CAPS Staff Recommendations Corner

We have recommendations and strategies for anxiety/mood, productivity, mindfulness, and much more! Check out our staff tested tools and strategies for managing your well-being.


Mindfulness is not about being passive, fully “enlightened”, or achieving a zen state. It might not lessen or take away how you’re feeling – and that’s not the utility of it! It’s about building in a pause. Mindfulness helps us in tackling those moments when we are overwhelmed, stressed, and sometimes unfocused.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a premier mindfulness teacher and expert, defines mindfulness as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.


Check out this video of CAPS Staff Psychologist Dr. Engin Ontiveros discussing mindfulness and grounding techniques in a presentation called “Cultivating Calm in the Eye of the Storm: COVID, Graduate School and Beyond”


by Dr. Annika Graangard

Don’t know where to start? These apps are geared toward beginners and can be useful when you feel overwhelmed by all the options.

Oak: One of our CAPS staff members recommends Oak as a great introduction to meditation. The app is simple and decreases any feelings of being overwhelmed by too many choices or options. If you’re looking for a good way to get started on meditations but not have to make too many decisions, this is a good place to start! Best of all, it’s completely free!

Headspace: Headspace is one of the highest rated meditation apps out there. In addition to the app, their website includes free resources and samples of meditations. They offer different packages that relate to a wide range of topics including self-esteem, sleep, pain, anger, and stress & anxiety. Their website also answers some of your burning questions: How can you fit meditation into your already crammed schedule? What IS meditation? Does meditation really even work? In addition to these free resources, Headspace offers a 1 or 2 week free trial before you begin getting You can download the app from the App store on your mobile device or visit the Headspace website.

Calm: Calm is another well-known meditation app and was Apple’s App of the year in 2017. This app helps you feel… well, calm. It not only includes countless meditations, but also has resources for improving sleep; nature sounds and scenes for increased relaxation; videos on body movement and stretching; and stories about individuals who have found improvement in their lives through the use of Calm. Their website also includes a blog with entries from mindfulness and meditation experts. They have also compiled a free resources page that can be found here.

Smiling Mind: Smiling Mind is a Not-for-profit organization founded in Australia. Educators and psychologists worked together to develop a free app with numerous programs for different settings. There are programs for relationships, mindful eating, attention and concentration, and more. The app also offers programs in other languages and includes meditations that are fit for different settings (e.g. the workplace). Another benefit of the free smiling mind app is that they have good mindfulness for the classroom and for youth! Lastly, Smiling Mind has launched a program specific to COVID-19 called “Thrive Inside” as a way to encourage people to maintian their psychological well-being while at home. Check it out here.

Ten Percent Happier: Do you feel fidgety just thinking about having to sit still to complete a meditation? Do you feel skeptical that meditation works? This is the app for you! Dan Harris, an ABC News correspondent and former meditation skeptic, wrote a book about his own experience with meditation after he experienced a panic attack on the air. There is now a podcast, a website, a blog, and an app all dedicated to reducing skepticism around meditation and increasing happiness through its use. When signing up for a free trial on the app, it takes you through a series of three questions: “Do you meditate?” “What are your goals?” and “What’s in your way?” The app then generates specific resources tailored to your experience. Although the app is a bit costly once you are done with the free trial, there are many free resources on their website, including a “Coronavirus Sanity Pack.”

Stop, Think, and Breathe: True to its name, this app encourages you to pause to think about how you’re feeling right when you open it! You take a brief survey at the beginning of your use and then it provides you with a customized list of meditations that fit your current state. It also allows you to track any changes you experience after engaging in the meditation activities.



Sign up for our digital Mindful Mondays newsletter to receive a weekly “playlist” of meditations here!

Check out The John Main Center, Georgetown University’s resident contemplative center that offers a space for meditation and mindful programming to the Georgetown Community. Now offering online Zoom meditations.

Productivity (WFH & School)

