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Op/Ed

10 mental health apps for active maintenance and mindfulness

(EDITORIAL) There are virtually hundreds of apps available to help you deal with mental health problems. Here are 10 good services which can help you monitor your mental health and help you learn to reduce stress.

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talkspace mental health

Let’s face it, making an appointment with your doctor isn’t always easy. When it comes to mental health clinicians, it can take three to four weeks to get an appointment. Most clinicians only see patients during the day, and if you need prolonged therapy, it can be difficult to get away for a couple of hours each week to see someone.

Fortunately, the internet has some answers. There are virtually hundreds of apps available to help you deal with mental health problems. Here are 10 good services which can help you monitor your mental health and help you learn to reduce stress.

**Please note** – If you’re in a crisis, you should seek professional help immediately. Call 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1‑800‑273‑TALK.

Below are 10 wonderful mental health apps to choose from:

1. Breathe2Relax
iOS, Android
Free

Breathe2Relax walks you through belly breathing, which is supposed to decrease the body’s fight-or-flight response. Before you do the exercise, you measure your stress. When finished, you report how you feel. This is a good reminder to practice healthy breathing techniques and to slow down when stressed or angry.

2. Lantern
Web-based with iOS supplemental app for users
Monthly fee

With Lantern , you take an assessment to test to find your strengths and weaknesses and what you want to work on. You’re matched with one of their customized plans and a professional coach who is an expert in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. It is a subscription based service, but the price per month might be less than a weekly appointment with a professional therapist.

3. Talkspace
Web, iOS, Android
Monthly fee

Talkspace is a subscription therapy service, with therapists available throughout the day. You send a message to your therapist in a private chat room. There are no contracts, and you are charged on a monthly basis. All therapists are carefully selected and have more than 3,000 hours of clinical experience.

4. PTSD Coach
iOS, Android
Free

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD developed PTSD Coach app for veterans, active military personnel and civilians to help deal with the symptoms of PTSD. It’s not a clinical tool, but it can help you track symptoms and find out what works over time. I felt like it was a bit clunky to set up, but it’s very practical in nature.

5. Optimism
Web, iOS, Android
Free with in-app purchases to send data to a clinician

Optimism is an app that focuses on self-tracking your mood and other triggers to your mental health. Not only can you get a better understanding of your mental health and find methods that work in reducing stress, you can also set up a wellness plan. The fee-based aspect of the app lets you send information to your clinician. Your family members can also use the app to help give you information about your behavior.

6. SAM: Self Help for Anxiety Management
iOS, Android
Free

Cope with anxiety using SAM. The app offers 25 self-help options that can be personalized to your own worries. You record your anxiety levels and identify triggers, then you get ideas on how to manage you stress. There is an anonymous social cloud feature where you can talk to others who are using the app. The iPhone says that the app might slow down your phone.

7. Pacifica
Web, iOS, Android
Free

With Pacifica, you have the ability to track moods and your health to better understand your patterns. You check in daily with your mood and other health habits, then complete mindfulness and therapy-based activities. Pacifica sends an email to you each week with a report. You also have the option to connect with other Pacifica users. It has many more options to help you reach your goals and to change your thought patterns.

8. Headspace Web, iOS, Android
Free for the first 10 days

Headspace helps you learn mindfulness and meditation. It’s recommended to be used in conjunction with a health provider, but if you’re trying to get better with concentration or breathing, this app has some great content. It’s easy to use, and the techniques have been shown to reduce your overall stress.

9. Panic Relief
iOS, Android
Free, upgrade to get more help with the paid version

Panic Relief helps you through progressive muscle relaxation of the arm when you’re experiencing stress and panic. It was designed by Danish researchers to help clients get over their fears. The upgraded version includes more options, such as deep breathing techniques, to help you find calm when you’re in a crowd, at the dentist, or on an airplane.

10. 7 Cups of Tea
Web
Free, subscription plans available

7 Cups of Tea boasts more than 13 million conversations as I’m writing this article. The gist of 7 Cups is that you can connect with a trained listener any time of the day or night. The caveat is that these listeners are probably not professionals, just laypeople trained to listen to someone. It’s a great option for those times when you want someone to listen without judging the situation. The paid subscriptions include a therapist for online therapy.

