other versions coming for healthcare and insurers. The app is also used across the UK NHS, which only reinforces the benefits that Wysa provides to try and improve your self-care.

Helpful numbers to call if you’re struggling

No one should feel alone when feeling at their lowest point, and while there may be friends, online and offline that are willing to help, there are also confidential helplines that you can call if you wish.

All of the above services are available 24/7, and are fully confidential.

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.