May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. So, chances are even if you don’t personally have a mental illness, you are in relationships with people who do.
I’ve struggled off and on with low level depression, and in the past have sought out counseling to help me deal with it. I don’t know that I have ever been officially diagnosed with anything, but I can tell when I’m slipping into a low place. I have to be aware of my moods and maintain healthy practices in various areas of life to keep myself from slipping. I’m fortunate, in that my depression has never seriously interfered with my life, but it absolutely negatively impacts the people I love most.
Recently, I ran across some incredible new technologies with great potential to help people who struggle with mental illness. One of the teams on the project I work with is planning to use augmented technology to assist therapy with kids in foster care. A friend of mine is working with a company that hopes to analyze social media postings to identify people who may be struggling with depression or other types of mental illness. Then they’ll be able to connect them with easy – evidence based – steps they can take to improve their mood and hopefully avoid a full-on depressive or anxiety episode.
These examples got me wondering how I use technology to monitor my own mental health, and I realized I use it a lot! So, I thought I’d give you a rundown of different services, apps, etc…I use on the regular to take care of my mental health.
I don’t need to give you an extensive literature review of all the studies linking exercise with better mental health. Just Google it if you don’t believe me…I can absolutely tell a difference in my mood when I’m making exercise a priority.
This is the only app I actually pay for. I really love both yoga and Pilates, and want to deepen my practice in both. I also love going to classes, but I just don’t have the time and don’t want to spend the money to join a studio. Grokker has been a great solution for me. They have thousands of videos you can access through their website and apps (I have the apps on my phone and Roku.) You can also schedule your workouts and get reminders on your phone.
If I don’t have a training goal, I don’t run. Because of this, I generally run a half-marathon every year and do some other shorter races as well. I need the fear of public humiliation of not being able to finish a race to actually get me out the door to train regularly. Running apps help me keep track of my distance and pace. I can also program my training plan into the app and receive reminders of what I need to do each day.
My faith is incredibly important to me, and I can tell when I’m not making space in my daily life to invest in my spirituality. These two technologies help me stay consistent in my devotion to God and in maintaining a sense of wonder for the creation we’ve been given.
I love this app because it gives you three devotions – morning, midday and evening – helping to create a rhythm throughout your day. Each reading contains Scripture, meditation and prayer. I’ve found this app to help me pause during my busy days to reconnect with God.
This one might seem like a stretch, but it really isn’t! I love photography, and have always found a lot of joy in taking pictures. Having a camera on me pretty much everywhere I go, makes me more aware of the incredible beauty around me, because there are so many opportunities to take great pictures.
When I feel disconnected socially, I feel really isolated and lonely. It’s work for me to stay connect with people I love, and these two technologies have helped me build and maintain relationships.
I’m a borderline introvert, and have leaned even further this way since having kids who talk to me. All. Day. Understandably, the last thing I want to do when they’re not talking to me is to talk on the phone to someone else. We’ve also moved enough times for me to have a lot of long-distance friendships and family members. Long-distance combined with not wanting to talk on the phone makes for a hermit Cheryl. Not good for the soul, my friends. Insert texting. I can stay connected with people I love without investing in a long phone conversation.
I know for some of you on the more extroverted end of the spectrum, this approach may seem like I’m not investing at all in my relationships. But the ease of texting has given me a lifeline to stay connected with people I love when I just don’t have the mental energy to talk after a long day of expending all that social energy on my kids.
These two aspects of texting alone add so much joy to my life. There’s lots of LOLing when having full on conversations using only GIFs. Try it, see if it doesn’t lift your mood!
Facebook tends to get a bad rap because it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap when you see how amazing your friends’ (pictures of their) lives are. But, I’ve found it to be a great way to keep up with people I don’t see very often. As long as I’m mindful about not spending too much time on it, I absolutely appreciate that it allows me to keep up with all my college friends’ kids. It’s also a FABULOUS way to crowdsource when you need recommendations for something…
Call this the stay at home mom trap, but hanging out with kids all day makes me feel like my brain is turning to mush. These two apps help me stay on top of what’s happening in the world, and help me find inspiration for things that are important to me.
News App on iPhone
I‘ve tried to set this app up so that I can get a well-balanced look at the news every day. There’s SO MUCH happening every day in our country, and around the world. I feel like a better global citizen when I’m at least aware of what’s going on outside of my own little bubble. Not to get too political on here, but I did realize sometime in January the stories popping up on my screen throughout the day were actually making me feel fairly anxious. I turned off the notifications, and have since had a much healthier boundary to control the barrage of news.
IG is my go-to source or eye candy. I find inspiration on there for everything from home design, to cooking, to where we’re going to go on our next adventure. I love that I can just open this app and my creative juices start flowing. In fact, the inspiration for the artwork I plan to have above the fireplace came from an IG picture. I realize, like Facebook, IG can present an alternate reality that is impossible to attain. However, I’ve found it to be inspirational and helpful in a lot of creative areas of my life.
Stress. We all have it, certain levels of it are healthy, but we also have to mange it. I’ve found these two apps to be the most helpful for managing some of the more stressful aspects of our lives since moving to CA.
I generally don’t mind shopping. In fact, when we lived in Cincinnati, our Costco runs were fun. The boys would hop in the big cart, we’d get samples while we shopped, and then reward ourselves with a $1.50 hot dog and soda. Then I moved to Silicon Valley, where every day at Costco is like the day before a huge snow storm – except we never get any snow. Cars are swarming the parking lot to find a space before the store even opens, checkout lines go halfway through the store, and all the spots are taken at the picnic tables in the eating area. My “scary eyes,” as Wade likes to call them, come out in situations like this.
Google Express has saved me. I hardly ever have to step foot in a Costco and I still get to enjoy the products I want from there. Same goes for Amazon Prime and Instacart. When going to the store only adds stress to your day, it’s really nice to know you can have pretty much anything you need delivered right to your doorstep within 48 hours at the most. With Instacart and AmazonNow – within two hours! I’ve put myself in a Zen state just writing about it.
Each of these services charges a subscription fee, but I’ve found the cost to be worth it!
The Bay Area is super expensive, and I’ve found myself more stressed about money here than I ever have before. To get a handle on what we’re spending and where, we started using the Mint app. You set up your monthly budgets, any goals you’re working toward, and regular bills. Anything you spend can then be assigned to the categories you set up. This app has been so great for helping me stay mindful about what I’m spending. It’s also helped me to feel more in control of our money and less stressed.
I’m sure many of you have heard of a lot of these before. Any other ways you use technology to take care of your mental health?