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I was working on some other topics to share with you here on Frugal Thumb this week, but in light of the current news about coronavirus, I thought maybe a post about calming meditation apps and breathing exercises might be more helpful for us all right now.

I know I need to remember to take deep breaths and meditate more often in the coming weeks!

It seems like every email I open, every post on Facebook, and every scroll through the news is about coronavirus. The rate at which this illness spreads is sobering, low estimates put the death rate at 10 times that of the flu, there’s no vaccine, and we haven’t tested enough people to know how bad things are getting yet.

And plans are getting canceled left and right, which I am all for, by the way. (Read article: Cancel Everything)

Stress levels are sky high. So what’s a person to do?

Just a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing can make a world of difference. You’ve got to try this if you don’t already do it regularly.

And you can do these from home when you’re practicing your “social distancing.”

All apps and breathing exercises mentioned in this post are ones that you can use for free!

Just be aware: these apps all have in-app purchasing available, but there’s plenty of great free stuff. I personally stick with the freebies.

The 4 apps are awesome for audio recordings that lead you through meditations. However, if you need a more inconspicuous solution or you just don’t want to use an app, that’s where the 3 calming breathing exercises come into play. I’ve explained those in detail at the bottom of this post.

4 Free Calming Meditation Apps

1. Stop, Breathe, & Think

I love love love this meditation app!

Some of the highlights:

  • When you open the app, it asks you to “check in,” which allows you to select your current mental and physical stress levels, thoughts and moods. Then the app will recommend meditations based on your choices.
  • Most meditations are between 3 and 10 minutes in length, so you can do them when you’re short on time.
  • You can select the voice that you want to hear for many of the meditations, like if you prefer listening to a female or male.
  • When you’re done with a meditation, it will ask you to check in again so you can compare how you feel, before and after.
  • It even keeps a calendar of your check ins so you can see your improvement over time.

App Store Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/stop-breathe-think/id778848692

And there’s a version of Stop, Breathe, & Think just for kids!

Learning to meditate at a young age is great because it can be a lifelong skill to help with stress.

  • Each meditation comes with a cute animated video geared toward children.
  • There are meditations to help children go to sleep. When my daughter was younger, I used to show these meditation videos to her before bed and it would help her fall asleep.

App Store Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/stop-breathe-think-kids/id1215758068

2. Headspace

This is another great meditation app, especially if you like Australian accents. 🙂

Some of the highlights:

  • The free meditations in this app are even shorter at only 1-3 minutes long.
  • It has meditation courses- where each meditation builds on the last.
  • There are “sleepcasts,” longer 45-minute meditations designed to help you sleep.
  • You can also choose between a male or female voice in this app as well.
  • However, this app doesn’t have as many freebies as Stop, Breathe, & Think.

App Store Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/headspace-meditation-sleep/id493145008

3. Calm

This is a great app for providing white noise type recordings to help you relax and sleep.

Some of the highlights:

  • You can watch relaxing scenes, like a waterfall or mountain lake or rain on leaves.
  • For longer meditation sessions, this one is a winner.
  • It’s great for sleep sounds or background noise – all sorts to choose from like crickets, rain, piano, birdsong, ocean waves, and more.
  • This app also has meditation programs. For many of them, the first meditation is free and the rest require additional purchase.

App Store Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/calm/id571800810

4. Smiling Mind

I’m including this one because it was recently recommended to me by a psychologist friend.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t used this one much yet.

That being said, I love the name of it- such a positive visual to me!

Some of the highlights:

  • This one also asks you to check in on how you’re feeling before the meditation.
  • It has a variety of meditation lengths.
  • There is also a variety of meditations for all ages.

App Store Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/smiling-mind/id560442518


That concludes my list of 4 free meditation apps that you should try.

Now let’s move on to the breathing exercises that you can do to lower your stress level.

3 Types of breathing exercises

If you just want to relax with a breathing exercise and skip using an app, these are for you. You can even do these while you’re watching tv, listening to podcasts/audio books, or any time that you can’t listen to an audio meditation.

I suggest you give all three a try and see which works best for you.

1. Circle Breathing

This is my personal favorite.

Imagine your breathing is shaped like a circle.

Breathe in slowly and then out slowly in a continuous loop.

Do not hold your breath at the top of your breath in and do not hold your breath at the bottom of your breath out.

Consciously slow your breathing and take deep breaths as you relax into the circular rhythm of this breathing technique.

Allow yourself to quietly do this for at least a minute. Notice how you feel, and allow yourself to relax.

2. Square Breathing

For this breathing technique, imagine your breath comes in a square shape.

Breathe in deeply for a count of four, then hold it for a count of four.

Then let your breath out for a count of four and hold it again for a count of four.

Repeat this square as you allow your breathing to slow. Breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four…

Continue in this manner for at least a minute. Note how you feel and relax throughout the breathing exercise.

3. Triangle Breathing

The third breathing exercise is going to have you breathing in the shape of, you guessed it, a triangle.

This time, breathe in for a count of four, hold for 7, and then breathe out for 8.

This breathing technique is also sometimes called 4-7-8.

Repeat for a minute and let yourself relax into your breathing.


So there you have it. There are plenty of free choices when it comes to apps and breathing exercises to help you control your stress levels a bit during these trying times.

Do yourself a favor and give them a try!

Keep calm and meditate on,

Joni