Best apps to manage stress on your iPhone or iPad

Apple Watch Series 4
Apple Watch Series 4 (Image credit: iMore)

Say you're sitting at your desk and suddenly, the fire alarm goes off. Even if it's been falsely triggered, your heart rate will climb and blood pressure elevates, even if it's clear there's no real danger. These reactions are part of your body's fight-or-flight response: In theory, they help you avoid danger, but in reality, they're most often triggered by stressful circumstances — missing deadlines, sitting in traffic, anxiety-inducing social situations.

If you find yourself constantly stressed, this response is activated all or most of the time; it's exhausting and can cause long-term health-related ailments associated with chronic stress including anxiety, headaches and heart disease.

Stress can also cause some nasty side-effects: You may become overly impatient with situations, use unhealthy coping mechanisms, or have angry outbursts.

You can keep that stress at bay with a number of good techniques — including going for a walk or meditating — but relief may also be as close as your smartphone. Here are six apps that can snap you out of your stressful state.


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If you have an office job that requires you to be sedentary for most of the day, you may think there's no way you can get on the move while at work to get your stress under control.

OfficeHealth argues otherwise: The app reminds you to take short breaks throughout the day and offers more than 100 office-friendly workouts. Each lasts under a minute, so that even if you don't have a lengthy break you can still do things to stay healthier and stress less.

See on the App Store

What's Up?

What's Up uses principles from cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance commitment therapy to help you get a handle on how you respond to stress and unhealthy emotions through several interactive tools.

Use the catastrophe scale to put your problems in perspective when they seem too much, and learn to recognize 12 common negative thinking patterns, plus how to overcome them.

All features within the app are free to use, but if you find it does a good job of helping you conquer stress at or about work, you can make an in-app donation.

See on the App Store


The last time you were stressed, you may have had a well-intentioned friend say "Take a deep breath!"

The Breathe2Relax app can help you control your breathing during stressful times at work or elsewhere. Specifically, it teaches you how to engage in diaphragmatic breathing — sometimes called belly breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is not an instant stress reliever, but you should feel its effects more powerfully with practice.

After learning the fundamentals, you'll be able to practice that type of breathing within the app. The app has a dedicated area for practicing exercises, and you can even change the pace so they more naturally fit with your breathing pace.

See on the App Store


What makes us feel happy? Happify argues that you might not be content because you're stressed — but becoming happier is as easy as going through some quick but effective games and exercises.

The process starts once you learn your happiness score. Based on that, you'll get recommendations about what to do to boost your mood.

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Gratitude Journal

When your stress levels are high, it can be difficult to focus on the events and people in your life that bring you joy — often because the things upsetting you are so overwhelming.

Maybe you just started working for a new boss and it seems the two of you will never see eye-to-eye, or the person who sits in the cubicle across from you has one too many noisy habits you just can't stand. These situations are annoying, but shouldn't prevent you from feeling grateful.

Gratitude Journal by Lorraine Miller is a free iOS app that takes you through a 30-day positivity plan: You start by creating an intention, such as "I want to have a broader perspective when I'm stressed" or "I want to stay calmer during workplace presentations." After that, you'll be guided through activities to remind you of reasons to demonstrate gratitude.

Some work stress is inevitable, but these apps will help you get it to a more manageable level. After making progress, you may find you're more productive, a better person to be around, and someone with greater resilience in general.

See on the App Store

Your favorites?

Do you have an iPhone or iPad app you use to destress? Let us know in the comments!

Kayla E Matthews