After a few days of regular use, I really did feel more relaxed.

Feel Stress Free focuses on helping people recover from mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and mild depression', and the app 'uses clinically proven techniques to detect, build resilience to and reduce some symptoms'. It's available on all smartphones or tablets running iOS or Android, and is built using computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and various mindfulness techniques. The app has been shown to significantly decrease mild depression time. Feel Stress Free was founded and developed by UK leading psychiatrists and psychologists, using real life therapy techniques'.

Alternative therapies such as meditation, muscle relaxation, hypnotherapy (among others) are becoming more and more popular to help manage the symptoms of mental health issues, and this app could help provide an inexpensive form of therapy for those suffering with stress and anxiety.

But does it actually work, in a real-life situation, with a real-life user?

I sometimes struggle with feeling stressed out and anxious, which has been a problem for a couple of years. It's not a major issue for me on a regular basis, but it does affect me from time to time (and with differing severity each time), so I jumped at the chance to review this app.

First of all, the app is easy to download and sign up to. There are a number of different monthly options to choose from depending on your needs, and you can try out some of the breathing exercises free of charge before choosing a plan.

On every log in on your app, it welcomes you with a mood meter which asks you to rate your feelings that day, and on the first log in it asks about your feelings over the previous two weeks before going further into why you might be feeling that way. It then goes deeper, and asks you about the issues that are causing these feelings.

You're then asked to select what thoughts have made you feel this way; which for me, made me think a lot about actually why I was feeling the way I did that day, be it sad, grumpy or happy. The app then gives you other ideas on how to think about the situation in a different way; it helps you to feel in control of how you see things, and therefore how you feel as a result.

This mood meter (and subsequent questions) helps the app to give you personalised suggestions for the exercises you should do to help you feel better that day.

My initial mood meter and analysis suggested that I may be affected by mild depression and anxiety; which I agree with. My recommendations for the first day were to practice calm breathing and muscle relaxation techniques a few times. The app itself gives you the exercises to do whilst guiding you through them, while sounds of waves crashing on a shore run quietly in the background. It certainly helped me relax for a few minutes, whilst really focusing on my breathing.

The app takes you to its home of a tropical island each time you log in, with soothing background noise of waves on a beach. There are sections on breathing, meditation, deep muscle relaxation and self-hypnosis, and depending on what the app recommends for you each day there will be a 'session' for you to do.

On each log in, the app reminds you of what exercises you've already done and gives you new recommendations for each day along with tips on how you can keep seeing improvements.

As someone who has tried meditation and breathing techniques before (and not got on so well with them), I found this app easy to use and the recommended exercises were all a manageable time which were easy to fit into my day. After a few days of regular use, I really did feel more relaxed.

The experience has made me make more time for myself, even if it's just through a few minutes of calm breathing every now and then. If you struggle with anxiety I think this app could really help you; it will help calm you and focus your thoughts on visualisations, breathing and relaxation, potentially taking yourself away from your anxious feelings.

I'm certainly going to keep using the Feel Stress Free app, with the hopes that I'll continue to make the time for myself to relax, and just breathe.

Remember, if you're struggling frequently and severely with stress, anxiety and/or depression, it's important to speak to your GP. Mental health shouldn't be taken lightly, and they will be able to help.

Bronwyn SouthrenComment