I really enjoy using this app! It makes the techniques you would usually learn in therapy so much more fun!"
This is the first part in a series of anxiety app reviews and in fact this is the first anxiety app I’ve ever tried. Luckily, as I was planning my series, Thrive were kind enough to send me (and a code for you too at the end) a free trial of their Feel Stress Free app and I really wasn’t expecting to be so in love with it as I am. I’ll be honest, when I was first in therapy (nearly 14 years ago, yikes!) they taught me some breathing exercises which I giggled all the way through and gave me a muscle relaxation cassette (lol, that’s how long ago it was) to listen to at home, which I did listen to but whilst eating Hula Hoops crisps. So I figured I’d never really get into doing those kind of things. I’m kind of childish at times.
Thrive’s app was different and whilst it uses similar tools as you would get in a lot of therapy sessions, it’s a much more immersive experience. It’s an app for stress but works with anxiety, depression and general low moods.
I used the app on my PC because I could sit in a comfortable upright position and because generally when I’m using the PC I have the whole house to myself. I didn’t need headphones as I was alone but if there are likely to be distractions around you I fully recommend using some noise cancelling headphones with this. When you first log in, you will enter a desert island scene and the music is incredibly relaxing. One morning I logged into the app with the sound off and it just didn’t have the same effect.
A nice calm voice will talk you through different activities and with all the elements combined (the desert island, soft music, calm voice) I already began to feel very relaxed and de-stressed straight away.
MOOD METER & THOUGHT TRAINER
Every day you login to the app you will be asked to track your mood. This was the most important feature of the app for me. It actually made me realise how low I was really feeling, as I had no idea how bad things were. As I started to track my mood and answer the questions that followed, it really opened my eyes up to how my sadness and anxiety had built up over the last few months (probably due to my illness and surgery) and that realisation made me cry with full-on ugly cry tears. It was good to get all those tears out, even if it was just by myself, at my computer.
Based on your mood rating, you are asked questions to get to the bottom of how you’re feeling and it then offers you alternative thoughts and helpful suggestions…
I found the alternative thought suggestions to be especially helpful, as often when you’re struggling with anxiety or low mood you tend to have tunnel vision and can only think about the negative outcomes.
The app teaches you several relaxation techniques, including Calm Breathing, Deep Muscle Relaxation, Meditation and Self Hypnosis. I’d never tried meditation or self-hypnosis (or hypnosis of any kind) before, so I wasn’t entirely sure how much I would benefit from them or how much I would enjoy them. I’ve heard so many good things about meditation but always assumed I’d be rubbish at it.
When you’ve tracked your mood, the app will recommend a technique or two to help you feel better. I tried the Calm Breathing first as this is something I knew I could easily do. I tried for 5 minutes on the first go but you can choose between 3 and 15 minute breathing sessions.
It was so relaxing. There’s a timer and you are talked through the exercise so you can perform it properly. Not only did I feel calmer and less sad, my lungs also felt much less tight as I’d struggled a bit with my asthma earlier on. I’d definitely recommend doing this technique every day regardless of whether it’s recommended or not. It’s a great stress reliever.
The Deep Muscle Relaxation was also helpful. Basically you have to tense separate parts of your body and then release them slowly. I particularly like the part where you have to scrunch your bum up really tight!
The Meditation was a new one for me. I enjoyed it though and I’d like to try more of it. I think I need a lot more time to invest in this technique to get the hang of it but it definitely made me feel calm and I could have actually drifted off to sleep at that point.
I haven’t got to try the Self Hypnosis as much as I’d like to but I think this one could be especially useful for me if it works. It’s supposed to help you teach yourself a word that brings you back to the same calm state whenever you say the word to yourself. I’m assuming you will need to be super comfortable and have zero distractions for this one. As I’m quite a busy person, I’ve found the breathing exercises and muscle relaxation to be more efficient as you can do them for a short length of time whatever is happening. I’m definitely going to try to dedicate some weekend time to the self-hypnosis to see if it works though!
You also have a record of your moods throughout the use of the app, which is a great way to keep track of your progress and see how the app is working for you. It can also be helpful to learn what influences your mood. As my mood seemed to be lower before my rent went out this week and got loads better afterwards, that could easily be attributed to work and money stress which is such a common issue. Really it just goes to show how much I was worrying for nothing this week, the rent went out fine and I didn’t end up in a massive pile of debt.
OTHER COOL STUFF
One of the islands has a Zen garden which I thought was a really cool addition. I enjoyed using the virtual rake, and adding a starfish to the water. It may not calm you right down but it’s a nice distraction.
You can also send a message in a bottle and receive messages from other users. The app generates a nickname for you and you can choose a message and change the colours, stamp etc. It’s really fun but it’s also quite uplifting when you receive a lovely message from a stranger.
I really enjoyed using this app! It makes the techniques you would usually learn in therapy so much more fun. If you get bored with super clinical advice that makes your anxiety more depressing, I would definitely recommend Feel Stress Free. It’s also great if you’re a busy person like me and you just need something to make you feel more relaxed on the go. I could easily use it between work tasks or before going out somewhere that makes me super nervous.
Also if you’re in a place where you’re not quite ready for therapy yet, this would be a great alternative until you are.