US News Calmer You: what it’s like launching an anti-anxiety app during Covid-19

17:28  06 april  2020
17:28  06 april  2020 Source:   msn.com

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a woman holding a cell phone © Provided by Evening Standard

A global pandemic can be a major trigger for people who deal with anxiety, and even for those who don’t. Worrying about getting ill, concern for your family and friends, and whether or not you can get the food and supplies you need, are enough to keep you up at night.

It seems like now may be the best time to launch a new anti-anxiety app. Calmer You, founded by former head of research at Headspace, Nick Begley, and anti-anxiety author Chloe Brotheridge, launched in February, just before the spread of coronavirus started to hit countries such as the UK and US. Though that wasn’t necessarily what the two had in mind when they released the app into the world.

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While it may feel like life has stopped, there are ways to keep these times in perspective and learn how to carry on. Being mindful about how you talk about COVID - 19 around children is important, too. “Oversharing, ‘catastrophizing,’ and even joking about death or sickness can traumatize little ones.

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“Calmer You focuses exclusively on tackling anxiety,” Begley tells the Standard. “It’s a multi-faceted problem and so we need an entire toolkit to help people tackle the ways it manifests.” 


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Begley initially studied physics and worked as an actuary in London for nine years but says his passion was always in philosophy and psychology. He decided to take part in the world’s largest research study into meditation by the University of California, where he was meditating eight to 10 hours a day with 70 people for three months in silence.

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COVID - 19 : Latest updates and resources. “ It ’ s important to have a good primary care physician who is willing to prescribe an anti - anxiety medication just prior to travel, which might be helpful for those with But it turns out, this might not be what you need when it comes to relieving anxiety in the air.

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“I found the experience so beneficial, I decided to change my career and retrained in positive psychology and neuroscience, specialising in the neuroscience of mindfulness at UCL,” he explains.

It was this career change that led Begley to taking up the role as head of research at Headspace where he worked on studies looking at the effectiveness of app-based mindfulness and communicated the scientific benefits of the practise in everyday living. After working for the company for two years, he realised that apps could do more than promote mindfulness, it could really help with self-development. This is how he came to team up with Brotheridge, therapist and author of The Anxiety Solution, to help bring her advice to life using tech.

“For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with anxiety and I had to work out what worked best for me. This is why as a therapist, I teach people many different techniques so they can find what works best for them, not just mindfulness,” said Brotheridge.

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While it ' s important for British Columbians and the world to listen to government and health official orders to stay at home during this global COVID - 19 pandemic, it You can also express your fears on paper. Try breathing exercises, like closing your eyes and trying to inhale through one nostril at a time.

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Calmer You founders Nick Begley and Chloe Brotheridge (Calmer You) © Provided by Evening Standard Calmer You founders Nick Begley and Chloe Brotheridge (Calmer You)

Calmer You features tools and techniques such as CBT, diaphragmatic breathing, journaling and exercising, which can be used to calm worries, build self-esteem and improve productivity. There’s a tracking feature to record your wellbeing daily, as well as levels of anxiety and depression. Begley says he hopes that people can curate their own experience of using the app to find what works for them. 

At the moment, it’s more important than ever to shore up your mental health to deal with fears and anxieties around the coronavirus crisis. Since the app launched, the company has seen some people spending over 17 hours a month using the app to help them deal with this period of heightened anxiety. There’s been an increase in people using the workouts to exercise at home as well as the positive morning and evening reflections feature.

“Each morning the app prompts you to think about what makes a great day and then what you’re grateful for in the evening,” explains Begley. “They are quick and easy practices to reframe your mind and see the positives in your day.

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Whether it ' s the thought of giving a presentation at an important office meeting or getting frustrated sat in a queue of traffic, stress has become an unwelcome ‘ You are basically fooling your brain and body into thinking that you ’re already calm and connected, that you ’re already at rest by breathing the way

Coronavirus ( COVID - 19 ). While it ’ s normal to get nervous about an important event or life change, about 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder, which is more than the occasional worry or fear. Plus, there are steps you can take the moment when anxiety starts to take hold.

One way to cope is to develop a positive routine. Begley says his includes morning reflections and visiting Brighton beach with his partner for exercise as he lives nearby, as well as meditating about three times a week. He’s also only watching the news once a day in the evening. “Now more than ever, it’s crucial to understand our triggers, like watching the news, and realise what is in and out of your control. The app can help you get your worries out, identify which of them you can control and crucially what you can do about them, and which you can’t control and should let go of.”

a screenshot of a social media app for a photo: (Calmer You) © Provided by Evening Standard (Calmer You)

Calmer You is free to use but access to premium features come with a £5.99 a month app subscription though the company has waived this for key health workers, including NHS staff and MSF workers, something other wellbeing platforms such as Unmind have done too. There are also plans to launch a gratitude campaign, to help boost people’s wellbeing.

“Research has shown it improves our self-esteem, reduces our negative emotions, improves our physical health, our relationships, and even helps us sleep, as well as lifting others. Just as viruses are contagious so are positive emotions, so we’ve unlocked the gratitude journal in the app so it’s free for everyone to use and share to lift spirits during this difficult time,” adds Begley.

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Calmer You app on the Apple App Store

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