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PTSD Awareness: Finding the Right Calming App

One of every 20 adults in the U.S. has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the rate is about as high in children and teens. Trauma alone does not cause PTSD: influencing factors include genetic predisposition, overall self-confidence, age at time of traumatic event, and how long the original traumatic situation lasted.

For survivors who do develop PTSD, the emotional effects can be as bad as the original event. Common symptoms include:

  • Brain fog
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Flashbacks (experiencing mental “replays” of the traumatic event, and reacting as if it were actually happening again)
  • Avoiding contact with anyone or anything that might trigger memories of the trauma
  • Withdrawing from friends, loved ones, and favorite activities
  • Becoming uncharacteristically anxious or irritable
  • Chronic pessimism and hopelessness
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Seriously thinking about suicide—or actually planning or attempting it

Professional counseling is an important part of recovery, but the patient also has a proactive role to play. If you or a family member have PTSD, self-care is doubly important: your top everyday priorities should include exercise, sleep, and positive input. Also, regular rest breaks for purposeful relaxation.

Mindfulness and meditation are helpful tools in focused relaxation. If you need an assistive app, there are thousands to choose from: be careful not to increase your stress with overwhelm or holding out for the “perfect” app. For starter recommendations, Walter Prescher, BridgingApps Digital Navigator, shares these favorites:

  • Meditation Timer allows me to clear my head and practice the art of letting go.
  • PTSD Coach, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, contains a variety of resources for managing anxiety and other symptoms.
  • “Working out is my best coping mechanism for stress, and Strava allows me to track workouts and progress. It also helps with accountability: I’ve got other users following me and giving kudos for completed activities.                     
  • “I’ve found tapping a valuable skill to manage a variety of issues, especially anxiety. My challenge is remembering the patterns, and The Tapping Solution app walks you through, visually showing where to tap and what tempo to follow.”

In addition, our BridgingApps reviewers give high stars to the following apps:

For additional ideas, visit our main search page or the MindApps website. You can search by diagnosis, topic, or keyword; MindApps also has categories for various technical features.  

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A few more points you might consider:

  • Do you want an app designed from a specific spiritual viewpoint? (If so, consider getting suggestions from an organization or social media group that shares that viewpoint.)
  • What approaches fit your individual comfort zone? (For instance, if writing exercises make you nervous, a “journaling” app might increase rather than decrease your stress levels.)
  • Is there a learning curve? (While mastering new skills is beneficial in its place, that place is rarely compatible with the immediate goal of relaxation and mental refreshment.)

Finally, don’t worry if you have to try several apps before you find one that works for you. Stick to free or “free trial” apps in the beginning, and try them for a couple of weeks each: you can always delete the ones that don’t work out. Eventually, you’ll find one that’s perfect for your relaxation needs, and for reclaiming control over your thoughts.

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