Self-Help Tools: The S.A.M. App

There is a fair selection of apps or websites based around self-help and meditation for stress, anxiety, insomnia and other mental health issues. I'll be going through and trying out some of these from time to time for the blog and also to find out how many work for me, if any.  One of these many apps is one I've already experimented with before, so I'll do a little run down of it today about its features and what I managed to get out of it.

The SAM App

The SAM  or Self-help for Anxiety Management app is being developed by the Department of Creative Sciences and Computer Technologies at the University of West England in Bristol, and in conjunction with MyOxygen and in conjunction with MyOxygen mobile apps. It's purpose is as the name states: to be an on-the-go tool to facilitate self-help for anxiety management in your everyday life. This is what the User Interface looks like:

Each button on the screen relates to a different tool you can use for managing your anxiety.

The "Working with SAM" button gives you information about the app and how it came into being, and the "Help for Anxiety NOW" button gives you access to breathing exercises and images to meditate over. It allows you to create a calm mind space for if you're having an anxiety attack in that moment. It even has a reassuring message about panic as the first thing you see. I've found that in sitting in a situation when I'm already with my phone and I'm having an anxiety attack I can use this to get myself to a more comfortable level. It's useful in social situations where you can look at your phone without drawing too much attention to yourself.

The "How's My anxiety right now" button allows you to measure how you're feeling at any given moment with various sliders to measure any physical sensations, avoidance, worrying thoughts and other things. This then related directly to the Anxiety Tracker below, so I'll talk about this more with the tracker.

"Self-help with SAM" is kind of the main function of this app. Within it are various exercises, pieces of food for thought, relaxation and anti-anxiety techniques which you can test out and use to see how they work for you. One of my favourite anti-anxiety methods offered is a thing called "Stop that thought" which allows you to write an anxious thought you're having into a bubble on the screen, then tap the screen to blow it up. As odd as it sounds, it's cathartic watching that thought which has been terrorising you just be reduced to nothing.

It also has daily quotes or ideas to reflect on. For example, today's is "Can I be Flexible?"

 "Things that make me anxious" is just that, a place where you can list all the things that make you anxious for whichever reason. You may want to show someone like a partner or therapist so they casn get a better insight into you, or you can use it for yourself to know what things you need to work on. "My anxiety toolkit" is my favourite tool, because you're able to pick and choose exercises from the "Self-help with SAM" button and add them to your toolkit. What you're left with is a list of anti-anxiety methods tailored to suit you, and you can dip into it and find what you need at any moment.

So, the "Anxiety Tracker" is a line graph measuring your feelings of anxiety at different intervals, so if you do the "how's my anxiety now" measure at regular intervals you can end up with a very interesting and very telling picture of how your anxiety affects you daily or weekly, and also a picture of what your most prominent anxiety symptoms are. The problem with this is, in moments of high stress or anxiety you're not going to be thinking about tracking how you're feeling. It takes some dedication to figuring out a pattern. It's the kind of thing that might work better in conjunction with therapy, or maybe the app could prompt you about the tracker when you open it? It requires some kind of enforced structure.

Finally the social cloud is a place where people using this app can make comments on the different anti-anxiety techniques anonymously and look at other people's experiences. It's fine, if a little basic, I would just with there were more opportunity to interact with people and give advice, or even something as simple as liking a comment to show solidarity with a person. It feels very much like talking into the void without any real feedback.

The app also comes with links to organisations in the UK that offer therapies for anxiety, acknowledging that for some people self-help is only one part of the process and professional help can be just as vital. The links are for AnxietyUK, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Mind, Royal College of Psychiatrists, NHS D-I-Y Therapy, and Triumph Over Phobia, most of which I had never actually heard of.

So that was my run down of the SAM App, it has its flaws but ultimately I've found it to be incredibly useful for me in stressful situations when I'm out and about and can't reach for a book or find a quiet room to meditate. Hopefully you'll all find it to be a useful tool also, and if you want to try it out it's avaialable on the Apple Store or Google Play Store for free!

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