I am a firm believer in therapy and medication to manage depression, anxiety, or any other treatable mental health disorder. Check your insurance for access to virtual doctors and experts. I have Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Oklahoma) and I have that option through the portal.

There’s no shame in needing treatment for mental health issues.

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Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Op/Ed

10 small things you can do for your business while Netflixing

We know the holidays are a time to relax, but before normal working hours have returned, you can still do things for your business in between episodes on Netflix. Here’s 10 simple things that won’t cut into your holiday.

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For many real estate agents, the holidays can slow business down. It’s time for some #ProductivityAndChill.

Instead of spending all day binge-watching Hulu or Netflix, in between every episode take 10 to 15 minutes to do something for your business. Here are some great ideas for things that don’t take long, but provide some long-lasting benefits.

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Productivity and chill

1. Get inspired by your favorite websites. Where do you like to shop or get your news information? Browse through their site with one purpose in mind, to see why it draws you in and how you can implement their methods into your own business.

2. Catch up on the news. Read some articles here or at The American Genius that you might have overlooked or passed by because you thought they didn’t pertain to you. Keeping up with various industries can benefit you.

3. Use your social media tools to set up posts on Twitter or Facebook.

4. Improve your webpages by writing new product descriptions or to optimize images for SEO.

5. Go through the App Store to find new apps which can help make your life easier.

6. Learn to use a new social media platform to reach out to new customers.

7. Go through your social media feed. See what people are talking about and what’s trending. Make notes when you get inspiration.

8. Clean up the documents in your laptop. Organize them more effectively so you can always find what you need.

9. Clean up your email. Unsubscribe from newsletters that you don’t ever look at. Delete messages that are old. Set up folders to save information that you may need at a later date.

10. Customize your email. Set it up to pre-sort emails into different folders to allow you to work more productively when you get back to work after the New Year.

These little tasks can eat away at your time when you’re busy trying to get things done, but when you’re relaxed and just want to feel more productive, take a few minutes to do something that won’t overtask your brain, but needs to be done to keep you more organized throughout your week.

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Op/Ed

A negotiation strategy successful people always use

(OP/ED) Successful people didn’t wake up one day in a leadership role, they used this negotiation strategy every day to win.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

One of my earliest lessons in the art of negotiation went down at home, as the youngest child trying to get the one up on my older brother. It was the mid 90s, Pepsi was rewarding loyal customers with Pepsi Points hidden in their 24-packs. I don’t think either of us knew what the hell we would even do with the Pepsi Points, but we both knew we wanted them. So for hours we negotiated.

There was yelling. There was name calling. Finally, my dad came in with a pair of garden scissors and proceeded to cut the Pepsi Points voucher in half. We were speechless. Our dreams of amassing a wealth of Pepsi Points turned into a lose-lose scenario.

Sadly, our negotiation experiences today end up following a similar pattern. Long, energy draining negotiations end in lose-lose scenarios. My own pattern of negotiations gone wrong only began to change when I became a community mediator in college. I learned from leaders in business, law, and social work negotiation skills that have helped me in both my professional and personal life.

A good starting point to any negotiation scenario is understanding negotiation motivators. Some of the obvious motivators are money and resources. These obvious motivators are at the tip of the iceberg. In negotiations, these motivators are often written or verbally communicated. However, there can be a handful of other motivators hiding beneath the surface. These motivators represent the hidden, yet powerful underside of the iceberg.

Here are some common hidden motivators to keep in mind: respect, accountability, safety, and power.

Seeking clarity involves slowing down the negotiations and proactively checking in with the other party to ensure you’re understanding points of agreement or disagreement correctly.

Often, this looks like simply taking time in the negotiations to summarize progress. For instance, negotiating with the head of another department about the use of meeting rooms. A summarizing statement on when and why each party needs the meeting rooms can be critical in correcting assumptions earlier on rather than later. It also helps ensure objectivity.

