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We’ve found the best apps to help calm your anxious thoughts and feelings.

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Anxiety is on the rise in the United States.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, between 32% (in 2019) and 39% (in 2018) of Americans said they felt more anxious than they did at the same time last year. That number almost doubled in 2020, with 62% of Americans feeling more anxious than the previous year.

With so many adults reporting how their pandemic-related anxiety has made it difficult to sleep or eat, resulted in them drinking more alcohol or using more substances, and even impacting their overall health, it’s clear that many of us might benefit from some help managing anxiety symptoms.

And though apps can’t replace treatment from a mental health professional, they can help relieve anxiety symptoms. From tracking your mood to beginning a mindfulness practice or meditating, there’s an anxiety app out there for you.

Even if you don’t think these apps can help, we encourage you to give them a try. In fact, if you’re still on the fence, consider this: Researchers have found that even a single mindfulness or meditation session can slow your pulse and reduce your mild to moderate anxiety.

To find the right apps, we reviewed numerous contenders, looking at the following:

  • Ratings. We focused on apps with the highest overall ratings from thousands of users.
  • User reviews. We looked closely at what users thought about the app.
  • Operating system. All of the apps are available for Android and iOS.
  • Price. All apps on our list offer free options.

Best overall

Headspace

Price: Free for basic services, $12.99 a month or $69.99 a year for premium. Student and family plans are available.

Although Headspace was originally created for guided meditations, it now includes animations, articles, and videos to support your mental health. The app offers specific guided meditations for:

Headspace, founded by a former Buddhist monk, features three “teachers”:

  • founder Andy Puddicombe
  • mindfulness teacher Eve Lewis Prieto
  • meditation teacher Dora Kamau

Headspace takes their app and impact on the world (the app has millions of users in more than 190 countries) very seriously. Their commitment to providing users with scientifically based products includes their seven-person in-house science department, as well as participation in dozens of research studies and numerous partnerships with research institutions.

For example, research from 2019 showed that 10 minutes of daily meditation using the Headspace app reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

What we like

  • A variety of tools are available to help you manage your anxiety.
  • Meditations vary in length and type.
  • Users report they can really see the difference in themselves and their outlook on life.

What to look out for

  • You’re able to listen to a few guided meditations only on the free version.

Best for sleep

Calm

Price: Free for some features, $14.99 a month, $69.99 a year, or $399.00 for a one-time purchase for premium

Scientific evidence shows that sleep deprivation might increase symptoms of anxiety. So, if you’re experiencing anxiety and having trouble sleeping, using an app to improve the latter may reduce anxiety symptoms as well.

Year after year, site after site, Calm is continually rated as one of the best apps for sleep. And some research backs up its effectiveness for helping people sleep better at night and feel less tired during the day.

What makes it so great?

Besides the wide variety of story styles, from fairy tales to ASMR, Calm has worked with some of the world’s best-known voices. You can drift off to sleep listening to stories from a variety of celebrities, including Harry Styles, Idris Elba, Mandy Moore, and Ariana Grande.

Plus, if you’re in need of a quick catnap to make it through the rest of your day, Calm also has nap sessions.

What we like

  • New sleep stories are added to the app regularly.
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night, you can use a “Gently Back to Sleep” story.
  • Got kids who can’t sleep? You can find sleep stories just for them.

What to look out for

  • The free version gives you access only to a few of the stories, so you might get tired of them quickly (pun intended).

Best for motivation

Fabulous — Daily Self Care

Price: One week free then $2.99 a month, which is billed annually at $35.99

Lifestyle changes, such as getting more sleep or learning to meditate, can often help improve anxiety symptoms. For example, research has shown that yoga and meditation might help reduce stress and anxiety.

But picking up a new, healthier habit can be challenging. This is where Fabulous may be able to help.

Pick a “journey” — maybe you want to establish a meditation habit, exercise more, or get to bed earlier — and Fabulous will give you the daily steps to make your goal a reality. It’s designed to be more than just annoying reminders that pop up on your phone. The app provides you with a daily coach to help you develop healthy habits and create rituals. You can participate in challenges against other members or yourself.

What we like

  • The daily coaching is inspirational.
  • Many users report that the app’s courses and challenges have created real change in their lives.
  • You can select how much — or how little — work you’d like to do.

What to look out for

  • Reminder notifications stay on your screen only for a short time. So if you don’t see it, it could disappear before you find the time to look at your phone.
  • Though user feedback for this app is positive, scientific data on its effectiveness is lacking. That’s the case for most goal- or motivation-oriented apps.

