Living with anxiety or depression can be extremely difficult, but there are more resources out there for those struggling with mental illness than ever before. If you are struggling, I highly encourage you to seek out a therapist or other licensed professional, but if you feel that this is not an option for you currently, or are still a little tentative on the idea, here are some games and apps that can help you cope.
This is more of a simulator than I game, but I absolutely love it. You pop open the game window, and you can cultivate your own little pot of succulents, complete with your very own pet snail, and accompanied by an underscore of relaxing music. A lesson in self-care, I check in with my succulents every day or two to water, weed them, and relax to some chill music. Viridi can be purchased on Steam here.
From the acclaimed author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, comes a phone app that encourages you to overcome any chronic ailment, from depression, anxiety, or physical illness, by challenging yourself to “power up” and complete daily challenges. You can find it for iPhone and Android.
Calm is one of my favorite meditation apps. You can customize your image background and looping soundtrack, and choose from a range of free mediations grounded in mindfulness, or just set yourself a timer. You can find it for iPhone and Android.
If you are feeling suicidal, there are helplines you can reach out to, to help in a crisis. But in the intermediate times between crises, Safety Plan is a great app to keep track of your warning signs, remember good coping strategies, and keep a list of contacts always at hand in case of emergency. You can find it on iPhone and Android.
Need a break? Flower for the PS3 and PS4 is a great game to relax with. You play as a flower petal, controlling the winds that pick it up, and carry it around the countryside collecting other petals, ultimately healing the polluted land. You can find it here.
Stop, Breathe & Think
This app for your phone has a great selection of guided meditations for you to choose from. Every time you open the app, you’re prompted to check in emotionally: how are you feeling physically? Mentally? What words would you use to describe your current state? Your answers generate a list of the best meditations suited for you at the current moment. You can find it here.
Cognitive Diary CBT Self Help
A lot of therapists utilize CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in their practices. To sustain you between visits, try out the Cognitive Diary CBT Self Help app. It prompts you to make entries guiding you through a current heightened emotional state, and to think through your irrational beliefs until you reach a list of solutions specific to your reactions. You can find it for Android here.
Made by the same company as Flower, Journey is a great game to sit down and play while anxious or depressed. You control a nameless, fantastical character trekking through a stunning, desert world, learning how to utilize your incredible powers and reconnecting with your character’s ancestry. Not a word of dialogue is spoken, and the soundtrack is breathtaking. While you're playing, you might even bump into another player, to share your journey with in real time! You can find it here.
This is a great game to just hop in and distract yourself, without being too intensive. It’s like a virtual box of never ending legos. Even if you’re not much a gamer (or if you are, but not much into resource-management based games), I’d recommend listening to the Minecraft soundtrack when you are anxious, or even while studying. It’s designed to keep you focused! You can find it here.