Whether you’re social distancing, in lockdown, self-isolating, sheltering in place, working to keep essential services going, or just finding yourself with a lot more free time and uncertainty ahead, you could probably benefit from developing a mindfulness or meditation habit right now. Or at least doing something with your phone that isn’t doom-scrolling the news.
The coronavirus pandemic is impacting everyone in different ways, but stress and anxiety is a pretty universal effect. Whether or not you were already in the habit of taking some time regularly to meditate, the practice could be extra helpful for your mental health now and in the coming weeks and months.
There are loads of apps, courses, and other resources to help you develop a regular practice, but some of the most popular apps and guides now have dedicated resources to help you do so in the midst of this unprecedented moment.
Take a deep, slow breath, and let’s have a look.
Stop, Breathe and Think
Free on iOS and Android, this was one of the first—and continues to be one of the most popular—mindfulness and meditation apps available. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play. It offers several ways to benefit people looking for some stress relief: a daily check-in to get a gauge on your stress level and how you’re feeling physically, and a variety of ambient and guided exercises.
Available with subscription content on iOS and Android, Calm is one of the most-used apps for dealing with anxiety or stress. It has guided mindfulness and meditation exercises and “sleep stories” from celebrities like LeBron James, Eva Green, and Matthew McConaughey. It also has a more focused approach to dealing with anxiety at the moment. Calm also works with the Apple Watch.
Calm features a curated page full of resources to help you “meet this moment together”, all completely accessible via browser without having to download the app and sign up.
It also has mindfulness exercises and guided meditations at a range of lengths, “calm body” stretching exercises to take care of your working-from-home back, resources for kids, calendars to print out with a mindfulness exercise or idea for every day, conversation and kindness prompts to help you reach out to others. The page is available in English, Spanish, German, French, Korean, and Portuguese.
Priced at $1.99 for iOS, Ambi Pro specializes in ambient music, using algorithms to change tracks instead of looped recordings. The app also blends tracks together so one doesn’t end abruptly. For those who relax with music or the sound of nature, this is considered a top app.
Headspace is a comprehensive go-to app and they’re now offering free Premium access for people working in U.S. public healthcare. The company says it’s working on ways to verify healthcare workers in other parts of the world, too.
For everyone else, there’s a broader section with some free guided meditations, as well as more specialized resources for work and education.
Available on iOS and Android, Headspace has free specific sessions for moments of panic, anxiety, and stress. There are also quick two- to three-minute meditation sessions, and special animations that teach skills and answer questions about mindfulness.
Free for iOS and Android, Breathe2Relax shows how diaphragmatic breathing reduces anxiety and stress while keeping you calm. The app focuses on breathing rather than meditation or mindfulness training, guiding users through breath exercises with support for the Apple Watch Health app.
This popular app, which focuses on five-minute sessions to help busy people develop a daily practice, also has a collection of online resources dedicated to combating anxiety and other feelings around the coronavirus crisis. You’ll need to sign up for a free account to access them.
In a nice inclusive touch, they’re also offering free Premium memberships to anyone who can’t afford to pay for them due to loss of income in the pandemic; you can just send them an email.
Free on iOS and Android, Smiling Mind is built specifically for children and adults seeking to deal with daily stress. The app is based on mindfulness courses that train people to deal with stress in the classroom or workplace.
Smiling Mind is a comprehensive resource for everyone with over 41 sessions across 10 modules in its Mindfulness Foundations section for adults. If you’re a fan of Australian accents, the narrator’s soothing, incredibly chill tones are relaxing tunes on their own.
Their COVID-19 resource page isn’t as comprehensive as Calm’s, as the resources are already completely free, but it features simple tips on self-care and grounding yourself during moments of panic, with a super effective, looping breath-guiding animation. The design is super kid-friendly, so it’s great if your newly home-schooled littlies need some calm.
Free on iOS, Android, and Windows, the ubiquitous game is considered a stress-buster by many. If you aren’t into mindfulness, ambient noises or meditation, Solitaire is a go-to for anyone wanting a few minutes away from whatever has them stressed.
This app offers nearly 10,000 free guided meditations to choose from. Users can modify the meditation to what they need at the moment, choosing from options ranging from ambient sounds to the sounds of bells. Insight Timer also has more than 3,000 discussion groups and local meet-ups run by users.
This app is great if you’re looking for something with minimal woo-woo vibes. There’s a pricey premium tier, but the Basics course of explanatory videos and guided sessions are free. With most, you can choose from a couple of options depending on how long you have, from just a couple of minutes to longer guided meditations. There are also free daily highlights you can do on their own, including some specific new ones for dealing with coronavirus anxiety.
They’ve even created some free meditations especially for healthcare workers and other coronavirus responders, and are offering those workers free subscriptions too. Their website now includes a whole section on managing anxiety around COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus), with daily live “sanity break” videos.