I’ll be totally honest and admit to times when I’ve been tempted to turn negotiations personal. In my head I’ve said things like, “Sally wants the meeting rooms all to herself” or “accounting is always trying to hold me back.”

Seeking clarity by summarizing key points helps keep us grounded in reality, and ensures that we are working towards each side’s true needs rather than the needs we assume in our heads.

We hear this term in sales pitches, business seminars and relationship workshops. But how can we create win-wins the midst of negotiations that are often stressful and complex? Well, let’s break down the win for both sides.

First, we create the win for ourselves by coming into our negotiation meetings with a clear picture of what our goals are both long and short-term.

In negotiating a purchase, I may want monetary savings now, but in the long term I’m willing to pay more if a product can meet my long term goals of reliability and convenience.

Ensuring a winning scenario for those on the other side of the negotiation table involves creating buy-in. This doesn’t mean stating your solutions and getting the other party to begrudgingly agree. It’s about asking open-ended questions and giving the other side a chance to craft their ideal solution. Sometimes, simply asking the other party what their ideal solution looks like can give you a head start in reaching a mutually beneficial scenario.

The most important step in creating a win-win scenario is to embrace creativity. Click To Tweet

We do this by focusing not just on WHAT the needs are, but HOW those needs are met. Think outside the box. For instance, what are some non-traditional ways of structuring payments? What are some non-traditional employee benefits? What are some non-traditional services you can add to a contract?

Negotiating is one of life’s necessities. Unless you live in your own self-sustaining plastic bubble, eventually you’ll need to practice the art of effective negotiation.

Don’t be like my Pepsi Point obsessed eight-year-old self, slipping into a lose-lose scenario due to lousy negotiation skills.

Practice seeing the other side of the iceberg, seeking clarity, and embracing creativity. These three negotiation skills can quickly turn a lose-lose scenario into a mutually beneficial one for both parties.

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Op/Ed

The music you’re listening to may dictate your productivity levels

(EDITORIAL) Whether it’s a podcast, news, or music, most people are listening to *something* while at work – so what makes you the most productive?

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music for productivity

For some, productivity requires a state of concentration that can only be achieved in silence. But workplaces are seldom so quiet, and truth be told, most of us prefer to have some background music playing while we work. Some people swear they can’t work or study without it.

Personally, I find music helpful for encouraging productivity and creativity. It distracts the part of my brain that would normally be chattering away – the voice in my head worrying, wondering, and daydreaming. I find that music neutralizes this inner voice, freeing up my brain to focus on the task at hand.

More and more research backs up what many of us experience – a state of enhanced calm, focus, and creativity when we listen to music while working. Deep Patel at Entrepreneur.com has a list of the best types of music to serve as the soundtrack to your workday.

Typically, music without lyrics is best for working or studying, since lyrics tend to catch our attention. Research has so consistently shown classical music to boost productivity that the phenomenon has it’s own name – the Mozart effect.

But other forms of wordless music can work as well. Patel recommends cinematic music for making the daily grind feel as “grandiose” as a Hollywood epic. Meanwhile, video game music has been specially designed to help gamers concentrate on game challenges; likewise, it can help keep your office atmosphere energized. Soothing nature sounds, such as flowing water or rainfall, can also help promote a calm but focused state.

Music with lyrics is okay too, as long as it doesn’t turn your office into a karaoke bar. Cognitive behavioral therapist Dr. Emma Gray worked with Spotify to identify the characteristics of music that can actually change our brain waves. She found that music between 50 and 80 beats per minute can trigger the brain an “alpha” state that is associated with relaxation and with being struck with inspiration.

Really, any music will do, as long as you like it. Research from the music therapy department at the University of Miami found that workers who listened to their preferred artists and genres had better ideas and finished their tasks more quickly.

What styles of music help you focus during your workday? I myself enjoy the collection of “lo-fi” or “chill-hop” playlists on YouTube. This music has a consistent beat that is engaging without being distracting, and the accompanying video generally features an adorable cartoon character to keep you company.

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