No matter what your pandemic year has looked like, what your coping mechanisms of choice have been, or how close you are to getting your vaccine any time soon, your mental health could probably benefit from adding a mindfulness or meditation habit. Or at least doing something with your phone that isn’t doom-scrolling the news.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone in different ways, but stress and anxiety is a pretty universal effect. Whether or not you were already in the habit of taking some time regularly to meditate, the practice could be extra helpful for your mental health — because even once the worst of the pandemic has passed, we’ll still need to take care of ourselves and each other.
There are loads of apps, courses, and other resources to help you develop a regular practice, but some of the most popular apps and guides can be pricey. All the below have free resources, from special access for healthcare workers, to meditations and whole apps that are completely free anyway.
Take a deep, slow breath, and let’s have a look.
This app is great if you’re looking for something with minimal woo-woo vibes. There’s a pricey premium tier, but the Basics course of explanatory videos and guided sessions is free. With most, you can choose from a couple of options depending on how long you have, from just a couple of minutes to longer guided meditations. There are also free daily highlights you can do on your own, including some specific ones for dealing with coronavirus anxiety.
They’ve even created some free meditations especially for healthcare workers and other coronavirus responders, and are offering those workers free subscriptions too. Their website includes a whole section on managing anxiety around COVID-19, where you can access podcasts, quick meditations, and the free subs deal for health workers.
The OG “gym membership for your mind” is a comprehensive go-to in this, uh, space.
Calm, another super-popular mindfulness and meditation app, has curated to help you “meet this moment together”, all of which you can access in your browser without having to download the app and sign up.
As well as mindfulness exercises and guided meditations at a range of lengths, there are free “calm body” stretching exercises to take care of your working-from-home back, resources for kids, a talk on creativity from Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, calendars to print out with a mindfulness exercise or idea for every day, conversation and kindness prompts to help you reach out to others, and even a half-hour bedtime story read to you by the most chill man in showbiz, Matthew McConaughey. The page is available in English, Spanish, German, French, Korean, and Portuguese.
Insight Timer is incredibly popular and always free, with a library of over 30,000 guided meditations and a simple timer for meditation. You’ll need to log in to use them. There’s also a premium support tier, which has a generous 30-day trial.
This free app was designed originally for kids and young adults (and their parents and teachers), but it’s a comprehensive resource for everyone, including over 41 sessions across 10 modules in its Mindfulness Foundations section for adults. If you’re a fan of Australian accents, the narrator’s soothing, incredibly chill tones are a relaxing listen on their own.
Smiling Mind’s isn’t as comprehensive as Calm’s, as the resources are already completely free, but it features simple tips on self-care and grounding yourself during moments of panic, with a . There’s even a recipe for mindfully baking some simple cinnamon scrolls, with prompts at each step to ground you in the moment. The design is super kid-friendly, so it’s great if your Zoom-school-weary little ones need some calm.
This app from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center is always free, with (as you might guess) a research-based approach. It includes basic meditations in English and Spanish, and the Center also hosts weekly podcasts from the Hammer Museum, which are currently being held over Zoom for safety reasons and will no doubt be tackling some topical strategies.
This popular app, which focuses on five-minute sessions to help busy people develop a daily practice, also has a dedicated to combating anxiety and other feelings around the coronavirus crisis. You’ll need to sign up for a free account to access them.
It’s not an app, but this phone-friendly free site created by self-care app Shine offers daily mantras and meditations to cope with stress, as well as a handful more free meditations, FAQ advice from mental health experts, and links to delightful brain-bleach style content like Instagram accounts about round animals and Harry Styles’ Tiny Desk Concert. There’s even a section specifically for people experiencing xenophobic attacks and anti-Asian racism — which is, sadly, still as relevant in March 2021 as it was in March 2020.
UPDATE: March 19, 2021, 3:08 p.m. PDT This post was first published on March 25, 2020 but was updated with current information on March 19, 2021.