Couple having fun on a date in the early morning hours | Getty
Traffic jams. Frantic emails from your boss. Office gossip. It’s hard not to be stressed these days. But the good news is that technology is here to help (and no, we don’t mean hours of Candy Crush). Here are four must-download apps to help you sail through each part of your day -- from your morning commute to that dreaded after-work gym session.
Remember the day you discovered Pandora? You plugged in Arcade Fire. Then heard The National. And so on down the indie-fabulous rabbit hole. Now you can have that same exploratory experience, but with podcasts.
Talk-radio fans, meet Swell.
Swell is a free app that streams content (as short as one minute and up to two hours) from NPR, iTunes, the BBC and more, learning over time what you do and don’t like and making selections accordingly.
When you sign up, Swell will start with fairly wide-ranging stuff. We got a 15-minute TED Talk about stress followed by a 17-minute BBC segment on the G20 summit followed by a one-hour This American Life episode about rest stops.
While you’re at work, stream Focus@Will
Did you know that most people can stay focused for only about 20 minutes at a time? And for those of us who live on the Internet, it’s more like a millisecond before... you... must... mustard... Dijon... Beyoncé...
Wait, what were we saying?
Oh, right. Life is distracting. And here to help is Focus@will, a new music streaming service ($4 per month after 100 free minutes) that’s designed to make you buckle down and concentrate.
To get started, plug in your desired work time and preferred musical genre (classical, up tempo, “alpha chill,” etc.). The app will then stream a seamless playlist of focus-ready jams.
We tried it for the recommended 100-minute cycle and were completely sold. We found a groove, stayed on task and hardly thought about Beyoncé at all.
Or, channel your energy with Soundrown
Oh, the joys of working from a coffee shop: The aroma of freshly brewed espresso. The sounds of cash registers and tapping keyboards. The wildly caffeinated energy that seems to scream, “This is 1994, and you are totally welcome to borrow my Collective Soul CD!”
But in the sober light of 2013, who actually has time to camp out at Starbucks for hours on end? Don’t you kind of just want the coffee-shop vibe without having to go to an actual coffee shop?
Well, now your house or office can at least sound like a busy café, thanks to a free new streaming website: Soundrown.
Think of Soundrown as the Spotify of background noise. Just click on the channel of your choice and stream the ambient sounds you find most appealing -- say, a chugging train or a trickling fountain (not recommended on a full bladder). Each channel runs for about 30 minutes, and your computer can have other sounds going at the same time.
After work, blow off some steam with TempoRun
Scenario: You spent all day making what you thought to be the ultimate workout playlist. Yet, as soon as you set out on that brisk after-work jog, you realize that Diana Ross is much too fast. And Diddy? Surprisingly slow. Soon, you’re dragging your feet and wasting far too much time hitting “skip.”
Don’t let your music drag you down. Instead, turn to the TempoRun app.
Here’s how it works: Upon downloading, TempoRun ($3) assesses your phone’s music library and categorizes all your songs into levels: 1 (slow walk; adagio) to 10 (full-out sprint; allegro). Then, using the app’s sleek and easy-to-use interface, you can choose the level to which you’ll be running and Tempo Run seamlessly creates a playlist that perfectly matches your pace.
As you wind down after dinner, relax with Calm.com
Hey you...giant ball of stress wrapped in a neat little casing of “keeping it all together.” Maybe it’s time to put down the latte, call off the micromanagement and treat yourself to a few moments of genuine relaxation.
No, we don’t mean an ashram getaway or tantric drumming class.
Thanks to Calm.com, meditation can be as easy as popping on your headphones
For two, 10 or 20 minutes, you’ll be treated to the sounds of forest rains, lapping tides or chirping birds (your choice from a list of blissful surroundings) as the world’s most soothing voice-over actress guides you through a series of breathing and visualization exercises. (Sense your arms becoming heavy… Allow your mind and body to meet in the moment…)