9 Apps to Help Manage Stress

6:00 AM 3/3/2020

by Degen Pener

A look into what calming apps have on offer, from guided meditations offered by ABC News correspondent Dan Harris' to cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.

Amid the world's high levels of anxiety and stress, the mindfulness space is becoming one of the most crowded and well-funded in the app ecosystem. Two of the most well-known are Calm, which recently was valued at $1 billion, and L.A.-based Headspace, which announced in early February that it had raised $93 million in a Series C funding round. Among Hollywood's favorites are these eight apps, which include everything from a gratitude platform (with guides by George Takei) and a heartbeat-powered virtual-reality world to a personalized way to benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • 10 Percent Happier

    $9.99 a month

    ABC News correspondent Dan Harris’ app offers more than 500 guided meditations as well as a special section on sleep. Guests on Harris' podcast of the same name have included producer Brian Grazer (discussing How to Make It in Hollywood (and Everywhere Else)) and Take-Two Interactive chairman/CEO Strauss Zelnick (on Becoming Ageless). tenpercent.com.

  • Bloom

    $8.99 a month

    To manage stress, this app offers personalized cognitive behavioral therapy sessions and interactive video classes. "I've been to all types of therapists in the last two decades and I find cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches you actual tools to be the most transformative," says a fan of the app, Brad Grossman, founder and CEO of the content and consulting firm Zeitguide. "Each week Bloom focuses on a theme, whether it's about reducing stress, anxiety or loneliness or gaining confidence, self-love or joy, and has a guide walk you through tools and journal exercises." enjoybloom.com.

  • Calm

    $14.99 a month; $69.99 a year

    Courtesy of Calm

    One of the most well-funded apps in the space, Calm announced a partnership with LeBron James in December. The athlete, who has said he relies on Calm to fall asleep and grab naps, will star in a new marketing campaign for the app and create original content. Calm has an extensive library of guided meditations plus a section called Sleep Stories, with tales read by the likes of Danai Gurira, LeVar Burton, Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Fry. Erica Spates and Sam Littenberg-Weisberg, creators of Netflix’s comedy series The Healing Powers of Dude, about a boy with social anxiety, are fans. “Our minds would go in circles about work, and our kid, and that clicking noise we can't find the source of — but then we got the Calm app and listened to 'Blue Gold,' a story about the lavender fields in Provence, told by Stephen Fry, and we immediately fell asleep,” says Littenberg-Weisberg. Adds Spates, “We've honestly never heard the end of the story because it works that fast.” calm.com.

  • GTHX

    $9.99 a month

    George Takei is among the content contributors at this app encouraging the practice of gratitude. It includes more than 100 gratitude guides (Takei's five guides cover such subjects as "Noticing and Making Change" and "Forgiveness and Letting Go") and a journaling page. The app was co-founded by artist (and former OWN exec) Glenn Kaino. gthx.com.

  • Healium

    $29 a month

    Courtesy of Healium

    While most mindfulness apps provide a library of guided meditations, Healium differs in offering a virtual-reality platform which is powered by the user’s brainwaves and heart rate as relayed by wearables including the Apple watch. The app allows the user to see how their brainwaves and heart rate can affect virtual worlds. tryhealium.com.

  • State: Breathing

    $2.99 a month

    Sheppard Mullin IP lawyer Craig Cardon says he’s gotten “the best deep sleep patterns in years” thanks to its breathing exercises, calling it "my secret weapon and the app all of us breath-work practitioners have been waiting for. The gist is that the breath controls the interaction between our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and by controlling the breath we control our own state. The app creates four personalized protocols (alert, present, calm, fall asleep) based on a timed exhale test you do. Each protocol lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. I do alert on waking up and fall asleep just before bed. State not only makes you conscious and mindful, it enables you to control it. Next time you meet someone whose state of mind and presence impresses you, odds are they are part of the secret State app club. shiftstate.io.

  • Unplug

    $7.99 a month; $59.99 a year

    Courtesy of Unplug

    Former magazine editor Suze Yalof Schwartz started Unplug Meditation in 2014, now with two brick-and-mortar studios in Santa Monica and West Hollywood and an app that includes more than 700 guided meditations covering everything from breathwork and hypnosis to soundbaths. The app offers a feature that allows users to create a playlist of favorites, plus a progress tracker and gratitude journal. unplug.app.

  • Waking Up

    $99.99 a year

    Cardon calls this guided meditation app — by Making Sense podcaster and neuroscientist Sam Harris — “kung fu for the mind. It offers a 10-minute daily guided meditation in the mindfulness vein by someone who really knows the mind. Harris studied meditation in India for a decade before returning to the U.S. and getting a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. No harps, bells or soothing Enya music — just a really smart guy guiding you to a better understanding of your consciousness." Stars who Harris has interviewed on his podcast include Maria Sharapova, Alan Cumming, Patrick Dempsey and Josh Radnor. wakingup.com.

  • Headspace

    $12.99 a month / $69.99 a year

    Courtesy of Headspace

    Co-founded by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe back in 2010 as an events company, Headspace has grown to provide hundreds of guided meditations on subjects such as stress and anxiety, physical health, sleep, and being productive, even mini-meditations as short as two or three minutes. Its Wake Up programming helps start the day, while Move Mode spotlights staying in physical shape. headspace.com.

    A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.