So I've seen several versions of the "must-have apps" list circulating the internet, and it makes sense because, according to this article I came across today (when I did a Google news search looking for this information...but is the how really that important?), 166 million Americans own a smartphone of some kind, which is a whopping 68.8 percent of the entire mobile device market. Crazy to think about, right? But instead of launching into a diatribe about how cell phones are making us a socially-inept culture, I'm going to capitalize on this current state of electronic availability and share some of the ways it can help those of us with a chronic illness get through each day.
The apps below are my personal must-haves, but I think all of them can be of use to those of us dealing with Lyme & Co or other chronic illnesses. I've tried to list them in order of app type (organization, practical tools, fun, etc.) to make the list less erratic. Also, just a heads-up, I've included pictures that show how each app appears in the app store when you search for it, however these screenshots are all taken via an iPhone (so the Apple app store), so if you use Android or another platform they may look a little different.
Becca's list of must-have apps
1. Vitacost (price: free)
If you have Lyme and/or other chronic illnesses, chances are you've either made some pretty drastic dietary changes or at least have read about certain changes that are advisable to promote healing. Over a year ago, I cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, yeast, corn, peanuts, and a handful of other foods that showed on my personal list of intolerances (eggs, cucumbers, pineapple, and more). If you've made similar changes, you've undoubtably discovered grocery shopping gets a LOT more expensive. Vitacost helps with that! Yes, Vitacost is first and foremost a website, so you can visit it in any browser (phone, tablet, computer), but they have a user-friendly app that just makes things so daggone easy you can't not download it. Vitacost has a huge selection of specialty food/supplements/beauty products/household products, and more, and they always have them at discounted prices (sometimes a small discount, sometimes a really big discount!).
Have you heard of Ebates? If not, you simply have to get in the loop! When you're dealing with an illness like Lyme, you often are unable to leave the house to shop for anything (groceries, clothes, electronics, books, etc.), so you have to resort to ordering things online (which is why I'm glad we live in 2014!). The downside to this is that shipping costs can frequently deter you from making a certain purchase. Ebates to the rescue! While Ebates won't give you free shipping on every order online, if you sign up with the website/app, you'll find that simply by logging into Ebates (or opening the app) before shopping online, you can receive a certain percentage of cash back on your purchases from most known online retailers (Vitacost is included in this! Yeah!). Ebates will send you your accumulated amount of cash back at 4 times during the year, so any cash back that has been added to your account over a given three-month period will be sent to you via check or Paypal (they let you choose from their options). All for doing the shopping you were going to do anyway! If you want to sign up (which everyone should!), you can visit this link and we'll each get a $5 bonus from Ebates. Happy shopping!
3. Our Groceries (price: free, or plus version for $4.99)
Another must-have for Lymies, primarily because of our bff, brain fog (sarcasm intended). Seriously, though. How many times do you think about something you need to buy from [insert store/website here] and then when you're able to go shopping find you've completely forgotten the items you need? Happens to me all. the. time. This app makes it super easy to keep track of what you need to buy, and where you need to buy it. You can make lists for different stores/websites, and they're all easily accessed and organized. Another big plus is that if whomever helps you shop also has a smartphone/tablet, they can download the app and link it with the same email you used to sign up, which means they automatically can see your lists and if they happen to be at any of the stores on the list they can pick up the items without having to go back and forth texting and calling. I personally only have the free version downloaded and that's worked really well for me, but if you want to check out additional features, the plus version is available (price listed above picture).
4. Urbanspoon (price: free)
Do you see a theme across some of these apps? Finding recipes to fix/places to eat when you're following the Lyme diet or any other special diet designed for healing can be hard! One last tool I frequently use to locate food when we're out of town for a doctor's apointment is Urbanspoon. This is another app a lot of people may already use, but typically I see people talk about using it to find a restaurant that is popular/the closest location of [insert chain restaurant here] when they're not familiar with the restaurants in the area. That's all well and good, and I've done that plenty of times in the past, however, Urbanspoon has a nifty little feature for those with special dietary limitations where you can look at a restaurant's information and see if it's gluten-free friendly, vegan-friendly, etc. Many restaurants (especially in bigger cities) also include their menus on the app so you can peruse those if the description doesn't specify your particular dietary concern.
