4 Apps Designed to Improve Self-Care

February 17, 2018
Tad B. Coles, DVM, MRSS-P, CCFP

Use these four tested and endorsed apps to monitor resilience, track change, generate reminders and practice meditation.

While important for everyone, practicing self-care is especially significant for veterinarians, who are known to be at an increased risk for burnout and compassion fatigue.

If you’ve considered adding habits into your routine to increase emotional and mental well-being (ie mediation, yoga) but haven’t been able to fully commit, you might want to consider enlisting your smartphone.

It seems counterproductive, considering cell phones can be a major source of stress, but there are actually a number of apps designed to help monitor resilience, track change, generate reminders and practice meditation. I’ve used the free elements of the following apps and solidly endorse them.

Way of Life

Billed as the ultimate habit builder and breaker, Way of Life can help you establish or reinforce a personal well-being plan. Through the app, you can set reminders, add a custom message and choose whether the reminder includes an alarm. You can also track your progress over time.

A few months ago, I used the app to track how often I was practicing yoga before bed, getting to bed on time and establishing a morning walking routine. I had dramatic improvements in two of those three behaviors. Yoga in the evening didn’t take, but two out of three isn’t bad!

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Way of Life allows you to track three habits at no charge. Adding four or more habits will cost a one­time fee of $4.99, which also includes multiple reminders, backup capability and no in-app advertisements.

Calm

Calm is a great meditation app for both beginners and experts. It offers three main sections: music, meditate and sleep. Options in the music section are focus, relax, sleep and nature melodies. The meditate section has many subsections, including beginners, focus, anxiety, sleep, stress, relationships, emotions, self-care, resilience and more. I especially enjoyed the seven-days-of-calm program that introduces meditation with 10-minute sessions as well as a “breathe bubble” that guides you in mindful breathing. The sleep section features a wide variety of sleep stories.

I recommend starting out by trying the free options, which you can use again and again. If you like the app and want to become a member, you’ll need to pay a fee ($12.99/month or $59.99/year) that grants you access to all of the app’s locked features, including a suite of guided meditations.

Insight Timer

With more than 2.8 million meditators using the site and nearly 3,000 new users joining every day, Insight Timer is rated as the top free meditation phone app. It offers several bell and duration options for silent meditation and more than 6,800 free guided meditations, music tracks, talks and courses.

Within the app, you can view ratings of the various offerings and bookmark your favorites. There is also a social networking component where you can join groups, read posts and leave comments. I have especially enjoyed the groups Healing the Healer and Healthcare Professionals.

I highly recommend this app for guided loving-kindness meditation, which uses words, images and feelings to evoke goodwill toward oneself and others. I have found that this type of meditation improves my self-esteem, compassion and awareness of unity; helps me maintain boundaries without rancor; and enables me to achieve the feeling of being on an equal footing with others in my life.

Provider Resilience

Provider Resilience is the single best app I’ve found for monitoring compassion fatigue and burnout. Developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, whose mission is to provide technological solutions for psychological health and traumatic brain injury, the app was created for health care providers treating military personnel.

The main screen of the app is a dashboard with an overall rating of your resilience to compassion fatigue and burnout. It is based on the data you input via:

  • Resilience builders/killers quiz (recommended daily)

  • Burnout toggle chart (recommended weekly)

  • Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) test (a 30­question, Likert­scale test that takes about five minutes to complete; recommended monthly)

You can track your progress by checking charts that display your burnout and ProQOL scores over time.

This is a very functional, well-thought-out app with a lot of useful features. There are cartoons to help you keep your sense of humor, simple physical exercises that can be done in the office and alphabetically sorted “value cards” for contemplation or use as a daily devotional.

Dr. Coles, a certified compassion fatigue professional (CCFP) and Missouri recovery support specialist-peer (MRSS-P), is a well-being advisor, medical writer and founder of Compassion Fatigue Coach. He is also the medical director at Two Dogs and a Cat Pet Club in Overland Park, Kansas.