Do you suffer from stress, anxiety or insomnia? We all do from time to time, but for some of us a constantly busy or stressful lifestyle can make it hard to relax. Practically everybody I know seems to struggle with handling stress from time to time. With this in mind, I have been looking at meditation apps to see if a regular meditation or mindfulness routine can help create a sense of calm.
As a yoga teacher, I am not new to meditation and I understand its benefits. However, although I do a regular physical practice, which has a calming effect on me both physically and mentally, I am not great at making time for pure meditation. I often don’t sleep well, so I decided a few months ago to make this a priority and try to get into a mindfulness routine.
My first meditation app: Calm
There are many meditation apps advertised on social media, so I thought they seemed to be worth exploring. Maybe one of these could help me get into a routine?
I decided to try Calm, as it was free. I started with the 7 days of meditation and it was great. I even used it in the middle of the night if I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep immediately. I liked the voice of the guide, Tamara Levitt, and found the meditation, based on watching the breath, really easy.
I wanted to move onto explore the sleep stories. Most of them were only available if you subscribed for the year, but a couple were free. These were even better at helping me conquer my insomnia. One of the free stories was narrated by Stephen Fry. I love him and would never have thought he would send me to sleep. However, his soothing tones telling me about the lavender fields of Provence did just that.
I have been so impressed by how effective Calm is that I have now subscribed for the year at a cost of £37. It is money well spent in my view. Calm has been amazing at enabling me to lower my stress levels and really helped me to manage my insomnia.
I can now access a whole host of meditations and lots of sleep stories (although I have yet to hear the end of any of them, which proves that they work!). Calm also has a range of soothing music to help you towards relaxation, which I have used less but will explore at some point.
Other meditation apps and recommendations
I have been asking on social media about meditation apps to find out what other people are finding works for them. There are so many – I was amazed!
Or Goren from Cord Busters has found Headspace really useful. ‘I’ve been using Headspace for about a year and it’s wonderful. For years I was very sceptical of meditation and mindfulness, but surprisingly (for me) it really does help. Besides the long “packs” that focus on a specific topic, Headspace also helps me during stressful moments, such as on my commute, or waking up with worries in the middle of the night.
‘When I got stuck on a train for 30 minutes one day and claustrophobia started creeping in, the first thing I did was load up the “Panic” recording. While it doesn’t do any miracles, it really did help keep things in check.’
Michelle Rice, who blogs at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, says that Headspace has been great for her children. She says, ‘My teen has used Headspace for insomnia and anxiety, and it helped for my tween too. They just used the ten free sessions. It is helping with exam stress at the moment.’
Nikki Ramskill from The Female Money Doctor also rates Headspace: ‘I love Headspace- there are a huge amount of guided meditation options and sleeping is one of them. I’ve used it for anxiety and self-esteem. It takes work and effort, and ideally daily practice, but I certainly think it is useful. I’ve recommended it to my patients with mild problems that they can work on at home. You get the first 10 days free to see if you like his style, then it’s a monthly or yearly fee.’
Headspace wasn’t everyone’s favourite. Sam Jefferies from the Money Nest says, ‘Not a fan of the voice on Headspace so had to look for alternatives! I now use Calm.
Cass from Diary of a Frugal Family prefers Insight Timer. ‘It is a similar thing but has more free sessions and lets you select how long you have and what you want to focus on. I don’t pay for it but I might if I used it more as it really does help clear your mind. We should all look after ourselves a bit more in this way.’
Ruth from Ruth Makes Money has found that music helps her to sleep: ‘ I’m using BrainFM at the moment. You can select tracks of music depending on how you want to feel and what you want to do (focus, sleep, relax, etc). I’m really loving the sleep one, and have found that I’m dropping off to sleep much quicker than I usually would. I’m still on the free trial, but thinking about upgrading! You can’t put a price on a good night of sleep really, can you?’
Donna from Savvy Mum UK says ‘I don’t use any meditation apps but I have subscribed to Michael Sealey on You Tube. He has some amazing meditation videos for lots of different scenarios. I find that If I am suffering from insomnia I will pop him on and listen. He tells me how to relax from head to two and once I’ve done that I’m asleep within minutes. What I have now started to do is try and remember those techniques for when the opportunity doesn’t allow me to listen to him. His channel is here. ‘
Cat Plummer from Penny Wise Life Rich had this to say: ‘I have used Headspace and it is really good. You can get the first 10 days for free.’ Like Cass, she rates Insight Timer: ‘ I use a free app called Insight and I love it. It has really helped me with anxiety and stress as well as insomnia when I was struggling recently. The Insight app has thousands of guided meditations for specific things as well as being able to just set your own timer. Regular practice definitely reaps rewards.’
Emma from TuppennysFIREplace thinks you shouldn’t need to pay: ‘I downloaded audiojoy – 1000 Guided Meditations – as it was free and had some of the best reviews. I like that there are different voices, different length of meditations from 2 – 20 minutes, including some without voice. They definitely help me to relax enough to sleep. I’m not sure I would pay for an app given there is so much available for free!’
Apps to help your mental health
Although it’s not a meditation app as such, Emma Drew has found a useful app for panic attacks: ‘I use Beat Panic when I feel a panic attack coming on. It cost 99p from the App Store and it really helps. Whilst it is running I can’t see the time, see notifications or anything like that. I HAVE to focus on the app and the prompts, which helps me so much.
I can’t bring myself to pay the fee for Calm to help me sleep, so I’ve downloaded a rain sound app called Rain, Rain for free. It has plenty of sounds to choose from.’
Sara Williams from Debt Camel had this to say: ‘This isn’t a meditation app but for some people it could be a useful alternative. A friend told me she was finding it very good.
“Anyone with anxiety/depression might like to try the Woebot app – it’s free. You chat with the bot whenever you want about what’s bothering you. This can be late in the evening or in the middle of the night, times you can’t talk to a therapist and don’t want to bother your partner/friends.” I love this one! What a great idea.
If you don’t fancy any of these digital options for relaxation, Lynn James from Mrs MummyPenny offers this idea: ‘Not an app, but I have a beautiful chunk of amethyst that sits on the shelf right next to my head, and I have been sleeping wonderfully since getting it. You have to go to a shop and choose the piece that draws you.’
I hope this round up of meditation apps and other resources will help you if you suffer from stress and anxiety. Is there anything that you would recommend?
For more ideas on self care on a budget, take a look at this post from Wanna be Debt Free.