Helpful Tips to WFH (Work From Home) and Do School Online
by Dr. Sonja Johansson

  1. Spend Time Wisely
    We tend to have optimal levels of structure that allow for maximum productivity. Too much time gets us overly relaxed about deadlines, and sucked into deep, internet rabbit holes on topics that are only tangentially related to our assignment. If we feel pressed for time we might stressfully squeeze out a less-than-perfect paper, keeping in mind that we need to move on quickly to prepare for an upcoming exam. Time helps us frame our priorities. So, what do you do when your structured schedule suddenly goes virtual? A common struggle  with on-line learning is with the greater degree of lenience with time. In other words, you can skip the 8am lecture and play it back at your leisure. But… will you? One way to avoid this slippery slope is to treat on-line classes like real classes. Show up on time, start and complete assignments as you would if you had to face your professors, and don’t make other plans during class times. With the rest of your time you can be more flexible. Added bonus: you can add “excellent self-discipline and time management skills” to your resume.
    *Source: Northeastern University Grad Program. Getting the Most out of an Online Class,  2/4/2019
  2. Eliminate Distractions
    Netflix, social media, YouTube, YouTube, YouTu- oh, where was I?Distractions. They’re everywhere! When you are taking online courses you are probably spending more time with your computer screen. It can be tricky to toggle between using your screen for class and then entertainment. While Western culture tends to glorify the multi-tasker,research findings indicate that our abilities to truly multitask are limited. In fact, straddling multiple conversations, a lecture, and a TikTok slows down our productivity and interferes with our learning processes. Consider temporarily blocking your digital distractions while you focus on school. If this feels too difficult to do on your own, you are not alone. Try apps like Cold Turkey or Freedom for some (ironic!) electronic support.
    *Source: Northeastern University Grad Program. Getting the Most out of an Online Class,  2/4/2019
  3. Get Connected
    Distance learning might feel like it’s, well… distant. Nevertheless, there are less conventional ways you can engage with your professors and peers: be more active on your classroom discussion boards, e-mail your professors or ask to have a phone or video chats with them during office hours. You can also reach out to classmates who you might have felt shy about approaching in person. Move from Canvas, to email, to text, WhatsApp, and snaps. Slide into each others’ DMs or retweet. When you finally get to meet up in person you’ll be reuniting with an old friend.
    *Source: Northeastern University Grad Program. Getting the Most out of an Online Class,  2/4/2019
  4. Learn About Yourself
    Not everyone learns the same way. Whatever your process, seize this opportunity to play to your own strengths. If you are a visual learner, maybe you focus on video lectures and readings. If you are an auditory learner, you might plug into your next lecture via headphones. If you don’t know your learning style, learn that! Play around with different styles of learning and see what works for you. Some of us are early birds and get our best work done before breakfast. Some of us  are night owls and our greatest ideas emerge late in the day. Distance learning allows you the flexibility to tailor your learning experience to yourself without the strict constraints of classical college structures. Organize your tasks and assignments according to when and how you do things best and most efficiently. Bonus points if you can accommodate and carry these habits into the Fall semester.
    *Source: Northeastern University Grad Program. Getting the Most out of an Online Class,  2/4/2019
  5. Be Consistent
    Once you’ve established  your preferred learning style, space, and time, be consistent. Studies show that your brain starts to associate context cues with behaviors. So, choosing your bed as your workplace may not be ideal, as you might feel cued to sleep when you’re trying to work, or vice versa. Choose a routine that signals to you when you are starting and ending work time. By default, this will also help you stay more organized as you keep all your files, books, and papers  in one general area. An additional benefit is that others you are living with will know when you are working, and (might) be less likely to disrupt you.
    *Source: Northeastern University Grad Program. Getting the Most out of an Online Class,  2/4/2019
  6. Stay Positive
    These are hard times. From canceled Spring Break trips to financial setbacks to grief and loss, the situation can seem dire and hopeless. It can be hard to keep yourself focused on schoolwork or other obligations when the world feels scary and there is so much suffering. In these times we are challenged to accept what feels unacceptable. Now, more than ever, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Pay attention to your mood. Check in with yourself and your loves ones.How are you feeling? Do you need a break? Do you need to e-connect with friends? What helps you feel inspired? Maybe a poem, a film, or it’s something like drawing or cooking. Practice compassion and perspective. Maybe this won’t be the best semester for your GPA. And maybe that’s okay, too.
  7. Dance
    …while you Work From Home


How You Can Start to Understand Yourself
by Dr. John Loughlin-Presnal

In choosing what app or combination of apps might work best to help you achieve optimal mental health, it can be useful to think about what symptoms you are most hoping to address.

Common anxiety symptoms include: constant worries, feeling on edge or restless, muscle tension, and irritability

Common depression symptoms include: constant depressed mood (for example, feeling sad, empty, hopeless), less interest or sense of pleasure in previously pleasurable activities, weight loss/weight gain, and feelings of worthlessness, or excessive guilt

Common combined anxiety and depression symptoms include: difficulty with concentration, fatigue, and difficulty with sleep


Therapists will sometimes ask you to track your mood on a daily basis when you begin therapy. Why? The more you know about how your mood fluctuates throughout the day, the more power you have to take action to change it. In particular, if you can notice which contexts have the greatest effect on your mood, you can try to put yourself in situations that increase the likelihood of feeling good and avoid situations that make you feel not-so-great. Below are some mood tracking apps that help you gain more insight about yourself.

Daylio – Diary, Journal, Mood Tracker: Daylio allows you to record your mood each day, along with activities you completed, as well as anything else you might want to note in your journal. As you complete more entries, you will be able to see your mood and activities across the course of the month or year.

WellTrack: This app features a built-in mood tracker that you can set to send you multiple mood check-ins throughout the day, every day. Each time you get a check-in reminder, it asks you to report not only on your mood, but also about what you are doing in the moment and who is around you. This fine-grained level of detail allows you to learn who or what makes you feel good or bad, as well as the times of day you are most happy, alert, etc. While the free version of the app consists of a 14-day trial, you can link your account to your Georgetown email to get free access to the full version of the app.


Eating, sleeping, and staying safe–these are crucial to our day-to-day wellbeing as well as our capacity to fight depression and anxiety. There is likely a reciprocal relationship between mental health and our health behaviors—for example the more anxious and depressed we feel, the more likely we are to engage in behaviors that increase anxiety and depression. Below are a few apps to help stop this negative cycle and address these crucial areas of functioning.

