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Don’t Worry, Be hAPPy: the Best Apps for Reducing Stress

Racing heart. Trouble sleeping. Feeling overwhelmed. Stress is an unpleasant experience, both physically and emotionally. Reducing anxiety is not the easiest thing to accomplish, but it is a worthy goal—and a range of apps can help us get there.

Health professionals often recommend regular exercise as an ideal way to reduce stress, but finding time to fit in workout can be…well, stressful. Lots of great apps offer exercise tracking and every manner of workout program, but two in particular stand out because of their focus on time.

The 7 Minute Workout is ideal for people on the go, and no gym membership is needed. Instructions are clear, easy to follow and include illustrations to explain the activity. Exercises include things like wall sits, tricep dips (using a chair), jumping jacks and the like. The app is designed well and even technophobes will find it easy to use. For individuals seeking a simple way to add some physical activity to their day, 7 Minute Workout is an excellent tool and worth the download. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Sworkit is another great option for those trying to squeeze some physical activity into an already packed schedule. Workouts range from five to 60 minutes, and users may choose cardio, strength, yoga or stretching routines. The app offers maximum flexibility. Whether trying to fit in some exercise between shuttling kids from school to soccer practice or enjoying the pace of a more leisurely weekend, Sworkit offers a workout menu that really does accommodate any schedule. (Free with in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android)

If sweating the stress out sounds less than appealing, meditation is another tried-and-true tool for reducing anxiety.

The Mindfulness app is an ideal tool for anyone new to meditation. Users customize their profiles to indicate how familiar they are with meditation and receive personalized programs to fit the level of experience. Users rave about the quality of the lessons, though it takes some effort to locate the free programs; much of the premium content is available only with a paid subscription. Free trial periods allow new users to test out the product first, which is enough to give novices a chance to determine whether meditation is something they enjoy and are likely to practice regularly before making a financial investment. (Free with in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android)

Smiling Mind is a great way to introduce both adults and children to meditation practices. The meditation menu includes programs for children and adults, tailored to different ages. Users can also select a guided meditation based on goals such as reducing stress or improving relationships, concentration and sleep. Bonus: the content is actually free—no ads and no prompts to upgrade to a paid subscription—a rare feature in today’s app world. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

To up the fun factor in meditation apps, consider relaxing with celebrity voices. Fans of Jerome Flynn (of Game of Thrones fame) or Nick Offerman (aka “Ron Swanson” on Parks and Recreation) can download the Calm app to hear either actor narrate Sleep Stories. Though a subscription is required to access most content, Calm has a free, seven-day trial period—just enough to decide whether Ron Swanson reading you to sleep actually helps mitigate anxiety before investing the $69.99 per year for a subscription. (Available for iOS and Android)

Yoga combines the best of both exercise and mindfulness into one highly effective stress-reducing practice.

Daily Yoga is a solid choice amid the plethora of available yoga apps. The beginner sequences cover basic yoga poses and lessons are designed by certified yoga professionals. Poses are clearly explained. Though some advanced lessons require a paid subscription, Daily Yoga offers a reasonable amount of quality content for free. Daily Yoga is an excellent choice for anyone looking to dip a toe into the yoga water. (Free, with in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android)

Down Dog is a great choice for those already familiar with basic yoga poses who are looking for an easy and accessible way to practice at home. Unique among yoga apps for its variety and customizability, Down Dog allows users to choose different yoga teachers and to explore practices such as Vinyasa, Hatha, Gentle, Restorative, Yin, Ashtanga and more. (Free, with in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android)

Sometimes the best way to reduce stress is to control the chaos. Microsoft’s To Do app is a great tool for keeping track of work and home tasks all in one handy space. The two best features are the option to customize personal lists—think groceries, daily home tasks, daily work tasks, long-term projects, etc.—and the ability to check off completed tasks and watch them drop to the completed list. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Whether exercise, meditation or organization—or maybe just a hot bath and a cold glass of chardonnay—are called for, reducing stress is worth the effort.

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