By Rose Strong
I started this blog post a few weeks ago and decided it was to be about the top apps that can help people alleviate stress and anxiety during this coronavirus. Then I read an article about Lorna Breen.
Lorna Breen was a physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital where she was medical director of the emergency department. Perhaps you’ve heard of her? Dr. Breen made headlines when she died of apparent suicide.
After battling coronavirus on the front lines of her hospital’s emergency room, Dr. Breen had contracted the disease herself. She seemed to get better, and returned to work, but the hospital sent her home again to continue recovering. Her parents came to take her to Virginia with them to help her recuperate. Her father, also a physician, said she described horrific stories of what she had seen, saying patients coming to her hospital were dying before they even got out of the ambulances.
In the New York Times article about her passing, her father said, “She was truly in the trenches of the front line.” He added, “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”
These times are hard for all of us right now, but especially for those in the healthcare field dealing directly with COVID-19 patients. It’s one thing to work in an intensive care unit or emergency department and know you’re going to care for people who will on occasion succumb to their injuries or illnesses. It is quite another to care for patients and see one after another die from COVID-19 despite heroic measures.
It has been said that many people will suffer from PTSD after this is long behind us. And since many of us are in relationships i.e., children, parents, spouses and even friends, with those in the healthcare field, we also will feel these effects.
For those dealing with the emotional and mental scars of the pandemic, the American Psychological Association has what it calls Psychological First Aid, where disaster psychologists reach out to their local communities to assist as if the pandemic were a tornado strike or an earthquake.
Amy Nitza, Ph.D. is a psychologist and director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She says, “Everyone is both feeling the impact and needing to support others around them who are also impacted. We talk about the responder and the survivor or the helper and the survivor, and in this case we’re all both.” She added, “Everybody can benefit from having the tools to respond effectively to someone in distress because we’re all interacting with people in distress every day.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling now, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential support.
As I stated in the beginning, this blog was supposed to be about apps designed to help people deal with the stress and anxiety of getting through our days being an essential worker or having to shelter in place with our family or alone and manage through these unprecedented, difficult times.
It’s not easy to be cooped up in your house without the opportunity to be social. As anthropologists have discussed for decades, humans are social beings. It doesn’t take scientific studies to figure out how most humans enjoy being with other humans. We freely gather in groups at sporting events, concerts, restaurants, shopping establishments, parties and other places. We also group together on planes, subway and train cars, elevators, buses, schools, waiting rooms, and even city sidewalks.
Sheltering in place in our homes, or, if we happen to be a first responder like an EMT, firefighter, healthcare professional, trash collector, grocery store worker or pharmacist, can be tremendously stressful during this pandemic.
Many of us live with high anxiety and worries even when there aren’t pandemic concerns. Add to that the constant stream of news we can’t always be sure of, with numbers of positive test results, death counts and no true end in sight, compounded by the fact that we are not seeing our friends and acquaintances, every day is enough to push one to the brink of desperation and in need of an outlet to cope.
So here are some resources to help. Below are five smartphone apps and podcasts that could be helpful in coping with these challenges. Check them out. Perhaps you will find one that works for you or someone you know who is having a difficult time.
Breathe2Relax – Developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, this app is a portable stress management tool that gives the user information on how stress affects health and offers breathing exercises. It has been documented that mindful breathing can decrease stress response. To become more mindful, check out the app here.
Headspace – A winner of a 2019 Healthline Best Anxiety Apps award, this is one of three apps developed to guide everyday mindfulness in only a few moments. It offers directed meditations for managing stress, sleep, productivity, and other daily tasks and includes mini meditations for when you are on the move. Look here for the app.
Rootd – Another winner of a 2019 Healthline Best Anxiety Apps award, this app is for those struggling with panic attacks and anxiety. A female-led app, it offers a panic button to push for relief and to overcome the feelings and regain self-assurance. Check out the app here.
On Being – For those in need of some spiritual guidance, this podcast is hosted by Krista Tippett, who has insightful conversations with noted people doing work in philosophy, science, social healing and the arts. To find the podcast, click here.
The Happy Place – Sharing stories of survival and inspiration, this podcast is not necessarily for anxiety, but gives you a bright spot to focus on instead of the stress you feel around you. Click for the link here.
A recent article in Good Housekeeping magazine discusses online therapy apps. These are for those who need to talk to an actual person. Much like a telehealth appointment with your healthcare provider for a medical visit, you would do a face-to-face call over a mobile device. I cannot vouch for any of them and have only shared a link to the article, but do recommend you check on HIPAA compliancy and be sure that any therapist you’d like to interact with online regarding your mental health is credentialed.