Calm Harm: This app helps you learn to “ride the wave” of strong emotions that might lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts. It then directs you to choose from different coping strategies that can be either 5 or 15 minutes in length.

MealCam: Instead of tracking calories, what if you began to examine your eating habits in a more holistic way? This app encourages you to take photos of everything you eat in order to reflect on other aspects of food, such as “how many colors did I eat?,” “how did I feel after eating this meal?” etc. This app may help you break the calorie-counting obsession, while still allowing you to track your food intake in a healthy way.

CBT-i Coach: While Calm and Headspace are both great resources for sleep difficulties, CBT-i (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia) is recognized as the standard of care for insomnia. Like most cognitive behavioral therapy treatment programs, this one requires you to collect large amounts of data about yourself (in this case about your sleep patterns) in order to set goals and monitor treatment response. Ideally, you would use this app in conjunction with regular visits to a healthcare professional; however, it is possible to use it as a self-guided, standalone treatment. The app is available for free from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The SavourCoach: If you’re curious about ways of incorporating mindfulness into your meals, this app is a good place to start. In addition to helping you better understand how you relate to food at an emotional level, it also helps you begin to reflect and journal about your eating habits.

Physical Health

Top Resources for Physical Wellness (all resources are FREE or low cost)
by Dr. Sonja Johansson

The Mental Illness Happy Hour, by Paul Gilmarting

Comedian Paul Gilmartin hosts a weekly “hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads.” Gilmartin interviews guests, primarily in the arts, who share their struggles, fears, compulsions, and trauma. The show can be heavy listening but is also laced with humor. And always, relatable.


Down Dog Yoga, by Yoga Buddhi Co.

This app is offering free services for the duration of the quarantine. What makes this yoga app unique is the specific tailoring you can apply to each practice. Class times range from five to 90 minutes, so you can squeeze in a quick break or unwind for the day; plenty of yoga styles and levels are offered for all bodies and experience levels (from vinyasa to chair yoga! and from the beginner to advanced); you can even choose your preferred instructor voice, “boosters” to focus your practice (tight hips, anyone?) and, practice to music or silence.


Peloton, City Row

Miss the group fitness thing? These are apps and workouts that you’ve probably heard of, but were a little on the pricier side. Now, for a limited time, you can try them for FREE (and no, you do not need a Peloton machine to do their workout!). These platforms have expanded their online presence and/or extended their free trials so you can see if it’s worth all the buzz and bucks. Stream on demand at your own risk of soreness. *Also check out CityRowGo as an app or on insta!


Couch to 5K (C25K)

For the true beginner. Since you’re not on campus anymore, you’re not making the trek between Car Barn and Darnall, to the stacks at LAU and then through the Old North/New North maze complex (does anyone know where New North is?!). This app will guide you through a step by step process to get you motivated and moving. Next time you’re on campus the Exorcist Steps will be nothing but a warm-up.


Hurdle, by Emily Abbate

It can be hard to feel motivated in times of stress, especially with limitations on our activities. In this podcast, Emily Abbate interviews a range of people, from CEOs to elie athletes, and explores how they endured and eventually overcame emotional struggles and setbacks through fitness. Ge ready for a hefty dose of #fitspo.


The good ol’ outdoors, by Mother Nature Herself

Whether you are on foot or on wheels, seated, standing, or skipping, you can- and should- access the outdoors. Not only will the fresh air feel good in your lungs, but going outside can help you gain perspective and give pause for creativity, self reflection, and hope. Try hiking if you have some hilly areas nearby, or unplugging while you walk your dog. Maybe you’re doing neck stretches to detangle from the stress of merging your home and school. Wherever you are, nature can help calm the physiological and mental stresses that we all incur.

Outside your door, literally

7 Minute Chi (Tai Chi/Qi Gong)

Despite quarantine life and minimal socialization, are you still struggling to find the time for your physical health? If you said yes, this is the app for you. In seven minutes, you will be guided through a series of classic Chinese Tai Chi and Qi Gong movements that will leave you energized and focused. Better yet, Master Li (well, his avatar) is there to demo along the way, so you know exactly what to do and how to move. No. More. Excuses.


Foam Rolling & Therapy Balls

Wish you could get a massage? Me too. Here’s your next best option. Foam rolling is a hybrid massage/exercise technique that helps detangle our bodies from stubborn knots. Even better, you can do it at home with a proper foam roller (which is exactly what it sounds like) or practice trigger point therapy with a lacrosse or tennis ball. Video demos are easy (and free) to find on YouTube and you can order your favorite roller off the web.


Strategic Breathing, by Max Strom

Designed specifically for individuals in high stress or low margin or error situations, this app is virtually perfect for the quarantined or health care professional. In this app, Max Strom, world-renowned breathing expert, leads you through breathing exercises aimed at healing. The movements are minimal and/or can be excluded, so this is also good for those who experience mobility challenges. The only prerequisite? Breathing. *App is only available through Apple at this time but check out his YouTubes for other intros!