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Best Free iPhone Games for Calming Anxiety and Relaxing

Stress and anxiety suck, big time, and they always seem to strike hardest when you need to be at your best. While it’s usually smart to address the issues at the root of your stress/anxiety, sometimes we all just need a quick way to relax and calm down. These are all free game apps that I find helpful when in a pinch. My research comes from personal experience and sites like Gizmodo and Mic.

Calm

OK, so Calm is not really a game—it’s a meditation app. The premium content comes at a cost, but there are lots of shorter meditation practices (10 minutes) that are free. The app will walk you through meditation specifically for stress, and there’s no experience required. I love this app more than others like Headspace because I swear it can read my mind. Every time I catch myself thinking “jeeze, I’m SO awful at meditating,” the app will reply “and if you think you’re bad at meditating, there’s no such thing.” How’s THAT for an awesome way to combat stress AND self-criticism?

Neko Atsume

This game is absolutely wonderful because it involves CATS! Everyone starts out with a yard that you can then fill with toys and treats. Cats will wander in and out of the yard as they please (because cats). You can read up on each cat and take pictures of them being pixelatedly adorable. Up your game by “purchasing” the coolest gadgets and highest-quality chow!

Rise Up

Keep a balloon from running into obstacles as it makes its way toward what I can only assume is space. This game is challenging, but in a way that you really don’t care if you win or lose so there’s no pressure. Instead, it’s just mind-numbingly calming.

Cut the Rope

Candy tied to ropes
Cut the ropes and use balloons
Feed the blob candy

Haiku FTW! Now go out and get that li’l blob some noms!

Homescapes

This spin-off of Candy Crush is WAY better than the original. First off, there are no sparkling colors and flashing lights that feels, to me, seizure-inducing. Secondly, Homescapes is fun because it has a storyline. Help Austin the butler fix up his parents’ mansion and (potentially) get a date (I don’t know, I’m only on level 400, but I’m REALLY hoping he gets the girl!). NOTE: I will warn that this game can be sexist. The mother spends a good amount of time lamenting her inability to bake a pie without burning it and “woe-is-me I’m a terrible housewife yada yada.” BUT, if you can ignore those blips of yes-a-white-dude-probably-invented-this-game, then it’s a LOT of fun.

Jurassic Park Builder

DINOSAURS! Need I say more? Create your own park, invent new dinosaurs, complete tasks and battle your beasts to make more money. This game is pretty slow. Turns out, it takes a long time for dinosaurs to hatch—even in the game world. BUT, if you’re looking for something to relax your brain, there’s nothing like feeding a dinosaur and watching it evolve.

Boggle and/or Ruzzle

Find as many words as you can in the shortest amount of time. This game can be a *little intense because of the timed aspect, but it really does a great job of taking your mind off of whatever’s stressing you out.

Words with Friends

My Algebra II teacher must’ve been crazy stressed because she spent most of the class hunkered down at her computer, playing this game. And though I sometimes get flashbacks from high school, that doesn’t mean this game can’t be super calming. Play Scrabble with people from around the world. Don’t have the attention span for a full game? No problem! You can sign up for lightning rounds that last about two minutes. AND, if you play against the app, you can access the game offline. WIN!

EndlessDucker

In this game, you play a dude who jumps and ducks his way through obstacle courses that resemble pool halls, football fields and outdoor trails. Drones, flying pies and low tree branches all have it out for you. The farther you get, the faster you run and the more you have to rely on your reflexes. It’s simple, engaging and totally stress-reducing.

Angry Birds

We all know about Angry Birds. There’s even a movie. After years of avoiding the inevitable, I finally broke down and got the game. I’ve been missing out! For some reason, chucking birds at pigs is incredibly satisfying. Give it a go yourself!

Outfolded

Unfold shapes to get from one point to another. This is like geometry on steroids! And, if you’re stuck, the app lets you ask for hints. =) I love the game’s design and feel—just looking at the landscape is already pretty calming.

Six!

Break down the Tetris wall
Let yourself relax
Don’t let the hexagon fall
Keep depleting those stacks

Your fingers must be steady
To clean up the mess
When the download is ready
Your mind will destress

P.S. This game is my fav so far!

Tetris and/or Pong and/or Snake

All the “old” games are available for the iPhone and kick-butt when it comes to busting stress. Download a few and take a ride down memory lane!

Photo by Leon Liu on Unsplash

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How to Host a Friend Speed Dating Event

Friendship is hard. Once you’re out of the friendship-incubator that is college, it’s tough to meet new people outside your own little bubble. I’m here to help! Friend speed dating is for awesome women who are interested in platonic friendships with other, similarly badass, ladies! It’s a speed-dating format without any of the awkwardness. I’ll be serving up huge helpings of coffee, tea, cookies, doughnuts*—and friendship! *Email me at news@mbloudoff.com if you are vegan etc. so we make sure you get some noms, too!

