We’ve all seen the stress toys and fidget spinners that became hugely popular just a few years ago — we may have even had one or two of them, ourselves. But while some people swear by these small toys as a way to decrease anxiety and stress, while improving performance, you may be wondering whether there’s any truth to these claims. STDWatch.com brings you all the science-backed answers to your questions.
Read on to discover whether stress toys actually make a difference.
Do stress toys actually make a difference?
Stress toys won’t be able to fix long-term stress, but these toys can actually help you cope during stressful moments. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones to make you alert and activate your “fight or flight” response. But in these modern times, most stressful situations don’t actually require us to fight or flight — most of the time, we’re just sitting at our office desk or trying to get through a tense family situation.
As a result, our body has no way to release all this pent up tension and anxiety, which keeps your stress levels from getting back to normal quickly. Even small movements — such as squeezing a stress ball — can provide a physical outlet for your stress and allow your body to relax as it releases energy.
Additionally, a study published by the journal Cognition found that small distractions can actually help boost your productivity during work. This happens because after a period of intense concentration, your brain begins to lose its ability to maintain its focus and efficiency, which makes it more difficult to complete tasks. But when faced with long tasks, using techniques that provide small breaks can actually help you stay focused and alert.
According to the American Institute of Stress, some of the most effective stress toys include:
- Stress balls
- Sculpting toys
- Magnetic balls
- Rubik’s cubes
- Infinity cubes
- Fidget spinners
- Pipe cleaners
- Acupressure massage rings
The consequences of chronic stress
Despite the fact that stress toys can provide temporary relief during tense situations, it’s important to keep in mind that you still need to manage the underlying causes of that stress. Chronic stress can cause a wide range of effects on your physical and mental health, and the best way to prevent these effects is by solving or managing the events or situations that are actually causing the stress, and not just its manifestations.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some symptoms of stress can include:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Low libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Angry outbursts
- Lack of motivation
Excessive stress can also have more serious consequences, such as increasing your risk of certain hormonal imbalances, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even making you more susceptible to some infections. So even if a stress toy relieves your symptoms temporarily, you shouldn’t avoid dealing with the causes of your stress — this will help you stay healthy and happy in the future.
Other stress management techniques
In addition to stress relief, meditation has a wide range of health benefits. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation can increase calmness, improve your physiological balance, help you cope with illness, and enhance your overall health and wellbeing.
Meditation can sound complicated, but there are many simple ways to meditate. You could also try downloading a meditation app on your phone to practice guided meditation. Popular types of meditation include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Visualization meditation
- Progressive relaxation
- Focused meditation
- Mantra meditation
Exercise is a quick and easy way to release anxious energy and improve your mood. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, even five minutes of exercise produce different stress-fighting effects in your body, including:
- Increasing the production of endorphins
- Improving your energy levels and focus
- Enhancing alertness and cognitive function
- Boosting the quality of your sleep
- Stabilizing your mood
Journaling can increase your emotional clarity, help you understand your feelings and the cause of your stress, and serve as a release for negative thoughts and emotions.
You don’t need to be a trained writer to start journaling. Journaling can be as simple as sitting down to write down any thoughts and feelings that come to your mind. The benefits of this practice will be much greater if you’re consistent and incorporate some time for journaling into your daily routine.
It’s important to recognize that there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress. Therapy can help prevent your stress from exacerbating a more serious mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder and depression. Your therapist will be able to help you recognize your stress triggers, communicate more effectively with those around you, and learn techniques to handle stress, among other helpful strategies.
Stress can easily overwhelm us, lower our productivity, and affect our mood. But fortunately, simple strategies such as using stress toys can provide some stress relief. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try picking up a stress ball or fidget spinners to release some anxiety and help you feel better quickly.
- Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find - news.illinois.edu
- Relieve Stress, Play With Toys - stress.org
- Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior - mayoclinic.org
- Meditation: In Depth - nccih.nih.gov
- Physical Activity Reduces Stress - adaa.org