Best daily mood tracker

Reflectly

Price: 7-day free trial, then $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year

If you live with persistent anxiety, mood tracking can help you notice patterns and triggers. As you log how you’re feeling each day, Reflectly will ask you personalized questions to help deepen your reflections. You can return to previous pages in your journal at any time if you’d like to reread or edit an entry.

Reflectly also provides personalized motivations and prompts, as well as challenges. You can use their daily, weekly, or monthly overviews and graphs to analyze your mood over time. And, the app may even help you understand why you’ve felt so anxious lately.

What we like

  • Getting your thoughts and feelings out on virtual paper each day can be a nice way to work through anything that’s troubling you.
  • You can choose from a variety of moods and situations.
  • You can add voice notes and photos to your journal entries.

What to look out for

  • You’re automatically enrolled in the paid program after the 7-day free trial, so you’ll need to remember to cancel the app if you don’t want to pay for it.
  • Not all features are available during the free trial period.
  • Research to back up the app’s effectiveness is lacking.

Best game-style app

Happify

Price: Free for the basic Happify version; $14.99 a month, $139.99 a year, or $449.99 for a life-time membership for Happify Plus.

Happify aims to help users overcome stress, challenges, and negative thoughts through fun activities and games that are based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.

During sign-up, you’ll be asked several questions to determine your goals. Based on your answers, the app will suggest a “track” with specific activities and games to help you achieve these goals.

Some research indicates that using Happify regularly may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve resilience.

What we like

  • The games and activities can be a fun way to improve mental health.
  • The app offers accessibility features like online text to speech for the blind and visually impaired or the ability to disable animations.
  • You can keep your profile private or interact with others by choosing the community feature.
  • If you’re a Happify Plus member, you may be eligible to receive personalized support from a coach for an additional fee.

What to look out for

  • The free version offers only limited content.
  • The app is pricier than many other options.

Best coloring app for relaxation

Colorfy

Price: Free for access to some drawings, $2.99 a week, $7.99 a month, or $39.99 a year for full access

Sometimes, you just need to get out of your own head. Coloring is a great way to reduce your anxiety and help you relax. Research in people with breast cancer and in parents waiting while their child was in surgery indicates that coloring may reduce anxiety levels.

But if you don’t have a fancy set of colored pencils or markers, or you tend to color outside of the lines (which is totally fine by the way), you can use Colorfy to “color” images by tapping your screen to select your color and brush type.

From patterns and mandalas to florals and animals, there are over 1,000 images in Colorfy’s collection. You can also upload your own drawings and even hang your art in your own virtual gallery.

What we like

  • You can choose from a variety of simple and complex drawings, depending on your level of skill, patience, and time available.
  • It’s fun and relaxing.
  • You can personalize your experience by uploading your own artwork.

What to look out for

  • Many designs can be accessed only with a subscription.
  • It can be difficult to color in the smaller areas, and you can accidentally recolor over a spot you’ve already colored.
  • If you post your work publicly on the app, other people can comment on it, and those comments aren’t always appropriate.

Best for community support

Sanvello: Anxiety and Depression

Price: Covered by some insurance plans; $8.99 a month, $53.99 a year for the Self-Care plan; $50 a month, $350 a year to include journey classes and 1:1 coaching; approximately $140 for an initial therapy appointment and $85 for the average follow-up appointments

Anxiety can be isolating. While Sanvello provides goal tracking, exercises, coaching and therapy, the app’s community of users is the real draw.

In its “judgment-free, label-free space,” you can always find a fellow member willing to listen. Plus, you’ll often find a member who has experienced the exact same issue you’re struggling with. Users will give you words of understanding or encouragement, making you feel much less alone.

Still, you may want to keep in mind that advice from other users isn’t always evidence-based or in line with medical recommendations. If you want to try a suggestion another user offers, it’s advisable to check in with your treatment team first to ensure it’s safe.

What we like

  • This is truly a safe space that’s free from bullying or negativity.
  • No matter the time of day, or night, you can find someone to give you the encouragement you need to continue with your day or your night’s sleep.
  • If you need therapy, the sessions can be more affordable than local providers, depending on where you live.

What to look out for

  • There are certain topics that are off-limits, such as suicide, and you might get blocked from posting if you mention them.
  • Community support doesn’t come from professionals.

If you live with anxiety, you know that it can occur at any time. While working with a trained mental health professional is a great way to manage your symptoms, you may benefit from help between sessions.

Apps can be one way to help you through those tough moments. Whether you’re looking for specific, anxiety-related support or you just need a distraction from what’s on your mind, there’s an app out there for you.