How To

As I planned this event, I relied heavily upon this librarian’s site. She had a GREAT explanation of how the event should flow, and it was really helpful as I planned my own meetup. I made some alterations, like each “couple” got to talk for five minutes. In retrospect, if I’d had a smaller group (we had 16), it would’ve been great to let people chat for even longer!

I printed and cut out groups of ice breaker questions and placed one chunk of questions in front of each seat. I found the questions here and here.

I used yellow sticky notes with arrows to direct people on where to go after their time was up. Then I printed out this star and this arrow for the trickier moves. (See the librarians site above for details on movements!) Overall, the sticky notes and the arrows didn’t help so it’s best if you stand by at the end of each chat to direct people until they get the hang of it.

In case of an odd number of people, I had a “craft station” where folks could either draw or write letters. We ended up not using it. I just filled in to make it an even number until the latecomers showed up. (Note: If you do decide to fill in, make sure you rotate like everyone else! I didn’t rotate for a couple rounds, and it made things a little tricky toward the end of the meetup!)

Food

I made sure to provide my email address and ask about food preferences. It’s just common courtesy, but it goes a long way to making everyone feel welcome. While no one emailed me about food allergies, I still had fruit, gluten-free cookies and chocolate, in addition to the dozen (Dunkin’) doughnuts, two muffins and a cinnamon role, so that there were options for everyone. On top of that, I bought tea for everyone in the group who wanted it (our group wasn’t into coffee!). The coffee shop we were in just filled up a gallon jug of hot water and had a variety of tea bags available. (I set this all up in advance with the manager.)

We had all the fruit, a muffin, a cinnamon role and six doughnuts left at the end of the evening so I had everyone take some home. I think it’s better to get too many treats than not to have enough, but in the future I think I might just bring doughnuts and skip the cinnamon role and muffins. (Fruit is a must-have for any vegan etc. people!)

Venue

I started off by reaching out to a whole bunch of established restaurants and cafes, and was astounded by how difficult it was to host events at these places. Some asked for thousands of dollars to make a reservation! That wasn’t going to happen.

Out of ideas, I reached out to an acquaintance who hosts weekly meetup.com groups for a rather large number of people. She recommended this new coffee shop called Central Coffee Bar. It was PERFECT! The service was amazing and the people were incredibly accommodating. (I think new places are great partners because they’re still trying to generate buzz around their new venture, and they want to develop relationships with the community.) I will definitely be giving them a ring for my next event!

For friend speed dating in particular, make sure it’s a place that’s relatively quiet and large enough to accommodate a big group. There’s nothing worse than having to shout over other people when you’re trying to get to know someone new, or having to squeeze around tables and chairs to move spots when the time is up.

Marketing

Marketing was, by far, the most difficult part of the whole process. I tried printing out posters and posting them in the neighborhood, but that was super ineffective. Most places wouldn’t let me put up posters, and the ones that did ended up tearing them down in just a day or two. Complete waste of money!

My next tactic was using Facebook’s paid advertising to get the word out. But unless you’re willing to fork over the big bucks, and I’m talking more than $50, it’s not worth it. I paid the least amount, $16, and no one told me they saw the event pop up on their Facebook. I’m glad I did it just to cover all my bases, but I don’t think it helped with marketing.

Eventbrite got the most number of people to sign up. Creating an account is free and very easy. I shared the page with local listserves, blogs and asked my friends to post it to their Facebooks and share it with their coworkers. This was, by far, the BEST idea. I don’t know how often I can bug friends to be my personal marketers, but I’m gonna give it go for my next event, too! (Thanks, guys, you rock!)

(And if you’re worried that friends sharing the event will mean that only YOUR friends will show up, thus defeating the purpose of meeting new people, don’t worry about it. I only had two of my friends show up, and they were from different friend groups so they’d never even met!)

I also paid for a meetup group. It only got me two sign ups, but I think it was worth it for future events. Now, everyone who went to friend speed dating can join my meetup group to get alerts about my future events. We’ll see if that pans out! So far I have just under 100 members in the meetup group, which could be helpful for my next foray into marketing.

Lessons

I had a blast, and so did everyone else! The attendees all said they loved it, and—better yet—they all made new friends! SUCCESS! *big smiles

Looking back, I think my biggest lesson is that most people are not hardcore planners like I am. (I love planning months in advance!) Most people signed up in the last three days. I went from five participants to 16—with one person signing up the day of! SO, if you’re planning an event, don’t freak out if you don’t have “enough” people one week out. They’re probably just more spontaneous folks! (Plus, many blogs won’t promote your event until the week-of so that also explains some of it.)

Along the same lines, I also think I worried far too much over making everything “perfect.” Several people complimented me on how organized everything was, and that made me SUPER happy! But, when little mishaps occurred, everyone just went with the flow. I even asked an attendee to take over timing the event so I could go pay the bill—and they were more than happy to do it. So my advice is to breathe more and worry less. =)

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