April 29, 2022

Should you give self-care apps a try?

A recent survey shows that many people are turning to online wellness tools for help with concerns such as stress, insomnia, and relationship woes.

Elizabeth C. had experienced depression before, so she was no stranger to the deep sadness she felt when an autoimmune disease forced her to take early retirement from a job she loved.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and things went from bad to worse. Isolated at home with only her dogs as company, she had a hard time even getting out of bed.

Elizabeth began having video visits with her therapist and connected to telehealth support groups for people with depression and anxiety.

She also downloaded a meditation and sleep app called Calm, available to Kaiser Permanente members at no cost.

“This app has been a real gift to me,” she said. “I do the daily Calm meditation every morning, and I fall asleep to a sleep story every night. It’s gotten to the point where, when I open the app, my dogs know to come into the bedroom and lie down with me.”

Turning to self-care in times of stress

Elizabeth’s not alone. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 Americans, 3 out of 4 people said that over the course of the pandemic they had increased their use of digital tools that support their mental health. The research was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kaiser Permanente.

The most popular digital tools were self-care videos and channels on streaming services, online programs that support activities such as doing yoga or drawing, and meditation and mental health apps.

The survey found that nearly 50% of respondents who practiced mental health self-care were seeking ways to cope with mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and anger. Forty percent named financial worries as the cause of their distress, and 39% mentioned health concerns.

Other concerns that respondents hoped to address through self-care included difficulties with family and friends (37%), loneliness and social challenges (35%), problems with intimate relationships (33%), concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic (33%) and other current events (29%), and worries about work and school (26%).

“The events of the past several years have clearly taken a toll on our emotional well-being,” said psychiatrist Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness. “Mental health self-care tools can help boost resilience and offer relief for people experiencing emotional distress.”

Self-care tools that support well-being

At Kaiser Permanente, we offer a range of tools and resources that help you support your mental health.

  • The Calm and myStrength apps (available to members 13 and older at no cost) help reduce stress and anxiety while promoting mindfulness and better sleep.
  • Our Find Your Words awareness initiative encourages people to talk about their mental health and find support.
  • Geared to the esports and gaming community, our Presence of Mind interactive video series helps young people manage their mental health and support friends who need help.
  • Interactive online tools help people assess their levels of depression and stress or determine if they may have a problem with drug or alcohol use.
  • Content centers devoted to mental health and wellness and addiction and recovery provide articles, tools, tips, guided audio activities, and videos.

“Self-care tools are not meant to take the place of care from a skilled mental health clinician,” Dr. Mordecai stressed. “But evidence-based tools can complement that care and support overall emotional well-being. That’s especially true when the app has been vetted and recommended by a trusted health care provider.”