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Martha Neary

Martha Neary is the PsyberGuide Project Manager, based at University of California, Irvine. Martha’s broad and varied research interests include healthcare disparities among minority populations, the integration of technology into mental health interventions, and early education, particularly in the areas of health and sexuality.

It’s almost hard to believe it’s already well into the holiday season, which seemingly starts earlier every year. It’s an exciting time of year, but it can also be a time that brings up stress and emotions which can challenge our mental health. Like many people, you may find that you need a little support managing stress or mood over the holidays. Last year, our Executive Director Dr. Stephen Schueller discussed how he thinks mental health apps can help around the holiday season: (1) they travel with you wherever you go, (2) they can be used discretely and quickly, (3) they can help address many issues that can be triggered during the holidays. Luckily, there are a number of mental health apps, many of them free, which can give you support 24 hours a day. Here are 5 top picks.

1. Virtual Hope Box 

While the holidays are generally thought of as a time of happiness and togetherness, for many of us it can also be a lonely time if we’re not able to be around loved ones. If you’re feeling lonely or sad, Virtual Hope Box app can help remind you of the positive things in your life. The app prompts you to upload photos, quotes and music that “spark joy” (in the words of Marie Kondo). In the lead up to the holidays, consider filling your app with rich content so that you can give yourself a lift by reflecting on these items when you need it. 

2. Headspace

Mindfulness apps have really exploded in popularity over the past few years, and there are dozens available on the app stores. We often get asked what the best mindfulness apps are, but this really depends on what you’re looking for. For help with holiday stress, I think Headspace is a good option as it provides single meditation tracks for those “SOS” moments; if you’re burned out, feeling overwhelmed, flustered, or losing temper. There are also specific meditations if you’re traveling over the holidays, and sleep meditations if you need a little help drifting off. Most of these more specific meditations are available in the premium version of Headspace which comes in at $12.99 a month, but for first-time users, there is a 2-week free trial available. If you’re interested in learning more about the PsyberGuide team’s experience with Headspace, check out our “My Month with Headspace” series. 

3.  Woebot 

Woebot is a talk therapy app, but instead of speaking to a real person, you’ll be speaking to a Robot figure aptly named “Woebot”. Woebot guides you through managing thoughts and feelings using principles Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Woebot CEO & Founder Dr. Alison Darcy explains how chatbots can work well alongside therapy you’re already receiving, and allow support which is accessible any time, 24 hours a day. This free CBT app can be a great tool to have in your back pocket over the holiday season — if you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you need to talk, have a quick check-in with Woebot on your phone, which can take as little as five minutes. 

4. 365 Gratitude 

It’s easy to get wrapped in the materialism of the holiday season, the seemingly unavoidable consumerism, the endless list of tasks to be completed, gifts to be bought, and meals to be cooked. Make sure you take time this holiday season to take note of the things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude has a number of mental health benefits, including making us feel happier and more present. This free gratitude app, 365 Gratitude, prompts you to simply note three things you are grateful for each day. The app also allows you to set reminders each day so you don’t forget to do this. 

5. Talkspace 

Counseling app Talkspace has really made a splash (pardon the pun) in the mental health app space with Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps as their mascot. This online therapy app pairs users with a licensed counselor after completion of a free consultation. Talkspace offers a number of different subscription packages, ranging from $65/week for text, video & audio messaging to a $99/week package which also includes 4 live video sessions. This does seem like a steep subscription cost, so you’ll need to weigh the cost against what you would pay in your area for an in-person therapy session. The great thing about Talkspace around the holidays is that you can keep up with therapy even if you’re not at home. 

 

These mental health apps are a great tool to have in your toolbox over the holiday season. However, if you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line.

Safe and happy holidays from all of us at PsyberGuide.