Is a stress ball good for anxiety

A woman using a stress ball

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What are stress balls?

Stress balls are therapeutic tools for helping people manage stress through the physical act of squeezing, rolling, or tossing a ball.

Made of various materials, from foam to rubber to metal, these balls can assist people in diffusing emotions like anger or anxiety and may even be able to curb panic attacks.

Benefits of stress balls 

It’s important to note that research doesn’t suggest that stress balls can reduce stress and anxiety.

However, according to experts we spoke to, stress balls may be a beneficial tool for easing stress because they alleviate the physical experience of intense emotions. As Michelle Hunt, a mental health counselor and therapist at Empower Your Mind Therapy, explains, stress is not only an emotional and mental reaction, it is also a physical experience.

“As stress builds in our bodies, it needs a way to be released in order to not perpetuate our emotional and mental state,” Hunt says. “Stress balls give a point of release for stress. They help calm the nervous system and assist with processing.”

More often than not, she adds, the physical release created by stress balls can actually decrease physical sensations of stress, and other powerful emotions.

How does this work exactly? According to Vianey Reinhardt, a licensed professional counselor at Connections Wellness Group, the repetition of squeezing and releasing the stress ball creates the overall effect of stress or tension reduction.

“A user can hold the stress ball in their hand and squeeze the ball for up to 5 seconds and then release,” Reinhardt says. “This process can be repeated several times until the user experiences a reduction in tension.”

Another benefit to stress balls, both Hunt and Reinhardt note, is that these therapy tools are both discreet and socially accepted. People can use them without feeling self-conscious in public and even keep them handy on their work desks without worrying about other people seeing them.

What to look for

Stress balls can be made from a number of materials like foam, fabric, pliable plastic or latex, rubber or even metal. When choosing a stress ball, it’s important to consider the durability of a product’s materials and read reviews to make sure the ball you’re considering is durable, especially if it’s the kind filled with water or foam. (These are more susceptible to pops or punctures, particularly if they’re used by children.)

Another consideration is size and strength. Stress balls come in various sizes and different levels of soft or hardness. Being able to test out a few balls can help you choose the right one for you.

What’s most important, Hunt says, is that you select something that speaks to you in some way, whether it’s the squishability of the ball itself or its shape or color.

“Stress balls come in different styles,” she says. “So, having an item that’s more tailored to your preferences can help with feeling a sense of control in how you express your distress.”

How we chose

We looked at a number of different products to determine which ones to recommend and include.

We evaluated various products based on the following criteria:

  • value for the price point
  • positive customer reviews
  • aesthetic
  • size and strength of each product

We also considered different styles and materials of stress balls to provide a breadth of useful options.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = $15–20
  • $$$$ = over $20

Frequently asked questions

Is there research on stress balls?

Clinical studies haven’t found evidence to support the idea that stress balls reduce stress and anxiety.

However, many people find these products help them focus, calm, or distract themselves, as part of a useful tool in their overall stress management.

Do stress balls work for anxiety?

While Hunt says that stress balls can be great tools to use in the moment to help ease the physical discomfort of anxiety, they won’t solve the cause of that stress.

“It is important to explore the triggers for stress and utilize different coping skills in order to decrease the intensity of symptoms over time,” she explains. “Stress balls alone are not effective in processing where the stress is coming from and understanding the root of the stress response.”

Do stress balls work for anger?

According to Reinhardt, stress balls can help manage symptoms of frustration, stress, or anger. However, she adds that it’s important to monitor the benefits of using a stress ball in reducing these emotions.

“If it appears that the act of using a stress ball provides minimal or no benefit at all, it would be appropriate to seek additional coping mechanisms or seek the help of a mental health professional who can provide guidance and tools for managing challenging emotions,” she says.

Do stress balls help with panic attacks?

While clinical studies haven’t found evidence to support the use of stress balls to prevent panic attacks, Reinhardt says that they can be excellent tools for diverting the brain when someone feels a panic attack coming on.

“Distracting the brain from focusing on the stimulus for that fear and refocusing on a specific task, such as squeezing a stress ball, allows for an interruption of the fear response and gives the brain a chance to settle into a less escalated state,” she says.

stress balls

Stress balls were originally intended to be used for remedying stress and tension but with their increasing popularity as a stress relief tool, it seems that squeezing it may have other health benefits. Studies show that when you squeeze a stress ball, your nerves and muscles stimulate and contract which makes them stronger. The strength improves the overall nervous system, which reduces essential hormones and can control your stress levels.

