Reduce caregiver stress with helpful tech tools
It goes without saying that caring for an older adult is an incredibly stressful job. But you do have the power to reduce and manage your stress levels – even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
We found an excellent stress reduction tool called Virtual Hope Box. It’s a free smartphone app that’s been proven to work.
We like this app because it’s simple, customizable with your own photos and videos, and has a variety of quick calming tools. The games and exercises are also helpful because they’re convenient and fast ways to take your mind off things.
We explain what it is, how it helps caregivers, and give an overview of the app’s features.
What is Virtual Hope Box?
Virtual Hope Box is a smartphone app that helps people cope with anxiety or depression. These techniques also work well for coping with chronic stress.
The app was originally created by clinical psychologists working for the U.S. Military. The purpose was to help military personnel who face issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts because of war-related trauma.
One study shows that the Virtual Hope Box app gives people significantly greater ability to cope with difficult situations.
How does Virtual Hope Box help caregivers?
Virtual Hope Box helps you manage caregiver stress by breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and putting effective coping tools at your fingertips. It’s specifically built to discourage hopelessness, a feeling that often plagues caregivers.
The app has relaxation exercises, inspirational quotes, photos and videos that uplift you, coping cards, and quick games for distraction.
Tour the Virtual Hope Box app
In the app’s home screen, you’ll see a large space at the top. This is where photos that you’ve uploaded will be displayed, like in the second photo above.
To add your own photos and videos that make you feel happy and inspired, just tap the area where the photo is. Photos of grandkids, cute animals, or inspirational sayings are perfect additions. Videos of grandkids, people you love, or funny animals can always bring a smile to your face.
The rest of the app is divided into the four sections you see at the bottom of the home screen. Just tap each square to go into each section.
The Virtual Hope Box home screen
The Virtual Hope Box home screen with uploaded inspirational photo
In the Distract Me section, you’ll find four types of quick games you can play to distract yourself from negative thoughts and feelings. These games are a healthy way to take a break when you feel overwhelmed.
The games don’t come with any instructions, but aren’t difficult to figure out. The photo puzzle is nice because you can choose your own photo or an image of an inspirational saying to use as the puzzle.
The Distract Me section of Virtual Hope Box
In the Inspire Me section, there are almost 100 inspirational quotes. Scroll through these to see different quotes. You can even add your own sayings by using the plus sign in the upper right corner.
The Inspire Me section of Virtual Hope Box
The Relax Me section is great. These relaxation exercises are very effective for managing stress or calming you down after your senior gets on your last nerve. Try them to see which one works best for you.
You can customize the Controlled Breathing exercise using the little icon with three lines at the top of the screen. The Muscle Relaxation guides you through a full body exercise. The three Guided Meditation programs each last about 4 minutes and take you on virtual strolls through beautiful settings.
The Relax Me section of Virtual Hope Box.
The Controlled Breathing exercise is instantly calming
In the Coping Tools section, you can create Coping Cards and plan activities that refresh you. Coping Cards address specific situations or triggers that you struggle with.
You can identify the problem, the emotions you feel when that problem comes up, and skills you can use to cope. It’s a good way to remind yourself in the heat of the moment that you have the skills and ability to deal with things calmly.
The Activity Planner helps you schedule fun or relaxing activities with family or friends.
The Coping Tools section of Virtual Hope Box
Create a Coping Card
Sample Coping Card
Phone icon in upper right corner
You may have noticed a phone icon in the corner of many of the screens. This feature allows you to add support contacts who you could call when you’re feeling down or having an emergency. It also has contact info for 911 and Veterans support centers (because the app was originally designed for military personnel).
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