My stress levels started to escalate in high school, got worse in college, and hit an all-time high when I began my first post-college job. Over the years, I have also learned and relearned that stress level and quality of sleep are inversely related. In turn, this inverse relationship has taught me that when I can't get a good night's sleep, my stress levels the next day tend to be even higher. For this reason, I’m always engaged in learning how to self-calm, manage my stress, and maintain my mental health…whether stress is present that day or not. If you can relate, here's hoping these apps may help you relieve stress over final exams, incoming relatives, office workload increases, holiday spending, and other stressors.

What it costs to be stressed

From the increasing cost of living to the nonstop pace of modern technology-assisted life, both adults and kids are reporting escalating stress levels. Anxiety and depression are cornerstone symptoms of stress, with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reporting that nearly one-third of all mental health service costs are directly associated with one or both.

It’s also expensive to treat anxiety and depression—which doesn't help ease stress. The average mental health professional charges between $100-$300 per hour. Ancillary de-stressors like yoga classes cost $15-$20 per class in most areas. Massages can cost $60-$100 per session. Chiropractic and acupuncture treatments can run you $60 – $100 per visit. The fact is, whichever route you take, keeping stress levels down isn't cheap!

Here’s where finding free stress relief and sleep aids can help ease your stress levels—and your financial well-being!

1. Healthy Minds App

This app is designed with college students in mind, but frankly, I can't think of anyone (myself included) who wouldn't benefit from a free app to help manage stress! Best of all, this app was designed by a mental health center to help you track your mood, lower stress levels, learn breathing exercises, and even plan in advance for how to handle upcoming stressful situations.

 

2. Breathe2Relax

This might just be "the" app if you experience anxiety during travel (it even has an airplane mode feature so you can use it during a flight). This free app was designed by the National Center for TeleHealth & TeleTechnology (the same center that also designs apps and helps for the military). You can learn and practice diaphragmatic breathing—a proven technique to turn off your body's natural stress reaction (you probably know this as the "fight or flight" syndrome).

3. Silva Relaxation

Six million people can't be completely wrong—this free app has been downloaded in more than 110 countries, and the science the app uses is supported by 40 years of research. The app features a soothing narration in a female voice with different guided tracks to promote relaxation and sleep.

4. What's My M3

 

This useful mood tracker app used to be fee-based but has since become a free offering. In addition to the app, you can also use the many online resources to learn more about your symptoms and overall mental health. The app is designed to be used either as part of a treatment plan or as a standalone source of extra support.

5. iGratitude – Journalize Your Life

  • Get it for iOS

iGratitude has a host of grateful users who endorse its efficacy. Gratitude is one of the best ways to "turn a frown upside down"—personally, I can share that each time I pause to give thanks, my day improves. This app makes thankfulness easy and seamless—just choose a photo, write a line, and the app automatically dates and posts it for you! You can also revisit earlier gratitude posts at any time.

6. Sheep Counter

  • Get it for iOS

Last but not least, in the presence of unavoidable or stubborn stress, sometimes all that is really needed is a free pass back to childhood! And what could be more reminiscent of childhood innocence than counting sheep? Counting options are limitless…at least until you dose off!