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5 free or low-cost apps to help you reduce work-related stress

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As many as 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress, according to The American Institute of Stress (AIS). And the toll that stress may take on your mental health can also have a lasting impact on productivity: It causes around 1 million people to miss work every day, according the AIS. 

"There's a tremendous fear of failure and meeting deadlines," says Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Stress Institute, about the causes of workplace stress. A "fear of being fired," low pay, heavy workloads, and bullying in the workplace, she adds, can contribute, too.

The consequences of work-related stress can include weight gain, insomnia, and even heart disease. As many as 120,000 people die from conditions linked to work stress every year, according to AIS.

If you're feeling the beginnings of burnout on the job, consider tools that can help you decompress. Here are five apps Hall recommends that offer an array of content and exercises geared to help you relax, many which only take a few minutes at a time and come either at a low cost or at no cost at all.

1. Mindful living

The Mindful Living app (free) is a product of the Mindful Living Network, a site founded by Hall. It offers guidance on living with keen awareness of yourself and the world around you. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness reduces stress, according to the American Psychological Association. 

The app offers users a series of resources including videos of a beach or sunrise, mental health-related podcasts, and tips to lower stress like finding an opportunity to dance, socializing at concerts or parties, and even chewing gum.

2. Insight Timer

Insight Timer is a free meditation app offering thousands of guided meditations, music from around the world, and talks from neuroscientists, psychologists, and teachers from accredited universities around the world.

Meditation helps you focus and "eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind," according to the Mayo Clinic, and can improve both physical and emotional well-being. 

3. Gaia

Gaia offers a combination of yoga, meditation, and educational videos covering an array of related topics from astrology to nutrition. The app works to "heal and replenish your body" or "stimulate the mind." Because yoga combines both physical and mental discipline, it can help you relax and manage stress, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A subscription costs $11.99 per month, or $99.99 per year. Since yoga classes often cost anywhere from $10 to $20 each, the app can offer good financial value, too. 

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4. Calm

Calm is an app designed to help users sleep better, experience less stress and anxiety, and feel more serene. It offers guided meditations, breathing exercises, and more. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body, according to the University of Michigan. 

The app also offers sleep stories "guaranteed to lull you into a deep and restful slumber." Storytellers include the actor Matthew McConaughey and the singer Leona Lewis. A monthly subscription is $14.99 and a yearly subscription is $69.99.

5. Shamanic Journey Drumming

A shaman is a priest or priestess who uses magic to cure the sick, among other purposes, and incorporate drumming as part of their rituals.

A 2014 study by the University of Vienna found that subjects who listened to a combination of drumming and instructions to enter a shamanic trance, or "journey," experienced lower levels of salivary cortisol, a hormone used to measure stress. 

The Shamanic Journey Drumming app includes a series of shamanic drumming tracks, as well as natural sounds like ocean waves, a babbling brook, and birds in spring. The app costs $0.99.

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