Life is pretty stressful these days. Most of us know that cycling through ‘fight or flight’ wears at our bodies, minds, and good spirits.
I was asked this week to present some time-saving, stress-relieving tech solutions to a group of hard-working School Administrators. We started low-tech and went high, with strategies and tools to soothe our souls, organize our minds, and feed our (and our families’) bodies…
7-Breaths is a great low-tech way to help calm stress: Stand up straight, still your shoulders and upper body, and breathe deeply into your belly. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this seven or more times and you will feel a relaxation response start to kick it. Go all the way to seven or more deep breathes. Fewer than that just doesn’t get the job done as well.
7-Breaths is a great habit. Do it at the end of each workday before leaving work. That can help keep you from taking working stress into your home. Try it before going to sleep the clear the way for a good night’s rest. Or try it before heading to work to clear your head for the day.
Why not try it all those times! You can use an app to help, but you don’t need to. Just stop, close your eyes, and deep breathe seven times, in through the nose, out through the mouth. It’s that simple.
Do 7-Breaths regularly and your heart and soul will thank you.
Calm and Headspace smartphone apps go farther to help soothe a stressed out spirit.
Calm provides free access to exercises, meditations, music and stories that foster deep breathing, relaxation, increased focus, happiness, gratitude, healing negative emotions, even getting to sleep! Buy a subscription and enjoy a wider variety of meditations, music and stories. The app won’t stress you out trying to figure it out! It’s easy to use.
Headspace is great for those looking for a deeper meditation practice or a wider variety of types of meditation. Find a single or a series of sessions on relaxation, health, weight loss, healing emotions, happiness, work performance, sports performance, and more. You can even become a Headspace Pro. Some of the meditations are free, but take full advantage of the platform by buying a subscription.
Flipboard and Pocket are less stressful ways to keep up with ‘brain food’.
What do we call the steady diet of articles flying your way through emails, blogs, news sources, coworkers, friend and family? Brainfood. It’s informative,interesting, enlightening, but at times … overwhelming.
Quickly now, where’s that article you read last month about that thing that came up at today’s lunch meeting? Or, how about that great blog post on how to ask for a raise that you saw last summer, but need to re-read now?
We all know how to keep track of emails, but what about keeping track of web content you want to save to for future reference?
Flipboard aggregates news and information from all major publishers and a huge variety of lesser known and niche publishers. Flipboard also allows you to ‘aggregate’ (save) items you find elsewhere on the internet.
Get started by setting up an account and selecting your interests and preferences. Flipboard starts to feed top news stories, stories in a variety of standard categories (Technology, Science, Sport, Design, Cooking, Entertainment, Politics, World News, etc.) and those relevant to interests you select. Note that you can drill down in the general categories to discrete and sometimes surprisingly esoteric topics.
What about organizing, saving and sharing? Flipboard enables you to create ‘magazines’: collections of articles that you organize on whatever subject you like. You can ‘flip’ content from inside of Flipboard or from elsewhere on the web into a “magazine” that you have created.
Create magazines for ‘read later’ content, on topics, or for a particular purpose. I’ve created permanent magazines on technology, futurism & technology, relaxation, creative thinking, travel tips, travel destinations, and acting. I’ve also created temporary magazines on projects I’m working on.
Make your magazines public or private. Others on Flipboard may start to follow your public magazines. You will begin to see or can search out others’ magazines that you may be interested in reading and following.
Pocket provides a slightly different way to save and organize content. Find an article or information anywhere on the web and save it to your Pocket account.
In Pocket, you can add tags to articles you save to make it easy to find them later. Pocket provides it’s own news feed and offers articles to suit your interests as it learns your preferences. Pocket also makes it easy to share.
The time it takes to set up and learn either (or both) of these tools is well worth it. The payoff comes when you need to quickly put your hands on an article, and for maximizing your use of time by easily catching up on reading that’s important to you.
Kitchen Stories, Instacart, and BiteSquad make eating well a little more convenient.
Stress upsets our hearts and scatters our brains. It also depletes energy, challenges immune systems, affects muscular strength, and digestion. Eating healthy is the best medicine, but that’s not always easy.
The least expensive and healthiest way to eat involves home cooking. But these days, many of us don’t know how or overestimate how difficult that will be.
Kitchen Stories makes home cooking easier, more convenient, and more fun. It is also one of the most beautiful cooking apps I’ve ever used.
Find tasty recipes and weekly meal plans. How-to videos accompany each recipe. You’ll also find videos that teach cooking and baking technique. Kitchen Stories shopping lists also include the equipment you’ll need. They can also be messaged or mailed to someone else to do the shopping!
Kitchen Stories is social. Others’ recipe ratings and feedback are prominent, and can get in on the conversation yourself. Kitchen Stories is vegetarian and gluten-free friendly.
What if you’ve got that grocery shopping list, but no time to shop and no one to do it for you? Time for Instacart. Think of it as Uber with personal shoppers.
Access Instacart via web browser or mobile app. Type in your ‘home’ location and you’ll see participating stores. My neighborhood Instacart options include Publix, Whole Foods, CVS, Costco, and Petco. Choose your store and start shopping. Be sure not to miss the coupons section.
When ready, place your order and pay when you ‘checkout’. Then select your choice of delivery time. Instacart offers options for delivery from one hour to ten hours, even the next day!
Once you’ve made your purchase, Instacart drivers go shopping for you. They inform you of their progress and any problems (out of stocks or substitutions) and confirm their time of arrival.
Instacart will deliver groceries to your office or home. You can have groceries waiting for you when you get home! When shopping from work, consider having co-workers go in on an order together. That would bring down delivery costs and make life easier for work buddies, too.
Grocery shopping with Instacart costs a little more than doing the shoppng yourself, but it’s a great option for days when you can’t, or really don’t want to go to the grocery.
What if you’re just too tired to cook? BiteSquad. This fast-growing company picks up and delivers from most restaurants in large and mid-sized cities. It’s available by mobile app or website.
Getting dinner is as easy as typing in your zip code, selecting a restaurant, viewing the menu and making your choices.
Bitesquad’s selection of restaurants in my area is large and diverse including high-end and ethnic local eateries, mass-market restaurants, mom & pop diners, and fast food.
There is a small delivery charge and most of the time you’ll want to tip, but as with Instacart, some days nothing beats having your dinner arrive home when you do.
Hope you’ve found this list of stress-busting apps helpful. Don’t forget to take your 7-Breaths. And, please leave comments, or some of your own favorites in the comments section below!