Self-care in 2020… there’s an app for that.

The early months of 2020 have been unusual to say the least. Not only have we embarked upon a new decade, but we’ve experienced the rise of a global pandemic alongside significant impacts to local economies. Many Canadians have found themselves stuck at home with little to occupy their time, while healthcare and essential workers have been thrust into challenging work environments where their health and safety may be at risk.

Not surprisingly, self-care is becoming a priority for many through these strange times. But for physicians and other health professionals, it can be difficult to focus on personal self-care while addressing the care of their communities and navigating the chaos of the every-day. The good news? Technology can help those in need to practice self-care, anywhere, anytime.

In a recent study, Canada Health Infoway wanted to understand how Canadians were using mobile apps and smart devices to monitor health and wellbeing. The organization surveyed approximately 4,100 Canadians and published its findings in the report, Diffusion of mobile health apps and smart connected devices in Canada. It was the first national study of its kind in Canada, and the largest ever globally. According to the study, 32% of Canadian adults use one or more mobile apps to monitor aspects of their health, and approximately one in four Canadian adults (24%) owns at least one smart device for health and wellbeing.

With more than 320,000 health and fitness apps available in major app stores, how do you choose? It depends on your goals and your personal health situation. Whether you want to improve your nutrition, amp up your fitness routine, sleep better, be more mindful or take a break from technology (ironic, but nowadays managing screen time and tech use is a critical part of our self-care), we’ve rounded up some of the most popular apps to get you started and keep you accountable.

Nutrition:

Keto. Intermittent fasting. Paleo. Vegan. Regardless of your nutrition philosophy, many people find using apps for information and tracking extremely valuable. These apps can help:

  • Nutrition Facts: want to learn about your favourite snack or curious about the nutritional value of what you’re eating? This app provides details about 8,700 food items.
  • MyPlate: with a food database that provides you with calorie count, nutritional information and serving sizes for millions of foods, you can make simple and healthy choices based on dietary preferences and goals.

Fitness and Exercise:

Looking for solutions to help you train at home? Bored of your tried and true running route? These apps may be for you.

  • NeoU: the Netflix of fitness – choose from a variety of workouts and stream videos, so you can workout where and when you want to.
  • Strava: join a virtually connected community of runners and cyclists and share routes, compete in challenges, track friends and more.

Sleep:

It seems like a simple thing, but according to Dr. Ram Randhawa, a psychiatrist at the University of British Columbia’s Sleep Disorders Program, approximately 30% of Canadians struggle with getting to or staying asleep at any given time. Apps can help you get the much-needed rest you may be craving – whether it’s helping prepare you for a good night’s sleep or tracking your sleep quality.

  • Sleep Cycle: tracks sleep patterns and offers recommendations on how to optimize sleep.
  • Slumber: pre-sleep meditations, bedtime stories and background noise.
  • White Noise Lite: a broad selection of white noise options for pre-sleep soothing.

Mindfulness:

With our always-on culture at all-time high, quieting the mind is at the top of many people’s self-care resolutions lists. Both of the apps mentioned below are on Statista’s list of leading iPhone health and fitness apps in Canada 2019.

  • Headspace: This app provides guided meditations for newbies looking for ways to stay present. Choose from hundreds of guided meditations on everything from managing stress and anxiety to sleep, productivity, exercise, and physical health.
  • Calm: Calm assists with stress management, offering daily meditation, a sleep timer and master classes taught by inspiring authors and mindfulness gurus.

Digital Detox:

Sometimes disconnecting is what’s best for our self-care – mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s healthy to take a proactive break from the bings and dings, as well as limiting the dopamine release that comes with social interaction and validation. In addition to using apps and/or features available on your device (like iPhone’s Screen Time feature), here are some other apps that can help:

  • Moment: track phone usage and most commonly used apps; access coaching geared to help you reduce device time.
  • SpaceApp: understand how much you’re using your phone to achieve more balance and become more conscious about how much time you’re spending on your device.

If the thought of using an app for digital detox seems contradictory to you, try to incorporate these strategies into your daily device use:

  • Turn off notifications: minimize your distractions and avoid the lure of alerts.
  • Plan tech-free time in your day: work in some new technology-free rituals – spend 15 minutes in your morning routine before looking at your phone, read a book or meditate right before bed rather than shifting from screen to sleep.
  • Use gray scale: many apps aren’t as exciting or stimulating in black and white. Try doing it for an hour a day and see how it affects your desire for your device.
  • Commit to one screen at a time: who hasn’t scrolled Instagram while on hour three of a Game of Thrones binge? Try to focus on one screen at a time to minimize your brain’s acclimatization to distraction.

Check out the TELUS Wise tip sheet, Managing Screens in your Home, for more ideas on helping your family achieve better balance.

These unprecedented times are certainly challenging for us all, but I’m confident that with some self-care and a little help from technology, we will get through this together.

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