20131018-102503.jpg

Aaaahhhh…screen shot from White Noise App

What do you do to relieve stress? I, for one, have a tendency to blow off the fact that I’m stressed, thinking it’s not a big deal, until it becomes a problem. Or I do something dumb, like drink more coffee, to get myself through the day. (Getting even more wired—not a good idea!) So lately, I’ve been looking for some healthier (and easy) ways to get my stress level under control. Technology to the rescue! Did you know that the App Store is well-stocked with relaxation apps? And, there’s no need to get stressed trying to figure out which app to download. I’ve done some research and some testing so you don’t have to! My top five stress-busting apps for iOS are listed below.

If you feel stressed at times, you’re not alone. According to the 2013 American Psychological Association Stress in America study, approximately seven in 10 Americans report experiencing symptoms of stress such as irritability or anger, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed and changes in sleeping habits. And, women consistently report higher stress levels than men.

Left unchecked, stress—from your job (even if your job is “just” parenting), your thoughts, life events or your living environment—can build up and cause health problems over time. But you can prevent stress from becoming a big deal if you do a little bit to manage it every day. Creating a regular stress management routine can really improve your health and happiness. By putting stress relief tools right on your phone or iPad, stress-busting apps let you de-stress anywhere and anytime. No excuses!

Here are those five apps I promised. Check them out. They can put relief, literally, right into your hands.

BellyBio Interactive Breathing App (by Relaxline, FREE). Deep breathing is a great starting point for stress relief. Many of us go around holding our breath when we’re stressed. If you have never practiced deep breathing, you’ll be amazed at how it helps relax your entire body. This “biofeedback” app is fun to use. You place your phone on your belly and the app gives you visual and/or sound feedback as you breathe, helping you to slow your respiration into a deep belly breath. (more…)

A big part of parenting now is being involved in kids’ media choices. As pop culture gets pushed down to younger and younger children, parents have to work harder to figure out which songs, games, movies and books are appropriate for their child’s age group. While the proliferation of technology makes our job harder in many ways, technology tools can also help parents in our quest to stay on top of the media our kids are consuming. Inspired by my friend Duong Sheahan’s post on her top five apps for college students, I decided to make a list of my favorite apps for what I call “conscious parenting.” Here are some apps I use to make media choices and to buy or rent books, music and movies.

Common Sense Media If you’ve never checked out Common Sense Media, you are missing out on a great parenting resource. This independent organization provides free reviews, advice and media literacy curriculum to help families and educators make good choices for kids of all ages. I love their 10-point mission, which reads more like a manifesto on “media sanity.” Reviews use child-development principles to determine age-appropriateness, but the site also lets kid and parent reviewers weigh in. The Common Sense Media app lets you read reviews of movies, games, TV shows, music, and more on the fly. Even better, the reviews are sorted by age so you can quickly find what is appropriate for your kid.

SoundHoundEver find yourself wondering whether that pop song on the radio is age-appropriate? Soundhound will help you figure that out pretty quickly. With this instant music recognition app, just let it “listen” to the song for a few seconds. Soundhound will identify the title and artist, and from there give you access to the lyrics. Take a look. Can you read them without blushing? Soundhound is also fun to use for identifying music you like, and finding new music you’ll enjoy.

Now that you know what’s age-appropriate, how to get that media quickly? Most of the parents I know are constantly on-the-go, so it makes sense to have apps that save time, like these:

Amazon.com: Assuming you already have an Amazon.com account, this app makes it super fast and easy to order books, movies, and music for your family.

Redbox:  If you like to rent movies from Redbox, you’ll love this app. It lets you find the movie you’re looking for at a Redbox near you, make sure it’s available, and reserve it for pickup. What could be easier? Again, it’s the on-the-fly convenience that makes this app so attractive. I’ve used it many times in the car on the way home from a soccer game.

Fandango: I use Fandango to find movie times near me. It also suggests nearby restaurants, if you’re planning a family night out. I  haven’t used it to actually purchase tickets yet. I find it to be reliable and quick, but I’d love suggestions on other movie apps.

Anything to add? What apps make parenting easier for you?