Tech to Boost Wellness

Feeling stressed out? Try app-based self-help.

By Elizabeth S. Breen, AE, Santa Ynez Valley Association of REALTORS®, Calif

Being an AE is both rewarding and stressful, so balancing work with wellness has become a top priority for me in the past few years. Since I am never too far from my phone, I’ve begun exploring a variety of wellness apps to help me relax, sleep, and balance priorities. Whether you’re looking to cure insomnia, monitor your well-being, learn meditation, or track eating habits and exercise goals, there is a wide range of app choices. Here are my top five.

Calm

Screenshot of Calm meditate app's menu screen

Although I rarely have trouble falling asleep, staying that way is another matter. My go-to app to lull me back to sleep is Calm. When I find my to-do list churning in my head in the wee hours, I go right to the Calm app. The main screen starts with a satisfyingly blue background and the words “Take a deep breath.” Good advice for all of us. Choices within the app are sleep, meditate, music, and more. The sleep section is designed for middle-of-the-night insomniacs like me. A series of narrators reads stories to fall asleep to. John McEnroe reads the rules of tennis in the most monotone voice. Or choose Blue Gold, where the narrator, ­Stephen Fry, reads a story about lavender fields in the South of France. I confess I’ve never heard more than the first five minutes of any of the stories. They work like a charm. 

Welltory

Welltory is the most fascinating app in the group by far, recommended to me by a fellow AE. Welltory promises to help you manage your energy (not your time) by measuring your heart rate variability to analyze nervous system activity and stress, then providing actions to reset the body. Just put your index finger over your phone’s camera and hold still while the phone measures. Once the measurements are taken, you receive customized advice based on the readings. 

On a recent measurement I was feeling under the weather and slept badly. The app advised, “Slow, calm and easy … that’s what you need to aim for today. Take a break from screens and gadgets.” The app also told me that my regulatory systems are struggling, and my sympathetic nervous system isn’t affecting my sinoatrial node. I’m not sure I know what that really means, but the message to take it easy and refrain from screens and gadgets was spot on. 

If you’re not comfortable using your fingerprint, you can sync to data from other devices, such as a heart rate monitor. 

Headspace

Image of Headspace app on smartphone screen

Headspace, launched in 2010, provides audio-guided meditations and mindfulness exercises designed for your personal goals. Its self-described mission is to “improve the health and happiness of the world.” For me, meditation is akin to taking vitamins; I know it is a good idea, but I don’t always remember. Headspace has that covered. Morning and evening reminders will help build meditation into your daily routine. The newbie to meditation is eased in with three-minute sessions. As you become more comfortable with the process, select longer sessions for maximum de-stressing.

Noom

Noom promises its users long-term weight management results through behavior change, not restrictive dieting. Its slogan is “Lose Weight for Good.” The app is a one-stop shop for tracking your weight, food, exercise, blood pressure and blood sugar. Making your health a priority is always a good idea, and Noom has a lot of loyal users. I’ve found that these apps are great when I consistently input everything I eat and drink into an app all day, but, I’ll admit, that becomes tedious and I tend to lose interest in the process. 

Fitbit

The Fitbit device (or the app on your phone) is one of the most popular fitness trackers, with 25.4 million users. I’ve been one of them for about three years. This device has changed my life. I’m much more aware of whether I am moving and taking movement breaks during the day. Most AEs spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, so the reminder to get up and take at least 250 steps an hour is a good one both from a physical and psychological point of view. The ability to use the app to set up challenges and monitor friends and co-workers appeals to my competitive side, too. I will walk down the hall to a separate printer to add steps to the day if a Fitbit friend is close to my top number.

Elizabeth S. Breen is the AE at the Santa Ynez Valley Association of REALTORS®, Calif. Contact her at 805-688-7744 or assocexec@syvaor.com.

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