All of us face challenges in our daily life, be it in personal or in professional walks of life. Often, these challenges create an internal conflict that can lead to stress. When left unchecked, stress tends to take a toll on our physical as well as mental as emotional well being. Everyone has their own way of managing stress, one of which is the use of a stress ball- a small, squeezable toy that promises to alleviate tension and promote relaxation.
Decoding the Science behind a Stress Ball
Initially it might sound improbable that something as simple as squeezing, pressing a ball can be effective, but they do seem to work according to science and research.
Dr. David Posen, a stress expert and the author of ‘Is Work Killing You?’ says that at least some of that stress energy can be channeled towards a physical object and stress balls can work really well, because they prompt you to squeeze and release, leaving you less tense.
Squeezing a stress ball leads to the contraction of muscles in your hand and forearm which triggers physiological responses in your body. When you release the grip, these muscles relax, this leads to a sense of relief and feelings of relaxation. Our muscles tend to be clenched when we are anxious. The squeezing motion serves as a reminder for the clenched muscles to relax, which can help in preventing further complications like headaches or pain that can be caused by long periods of tensing.
Are Stress Balls Really Beneficial? Here is what research has to say –
In a study published by The University of Surrey, researchers assessed patients undergoing varicose vein surgery. They assessed the anxiety levels of patients prior to surgery, some patients were given a stress ball, while some patients were without stress balls. The results of the study indicated that the patients using the stress ball showed less anxiety as well as reduced pain.
Stress balls help not only patients but they are beneficial for students as well. A research study done with college students showed that college students felt reduced irritability and nervousness after exercising with a stress ball. The students using a stress ball also reported satisfactory recovery from stress.
Additionally, stress balls are quite accessible, and can be used by people across age groups. And because stress balls are made of compressible, smooth, soft material, someone can squeeze one as hard as they want without hurting their hand.
While looking at the benefits of stress balls, we must also consider that there are only a limited amount of studies on the topic, which may not be conclusive enough to determine its effectiveness.
Limitations of Stress Balls
A stress ball might be an effective way to deal with stress but it also comes with its fair share of limitations. A stress ball should only be considered as a part of many coping skills, it cannot be the only coping skill to rely on in times of stress or anxiety. The most important limitation of stress balls is that they only provide temporary relief from anxiety and do not help in addressing the actual issue.
While stress balls do help with the management of anxiety and stress, they can provide temporary relief and its effectiveness would depend upon the degree of stress and anxiety that the person is undergoing. To have long lasting improvements to your mental health, you might want to consider other resources such as therapy, in addition to stress balls.
- Effects of using a stress ball on anxiety and depression in patients undergoing hemodialysis: A prospective, balanced, single‐blind, crossover study—Ozen—Hemodialysis International—Wiley Online Library. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2023, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/hdi.13102
- https://www.facebook.com/realsimple. (n.d.). Do Stress Balls Have Benefits, or Are They Just a Nice Distraction? Real Simple. Retrieved June 30, 2023, from https://www.realsimple.com/stress-ball-benefits-6834801
- Puiu, T. (2019, May 22). Do stress balls really work? What the science says. ZME Science. https://www.zmescience.com/feature-post/health/mind-brain/do-stress-balls-work-523/
- Srivarsan, R., Sridevi, G., & Preetha, S. (2021). An Evaluation on Use of Stress Ball Exercise on Stress Management among Student Population – A Cross Section Study. Journal of Pharmaceutical Research International, 33(47B), Article 47B. https://doi.org/10.9734/jpri/2021/v33i47B33150
- Stress balls, DVDs and conversation ease pain and anxiety during surgery | University of Surrey. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2023, from https://www.surrey.ac.uk/news/stress-balls-dvds-and-conversation-ease-pain-and-anxiety-during-surgery
- Surgery, B. (2021, March 16). The Health Benefits of Stress Balls. Brown Hill Surgery. https://www.brownhillsurgery.co.uk/the-health-benefits-of-stress-balls/