Do certain situations make you anxious? Do you feel stressed? Do you suffer from anxiety problems? There are free apps for your Android phone that can help with your difficulties, such as SAM and Pacifica.

 

SAM – Self-help Anxiety Management

This app is by the University of the West of England and it contains material from psychologists and computer scientists. You might expect great things from a development team like that and SAM is good, although there is still room for improvement.

The app is a collection of tools, advice and social networking. There is a lot of useful information in the app and this ranges from general to quite specific suggestions and tools for dealing with anxiety and stress. Sometimes there is just one or more pages of text to read, sometimes there are suggestions for activities you can perform away from your phone, and there are also a few interactive sections too.

One of the interactive tools, for example, is calm breathing and this displays a graphic timer on the screen indicating when you should breathe in and out. The idea is to calm you with regular, deep, slow breathing exercises. Picture Peace displays a beautiful photo that is initially obscured by an overlay and you rub the screen with a finger to reveal the image. A tense-and-relax exercise has another graphic timer and you tense your muscles for a few seconds and then relax. A Mystical Monitor encourages you to record yourself talking about your life for 10 minutes and then to play it back and listen to what you said.

 SAM stress and anxiety app for Android  SAM Android app for stress and anxiety

Social Cloud is the app's group chat facility. Only your username is displayed, so it is anonymous, and you can post messages, read other people’s messages and reply to them. You can give or receive encouragement and support, which is useful. However, it is a continuous feed and old messages get pushed down by new ones at the top (like the way Twitter works), so they become lost after a while. A bulletin board style of discussion would enable you to look back on conversations and would be preferable.

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You can enter your current anxiety level and there are four sliders that you use to describe how you feel. These are feelings of anxiety and tension, worrying thoughts, unpleasant physical sensations, and avoiding things I fear. The data is used to draw a chart of your anxiety and there are hourly, daily, weekly and monthly views, so you can see how you are doing.

There is a lots excellent advice in the app and some useful activities, but it could do a bit more. For example, it encourages you to spend some time writing down all the things that make you anxious. Why not provide a simple text editor and let people write it in the app? Another suggestion is meditation, but the text is brief and it could go further, perhaps by playing soothing sounds like rain or waves on a beach. A simple sound loop could run for 5, 10 or 15 minutes.

Overall, it is a helpful app that is well worth trying if you suffer from anxiety and stress, but it is heavy on textual advice and could be more interactive.

Pacifica – Stress & Anxiety

Pacifica offers advice and tools for people suffering from stress and anxiety. On the home screen is an emoji-like character that is used to record your current feelings and the range is from great to awful. Keywords can be selected from a list, so if you are feeling great then words like happy, loved and excited can be selected, but if you are awful then words like panicked, sad and angry can be chosen.

Below this graphic are four categories of activities – Relax, Meditations, Goals, and thoughts. Select Relax and there is Deep Breathing, Muscle Relaxation, Visualisation, and Soundscapes. Only Deep Breathing is free and the other three activities require a subscription to the Premium app (£19.32 a year here in the UK).

Meditations has Breathe for free, and Senses and Observe for Premium subscribers. The timing for each breath can be customised and there is a selection of relaxing sounds to meditate to and you can choose your favourite from a list.

Goals is free and the idea is that you set yourself daily challenges. A long and comprehensive list of goals that are organised into categories is provided and you select the ones you want. This can be as simple as going to school or work, applying for a job, go on a date, go to the dentist, or even just go to the park. There are dozens of goals to choose from and they represent scenarios that might cause some people to become anxious or stressed. You tick these off as they are completed and the idea is that completing simple challenges boosts your confidence.

 Pacifica Android app for anxiety  Pacifica for Android - reduce anxiety

Thoughts enables you to add a new thought each day, such as something that is on your mind. It is a sort of diary that builds up over time.

The Health section enables you to add daily activities, such as alcohol, eating, family, friends, exercise, cigarettes, hygiene, caffeine and others. You can then record your activities each day, ticking off the ones you do, and you can set goals, such as consuming less alcohol and caffeine, and getting more exercise.

The goals you achieve and your moods are recorded and your history can be browsed to see how you are doing.

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Within the app are groups and communities and you are automatically assigned to a group based on a few simple questions when the app is first run. You can join other groups at random or you can create your own. Communities are discussions based on topics like gratitude, quotes, health, mindfulness, music, movies and so on. It is bulletin-board style, although with a modern and attractive interface, and you and others can start conversations and everyone can then add comments. The discussions can be sorted by top, new and hot.

Pacifica is a great app that has a lot to keep you interested. It has activities and goals to achieve, discussion groups, it records your moods and thoughts and more.

Conclusion

These two apps are very different and because they are both free, why choose one or the other when you can install both on your phone? SAM is heavy on information and advice, but lighter on interactive activities, whereas Pacifica is the opposite and it is focused on activities, but provides less information and advice. Install both of them and you will get the best of both. Go to SAM and read up on the subject of anxiety and stress, then go to Pacifica and try the activities and join the discussions.

TitleSAM – Self-help Anxiety Management
Price: Free
Developer: University of the West of England
Size: 23 MB
Version: 1.2.6
Android: 4.03 and up

TitlePacifica – Stress & Anxiety
Price: Free
Developer: Pacifica Labs Inc.
Size: Not specified
Version: Not specified
Android: 4.0 and up