It’s the end of summer, and colleges are once again opening their doors to legions of students lugging their parents and possessions through campus. Many student affairs professionals are energized by the prospect of welcoming the campus community to their “home-away-from-home” and filling the empty residence halls with cheerful commotion. But no matter how much we love our students, there’s no denying that move-in season isn’t exactly the most relaxing time of the year. It’s the season of orientation followed by 14-hour days and 3am lockouts. In the initial chaos, it’s easy to forget to take care of your own mental and physical well-being. Here are some mobile apps, all available on both iPhone and Android, to help you stay happy and healthy during the chaos of opening.
Cost: Free, or 1.99 for Premium
Chances are, you’re not getting as much sleep as you’d like. Sleep Cycle will help you get the most of it. I started using this handy little app about a year ago while looking for something that would make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Just leave the app open overnight and set the phone near your bed. It’ll track your sleep patterns, which you can view in graph form in the morning, and will wake you up within a half-hour range; the exact alarm time is established by the app’s determination of where you are in your sleep cycle. It tries to wake you up when you’re sleeping lightest, which will leave you feeling more awake and energized in the morning. It worked for me!
Another sleep app I dabbled with is the Power Nap App (free, iOS). Who doesn’t need to sneak in a power nap at the start of the semester? This app offers a brief introduction to the benefits of power naps (half an hour and under) and sets alarms for power nap lengths of your choice. It’s essentially a timer with a cute cat mascot (and I am a sucker for cute cats).
Cost: Free, or $9.99 for Premium ($4.99 if you’re a student)
This is one of my essentials. If you don’t know what it is (and have been living under a rock for the last decade), Spotify is a powerhouse music streaming app that hosts a library containing the vast majority of popular music. Free listeners get all the music they want, but they have to put up with ads and don’t get to play songs “on-demand” on mobile. As a music aficionado, I can unequivocally say that the $10/month I pay for Premium is money well-spent. There’s nothing like settling in after a long day and being able to pick the exact song that will relax or encourage me, without annoying ads breaking in. I also crank up punk rock at the gym when I’m frustrated. Spotify also has a “running feature” that matches beats to your pace! (Although I haven’t tried it yet.) If music helps energize and support you like it does for me, this is a core app to get you through stressful days of any kind.
Added plus: From a work standpoint, it’s always nice to be able to put a playlist on the speakers at orientation or move-in events.
Cost: Free, with optional upgrades
You probably don’t drink enough water. I definitely don’t. And on days when I was scurrying around checking in students, answering questions, and putting out fires, hydration fell to the wayside even more. Of course, it’s on days like these, full of mental and physical exertion, that self-care like hydration is crucial. Now enters the world of hydration apps! There are lots of them out there, and if your preference is for something plain and minimalist, this particular app might not be for you. However, if you (A) like games, and/or (B) struggle to muster internal motivation to take care of yourself for your own sake, Plant Nanny is an adorable and effective solution.
When you download the app, you’ll adopt a smiling anthropomorphic plant. You’ll also input information like your weight to determine how much water you should be drinking per day. Your own hydration needs will be transferred onto the plant, which you’ll “water” every time you drink a glass in real life. The app will send you reminders, but if you still don’t drink enough, your little plant buddy will look sad and eventually die. This is perfect for helping-professional types who don’t make time for self-care but want to take care of everyone else, including fictional smiling plants. Seriously, I’m motivated to drink water because Planty will be sad if I don’t. Must protect Planty.
Rain Rain (plus Rainy Mood)
Cost: Free, with optional upgrades
Ambient noise apps have risen in popularity lately, but out of all sounds, none makes me happier than the sound of rain. There’s something about the tap and pitter-patter of a cloudburst, or the crackle and rumble of thunder, that calms and relaxes me. I usually play rain sounds in the background while I’m doing work or getting ready for bed, and many also find them helpful as a sleep aid.
Rainy Mood is my go-to, available for free on desktop, but on mobile their app costs $2.99. Rain Rain is a free mobile alternative with much the same features, including a mixer for customizable levels of sounds. Want a bigger storm? Make it pour. More thunder? Boom. Wash away the duty-phone blues with a downpour or two!
Cost: Free, or 2.99/month paid yearly for Premium
Last but not least, an app to support the mental health aspect of self-care. Pacifica is advertised as “daily tools for managing stress, anxiety, and depression,” based on tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy. Since its scope is so wide, its level of applicability may vary based on your levels of stress, anxiety, negative thought patterns, etc. Users with garden-variety stress will experience the app differently than those with persistent anxiety or negative thoughts. The breadth of Pacifica’s scope is also an advantage, however, in that it offers a little something for everyone. The app offers mood tracking, short meditations, “guided paths” with lectures and activities, goal tracking, tools for reframing self-defeating thoughts, optional community participation, and more. Its diversity of features and lovely interface set it apart for me, although similar activity-based apps such as Happify and Superbetter are also worth looking into. Pacifica, and apps like it, can help identify sources of stress (and solace), reframe negative thoughts, and promote resilience and relaxation.
During the busiest times of the year, it’s easy to neglect one’s own mental health. Remember to care for yourself while caring for students–as the old adage says, you can’t pour from an empty cup. These are just a few of many apps to support your mental and physical well-being in stressful times. Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know, via my Twitter or via Roompact’s Twitter. Take care of yourselves, and have a fabulous fall semester!