If you find yourself getting stressed with the pressures of holiday cooking, a fun little app to help encourage good mental health and mindfulness (while also having super cute animated creatures) is voidpet. It’s easy to forget to take little moments to ourselves, and this app does an excellent job of adding a “game” component to taking care of your own well-being. It is a very passive-play app, open it when you feel like it. You can tap on a voidpet, and it uses AI to ask you about your day, or something that you’re are proud of. Today it asked me several things I was thankful for. It may seem simplistic, but there have been many studies such as this one focused on mental health providers, that show a correlation between better emotional well-being and positive emotions and taking a moment to focus on the things you appreciate. This app is free, but does offer in-app purchases (these are not necessary to play the game, and I haven’t seen any annoying adds, despite not paying anything while I’ve been using it).

Another app that can be fun is Skymap. This is an app by Google, and thus isn’t available on iPhones, but if you are interested, there are plenty of similar apps to be found in the Apple Store. Skymap allows you to lift up your phone to the stars, and in real time will tell you which constellations you are looking at. Depending on how much of a space enthusiast you are, you can change settings to show only constellations, or to show things like planets, satellites, and more.

And what about if you are enjoying the outdoors with the family (or by yourself), and you hear a unique bird call that you really want to identify? Merlin is a bird identification app that will help you ID birds from call alone (but also provides other avenues of ID if you prefer).

Finally, an app with information that everyone should have on hand, the American Red Cross Emergency App. This app provides information on how to handle any emergency, including how to handle burns if you accidentally grab something out of the oven without protection for your hands! It also covers a number of other topics, and provides information such as pet-friendly hotels (crucial if you have found yourself being unexpectedly evacuated).

Another app you might get some use out of during the holiday season is Flightradar24, called (rather aptly) The World’s Best Flight Tracker App. You can get current information on flights, follow their progress, and even point it up at the sky to find out what type of plane is overhead, and if it is not a private plane, information on where the plane has come from and is headed.

Finally, an app that can help you do some good if you are staying in a hotel. If you see something that strikes you as potential human trafficking, the app called Traffickcam allows you to take pictures of your hotel room. This can help law enforcement who are trying to help trafficking victims, as the app identifies where the last pictures of them were taken.

Shopping . . .

Another source of stress and anxiety can be holiday shopping. While these apps won’t help find personalized gifts for the unique and eccentric people in your life, they can help with finding affordable, quality gifts. First off, I recommend Wirecutter from the New York Times. Although limited in the brands tested, they are fully transparent about their testing process and do a good job of informing the consumer what to look for. If you don’t feel like reading ten pages about a topic, you can just scroll down to their primary recommendation, which is usually followed by a “budget” recommendation. I used them to select a vacuum cleaner that would get cat hair up from a fully carpeted apartment. It was such a great recommendation I now always double check to see if they have a recommendation for anything I am shopping for.

Next, I would recommend Slickdeals. It is a crowd-sourced website, full of random deals. But if you want something in particular, you can type it in the search bar, and set up an alert for it. With holiday deals around the corner, this is an excellent way to get a sense of if something is really a good deal or not.

Finally, if you are hoping to find something that is durable, there is a subreddit (online community within the general reddit online community) dedicated to such items, called Buy It For Life. Here you can find things such as people asking for recommendations, pictures from users who are proudly displaying a pair of boots they’ve used for ten years, and tips about which companies have the best policies when it comes to replacing items at an affordable (or free) price.

There are a number of other fantastic apps and not enough space or time to list them all! Having said that, if you have one you’d like to share, please leave a link to it in the comments!

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