We’ve all heard the advice to disconnect, to relax and not use our phones and tablets right before bed, but can technology actually help us to unwind and fall asleep?

Sleep is important for managing stress, but it’s one of the first things to become an issue when we’re feeling anxious because odds are, the more anxious we are, the less easy it is for us to relax and fall asleep. With the help of technology in the form of apps like Calm, help with sleep, meditation and relaxation is right at your fingertips.

Calm, a popular mindfulness app, is said to be a great one-stop-shop for anyone looking to improve their mental well-being, teaching users how to reduce anxiety and stress, sleep better, and check in with their emotions.

“Personally, I think it’s really helpful to just kind of take a few minutes to be by yourself and just be present in the moment, which is what mindfulness is,” said Rachel C. Handura, LMSW, of the Calm app. “It’s more tailored towards adults so I used it at the main clinic with clients who struggled with anxiety who liked mindfulness.”

The Calm app’s guided meditations are said to be good for both novices and seasoned practitioners, and users decide how long to dedicate to the app each day. Calm offers a mood check-in feature that tracks your mood throughout the day and puts together a personalized report of your moods. In the free version, the app offers a limited amount of guided exercises and meditative audio to help relieve stress. Calm also features nature sounds and sleep stories to help lull you into relaxed sleep, but a subscription is required to access these features.

“I think it’s really helpful to even just put in headphones and take a few minutes, take a couple of deep breaths and let it guide you through the meditation or mindfulness script,” Ms. Handura said. “I think it’s just a really great resource. Most of the apps and the technology for mental health are free so it’s easily accessible for people of all income levels. I just think it’s a really cool thing to supplement verbal therapy or any other sort of therapy you’re doing.”

Ms. Handura said that when the pandemic first started, a lot of things were unknown. This created a lot of anxiety too, not knowing where to get help or when to get it. Once the pandemic rose and everything was shutting down, a lot of people became nervous going out into public, which in turn caused a lot of social anxiety.

During the pandemic, Ms. Handura said she told people to stay connected in any way that they could, whether over text message or video chat or if they had a close circle they could connect with- just staying connected to people.

“I think a lot of people were isolated, and that creates a lot of anxiety and depression,” she said. “So trying to find healthy supports as far as friends and family and even coworkers, that sort of thing. And then technology too, video chatting and texting and even the mindfulness based applications on smartphones I think are really cool. Social media can be a good resource, but I think it can also have a lot of negatives too.”

For adults, along with the Calm app, there are also a few mindfulness things that Ms. Handura likes and would recommend, such as Headspace and Simple Habit.

Ms. Handura said she personally uses these along with the Calm app, but uses different ones in her new professional position. She has been with the North Country Family Health Center for two years now. Initially at the main clinic, the behavioral health clinician recently took over a position at South Jefferson Central School in February providing therapy full time. She noted that the pandemic really made an impact on the clients she sees, sending things like anxiety on the rise.

With younger students, she uses the app Smiling Mind, which is the same kind of concept as Calm but a bit more geared towards children.

“They really like it- the coolest part is it walks them through it, but then you can have an activity to go along with it as well,” Ms. Handura said. “Once they’re done, we do an activity, we’ll draw or talk about it and I think it creates kind of a different discussion and a different approach to mental health, which I think is really cool for the students to help visualize it.”

She also noted another app, My Internal Weather Report, which helps kids tune into their emotions by connecting them with weather conditions. If kids are having a happy day, their internal weather report will be sunnier, and a sad day more rainy, and so on.

-SelfCare is one she has used a lot with teenagers. Basically, it’s like someone’s little virtual bedroom and in each bedroom, there are different things like a cat, a plant and a journal and you can go through and click them to read more. The cat talks about how beneficial pets are to mental health, the plant about how beneficial nature is, and the journal about how beneficial writing or reading can be to mental health. The app makes for a cool, more interactive experience for the teenagers.

Whether struggling with sleep and anxiety or just looking to take a few more minutes for yourself each day, technology can be useful in a number of ways and through a variety of applications.

“I highly recommend the apps and I think you can find ones that are more tailored to your needs based on what sort of stress you have going on, whether it’s depression, anxiety or sleep troubles, there’s a lot of different options for a lot of different mental health concerns or issues,” Ms. Handura said. “So whatever sort of position or feeling you’re going through in life, there’s a lot of different ways you can go about that with technology.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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