5. Pinterest (price: free)
Not too much to write about Pinterest that most people don't already know, but if you're not alerady familiar with Pinterest, you need to remedy that STAT. Not only can you browse the internet/pinterest boards of others and find more cute pictures, beauty tips, lists, and DIY projects than you know what to do with, but you can save those projects to your own boards because honestly, who doesn't like having a board with 424 different home organization ideas just in case you have time/energy to put them into practice one day? But the treasure trove of Pinterest for those with Lyme/chronic illness? RECIPES. Again, this is a huge help when navigating the multiple dietary restrictions we have to follow in order to heal. Looking for some gluten free, vegan, sugar free, peanut free cookies? Do a Pinterest search! Sick of the cardboard-tasting gluten free bread you find at the grocery store? Do a Pinterest search! Disclaimer: You'll likely find at least some recipes that claim to be excellent but that simply do not work out for you. Don't get discouraged--with Pinterest I guarantee you'll eventually stumble across one that works for you!
6. Symple (price as of 5/30/14: $2.99, but has been anywhere from free-$3.99 throughout the past year)
With Lyme or any chronic illness, it's important to keep track of your symptoms and to keep any changes in supplements/meds/activities/diet/sleep etc. well-documented so you can see if any symptom shows a correlation with a particular outside factor. There are many apps out there designed to help you track symptoms and daily activities, but this is one of the most comprehensive that I've tried. With Symple, you can not only list symptoms on the days they appear (and delete them as they abate), but you can also make note of anything (such as those factors listed above) that you've done each day, and over time this helps you easily see any correlation that may exist between symptoms/outside factors. Symple also has a journal feature, which you can use to make notes, type journal entries as if you were sitting down with paper and pen, make lists of gratitudes, or whatever else you'd like to write. And finally, there's a photos section so you can snap and save up to two daily photos you think would be useful to have on file.
7. iSleep Easy (price: $4.99)
This is more of a personal preference, because I know guided meditation isn't everyone's cup of tea (but hopefully ginger/licorice/turmeric/green/dandelion/slippery elm or some other healing tea is everyone's cup of tea! :-) ). But I would venture to say that if you're reading this post, you've suffered through at least a handful of nights (probably many more than that but I'm trying to make this applicable to most people) where you were unable to will yourself to sleep, no matter what supplements/medications/white noise machines/mindnumbing TV shows you utilized in an attempt to reach that REM state. I'm an absolutely huge fan of guided meditation/imagery, so this app was a must-include on my list. I believe I paid a few dollars for this app, and I don't think they have a free version, but it was well worth the few dollars it cost to download. With this app, you're given the option of using one of their preset guided audios (a few examples are "Relax into bed," "Sleep affirmations," "Wee hours rescue") , or you can listen to one of their playlists (I really enjoy their "Deep Sleep" playlist) or create a custom playlist of any of the meditations/nature sounds. If I'm having a hard night getting to sleep/staying asleep, I often put my headphones on, open this app, and let the calming, sleep-inducing guided meditations lull me to sleep. Even on the rare occasions I don't achieve sleep with this app, I'm still put into such a restful state that the next day I usually feel like I slept. Note: If $4.99 isn't an investment you're ready to make for guided meditation just yet, there are free apps out there that can give you a general idea of what guided meditation is like before you purchase this one. But if you're able, I'd give this one a shot because in my experience it surpasses all others in quality.
8. 2048 (price: free)
Last but not least, I present you with my current favorite time-killer: 2048. I'm probably a little biased since my favorite number sequence my entire life has been the powers-of-2 sequence, but in my opinion, this is the best way to kill time if you don't have energy to do something productive/something that requires a lot of brain power (Candy Crush is soooo [year between 2012 and 2014). I could've selected any number of downloadable game apps to fill this last slot, because there are so many out there and everyone enjoys different types of games, but since 2048 is my jam right now, it's the one that made the cut. I urge you to download it and step into the world of powers-of-2 awesomesauceness. But if you're a busy person and can't afford to lose hours of your life in the number-gaming world, stay away. Stay far, far away.
So there you have it, my current personal must-have apps list for anyone with Lyme & Co or other chronic illnesses. I hope at least one of these apps helps you in some way!