Some of the benefits: 

  • Relieve arthritis pains
  • Enhance emotional stability 
  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve concentration and creativity
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Increased positive energy 
  • Improve sleep

stress balls

Stress Balls May Improve Blood Circulation 

Many doctors recommend using stress balls for improving blood circulation. Studies show that squeezing a ball can raise your heart rate and increase the oxygen levels in your brain. As a result, your heart will pump harder and thus provide better blood circulation. The better your circulation, the lower the risk for stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure. Stress balls also help prevent the development of hypertension and possible heart disease. 

stress balls

More Benefits 

Stress balls are small enough to fit in your pocket, and they are also fairly inexpensive. If you use your stress ball on a regular basis, you may even begin to notice a decrease in your tension. When you have an anxiety attack, your brain starts to get hyperventilating. This causes your body to release adrenaline, which causes your heart rate to increase. By using and squeezing a stress ball, you can relax your mind and take a moment to think about happy thoughts.

stress balls

Ways to Use Stress Balls

By simply squeezing stress balls regularly you can tone your muscles. Regular exercise will help to strengthen the muscles of your hands and wrists. Many individuals keep one of these balls at their work. Regardless of your profession, if you feel tired, bored or irritated you can use one of these balls to keep your hands occupied and your mind at rest.

  1. One of the main ways to use a stress ball is to place it on a surface and roll the ball by curling your fingers towards your palm, hold for a few seconds and release your fingers.
  2. Another popular way is to place a ball between your hands while keeping your arms in a vertical position. Then press for 5 seconds and relax.
  3. The full grip method is our favourite. If you feel extra stressed out, hold and squeeze a ball as hard as you can for up to 5 seconds, then relax. 

reduce stress

Final Thoughts

While stress balls can help with anxiety, stress, blood circulations and more, it is important to remember the results are temporary. In order to find the right balance and improve your overall health, there are many other things that you have to consider. Owning and using a stress ball can not prevent illnesses, diseases or depression, but it can improve those conditions. It is one of the most powerful mindfulness products that can help individuals deal with their condition.

Stress can take a physical toll on your body.

You’ve probably seen one of those little round stress balls. You might have received it for free with a company’s brand splashed on the side or picked one up during a rough week at work. Stress balls are popular, but do they actually help reduce tension? 

The general consensus is that these toys actually do help in stressful moments. In fact, there are numerous reasons that one of these little balls should be a necessary accessory on your desk. 

Stress and the body
As a human being, you’ve likely experienced stress at one point or another. From work to school to relationships, there’s no shortage of challenges that can cause conflict in daily life. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that this anxiety is harmless. Stress takes a toll not only on your emotional and mental health, but also on your physical well-being. 

According to Mayo Clinic, stress can physically cause problems such as headaches, an upset stomach, muscle tension, sleep problems and fatigue. If left unchecked, it can also contribute to more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. 

So how can you avoid these negative health complications that come from periods of high anxiety? Turns out, a stress ball can help, according to Dr. David Posen, a stress expert and the author of “Is Work Killing You?: A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress.” 

“You’ve got all this stress energy – your body is in a state of high alert, but there’s nowhere for it to go,” Posen told The Huffington Post. “When you’re stressed, your body tightens up – so a physical release helps to let go of some of that energy… The benefit of squeezing is that it releases some kind of energy – it also induces you to relax.”  

Though squeezing a stress ball is not a long term solution for stress, it can help your body to release tension in the moment. The motion acts as a reminder to relax the muscles that are clenched when you’re anxious, which can help avoid complications like headaches or pain that accompany long periods of tensing. 

Stress from a variety of sources can take a toll on your mental, physical and emotional well-being.Stress from a variety of sources can take a toll on your mental, physical and emotional well-being.

The other benefits of stress balls
While the aptly-named stress ball can help release anxiety, that’s not the only benefit offered by these simple toys.  For example, playing with a stress ball can help to manage and heal scar tissue in your hands. It can also strengthen your hands if you’re rehabilitating from a recent surgery.  

Stress balls additionally offer the potential to increase concentration. According to a study of a group of sixth-graders by published in the Journal of At-Risk Issues, the students who used a stress ball in class were less distracted.  

While you can find stress balls in most any size, shape or color, why settle for any less than a product that’s specifically designed with your comfort in mind?The IMAK® ERGO Stress Ball’s ergoBeads provide a gentle massage while your fingers are strengthened and stretched, providing stress relief and other benefits in the process. 

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