How this former Hillary Clinton staffer's new app plans to relieve your stress at work

Look for these signs to find out if you're working in a healthy workplace

In 2018, health and wellness apps make up the $27 million global self-care app industry. At the same time, research shows that happiness and wellbeing among Americans have decreased in recent years, which is also negatively affecting the way people work.

Amber Discko, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer is out to change that with a new free self-care app called Aloe Bud, now available for pre-order in the iTunes App store.

Discko, 28, created the beginnings of Aloe Bud while experiencing a difficult time working on Clinton's social media team during the final four months of Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

"It was an incredible experience to work on it, but it was hard to balance my mental health with the stress of the campaign and dealing with the toxic news cycle," Discko tells CNBC Make It.

Discko created a personal checklist, which assessed wellness items like if they were hydrated, had taken a break from the computer screen in the last hour and if they had been going to sleep on time.

Despite working with a "diverse, smart group of people," Discko noticed that others working on the campaign were also suffering from exhaustion.

"It's very common, especially with millennials, to overwork yourself when you're super passionate about a cause," Discko says. "We are so driven to do our best that we let other things slide by."

Discko surpassed their $40,000 goal on Kickstarter, raising $50,528 for Aloe Bud, (previously just called "Aloe") primarily through Twitter followers, and continues receiving support through creative funding platform Patreon. The app is available for iOS devices, with Android to come later.

With help from the Femsplain community, an online publication Discko ran the past four years, Aloe already exists in the form of the now-public, online self-care checklist, a printable checklist for your desk and as an interactive Twitter bot "@aloebud."

As Twitter followers interact with the bot, it creates an 8-bit illustrated garden — maintained like a real community garden — and sends out positive tweets of encouragement.

garden tweet

Aloe Bud has three main sections: a check-in and self-reflection area to mark your self-care activities, a reminders section to motivate you throughout the day and an activity log section to focus on your accomplishments and future goals. It will eventually include a community support feature to connect with others using the app.

Discko says Aloe Bud will provide a simpler path to wellness for even the hardest workers out there and hopes teams in offices will put the app to use.

"Because people are chained to their desks, they are working long hours," Discko says. "I'm hoping if workplaces can encourage their teams to take moments for themselves throughout the day, it will create a better environment to work in."

For those who are unsure if they feel worker burnout, Stanford psychologist and research scientist Emma Seppälä notes it's when you are lacking energy, feeling down and feel generally unmotivated to do work.

"It seems ridiculous to need an app to remind you to sleep, breathe, eat," Seppälä tells CNBC Make It, "but we've gotten to the point where people do need reminders." She says this is because people are caught up in an "overwhelming" amount of responsibilities.

"Plunged into our virtual worlds and crunched for time, we tune out completely from our own needs for sleep, exercise, even food," Seppala says.

In researching her book, "The Happiness Track," Seppälä found that half of American workers, regardless of profession or position in corporate hierarchies, are burned out.

"We've gotten so addicted to working, we're so overwhelmed with notifications from our devices, and we're generally so overwhelmed trying to balance home life and work," Seppälä says, "that it's no surprise we're seeing 50 percent burnout across industries right now."

work tweet

Apps like Aloe Bud can provide reminders and a supportive community to help keep us on track, Seppälä says.

"We are profoundly social people for whom connection and a sense of belonging is crucial for health and happiness," Seppälä says.

Since we are no longer always living in tight-knit communities with family and friends reminding us to take care of ourselves or pitching in to help cook a meal, Seppälä says "online communities are sometimes a great way to make sure you have people to connect with, be motivated by and look out for."

Without self-care, notes Seppälä, comes more burnout.

"When complete burnout happens, then you can have health consequences," she notes, including stress-induced health problems like inflammation and diabetes.

Discko has received online criticism and constant questions about the usefulness or necessity for the app, which will be completely free when fully launched and have in-app upgrades for personalization.

But Seppälä wants people to consider this: health care expenditures at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% greater than at other organizations. She cites an American Psychological Association estimate which finds that the U.S. economy loses more than $500 billion due to workplace stress as well as 550 million workdays lost yearly to stress on the job.

Seppälä says wellness apps like Aloe can promote a more inclusive workplace culture if the entire work culture buys into the idea that self-care is important, adding they should "for the sake of the bottom line if anything."

"You need an entire workforce, and especially its leaders, to support the idea," Seppälä says.

Discko says Aloe Bud can help bosses and managers lead the conversation on mental health at work.

"Being able to say you need to take a moment to manage your own health and talk with your colleagues who know you've been working hard is important," Discko says.

"If people in the workplace were kinder to one another, making sure they feel good about their work and their day," Discko adds, "I think more people would be inclined to work harder and work together."

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This is an updated version of a previously published article.