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Mental Health

Top digital tools people using during pandemic to maintain their mental health

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millennial hipster guy enjoy no stress peace of mind lounge on sofa at home. Men do meditation with laptop and phone on sofa

More than three-fourths of Americans have increased their use of digital tools that support their mental health during the pandemic, new research suggests.

In a recent survey of 2,003 respondents, 76% said the stress of the public health crisis had inspired them to practice self-care more than they had before.

Among the tools respondents find most effective for improving their mental well-being are self-care videos and channels on streaming services (42%), hobby-related programs like online yoga classes or art tools (33%) and use of mental health apps (also 33%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kaiser Permanente, the survey also found that 48% of people who practice mental-health self-care are seeking ways to positively cope with emotional distress related to anxiety, depression and anger.

Forty percent named financial challenges as the concern they wanted to address. Some 39% cited health concerns, and 37% noted difficulties with family and friends as a source of worry.

Other concerns identified by respondents include loneliness and social challenges (35%), problems with intimate relationships (33%), concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic (33%) and other current events (29%), and worries about work and school (26%).

To help manage their mental load, 57% meditate regularly as part of their self-care routine, for an average of two hours a week.

That works out to about 18 minutes a day — or 109 hours a year, when taken cumulatively.

Respondents cited numerous benefits from these meditation sessions, including improved focus (60%), improved sleep (57%), better emotional control (51%) and better sex (42%).

About half of the people surveyed said they’ve looked for ways to manage substance use within the past two years.

The self-care tools they’ve found most beneficial for achieving this include meditation apps (52%), in-person therapy (45%) and virtual therapy (43%).

“The events of the past several years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have clearly taken a toll on our emotional well-being,” said Cosette Taillac, LCSW, vice president for Mental Health and Wellness at Kaiser Permanente. “Digital self-care tools for mindfulness, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy can help boost resilience and offer useful and accessible self-help tools for people experiencing emotional distress.”

Although more than half of respondents expressed an interest in improving their mental health with new digital tools, some are still hesitant to do so.

Forty-two percent said these tools seem complicated, while 41% are concerned about their privacy online or don’t think digital tools will be as effective as real-life tools.

And a quarter of respondents are afraid of “doing it wrong.”

“Digital self-care tools are not meant to take the place of care from a skilled mental health clinician,” Taillac said. “But evidence-based apps can complement that care and support overall emotional well-being. That’s especially true when the app has been vetted and recommended by a trusted health care provider, making it more likely that patients will feel comfortable using the resource.”

MOST POPULAR FORMS OF MENTAL HEALTH SELF-CARE

  • Exercise - 58%
  • Get more rest/sleep - 54%
  • Listen to music - 48%
  • Eat healthy foods - 45%
  • Meditate/do yoga - 43%

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