One of the oldest stress management techniques is the good ol’ stress ball. I mentioned it in my list of 170 Stress Management Techniques but didn’t go in depth. Companies give them away at events, there’s at least one in every office, and there’s a huge market for them. Clearly they’re popular, but the question is do they work?
Before I go into the “do they work?” spiel, I want to take you back to the origins of the squishy stress ball a lot of us use today. The idea of the stress ball actually originated in China. Traditional stress balls (known as Baoding Balls) are made out of metal or wood. Unlike the stress balls we use here in the U.S today, the Chinese stress balls aren’t squeezed; you roll them around in your hand. They’re hollow and have bells or chimes in them that make sounds when you roll them around. The sound is actually very relaxing.
Baoding balls are supposed to help your Chi and balance out your energies. In addition, they’re also great form or therapy for your hands.
Here’s a video that gives more insight into what Baoding balls are and how they work (the whispering videos are actually pretty relaxing as well).
More videos from the SilentCitadel YouTube Channel
The Answer: Do Stress Balls Work?
Stress balls absolutely work, and there’s science to back it up. When we get stressed out, our brain has two channels. A sensory channel (sight, sound, feel, and smell) and an intellectual channel that tries to makes sense of how we feel and put it into context.
When your sensory channel is blocked or occupied, your experiences aren’t as intense or vivid. In other words, when you’re physically occupied with something (squeezing the stress ball) your mind isn’t focused or concentrated on whatever is stressing you out. This is why some of the best stress reducers are physical activities.
Research has shown that our brains take in and process a lot of information that comes through our hands. That’s what makes stress balls and Baoding balls so effective. When squeezing a stress ball, your brain has to use a lot of it’s resources to process the sensation and activity coming in through your hand. This means it has less resources to dedicate to your stress.
Think about a baby sucking on a pacifier. The pacifier occupies them so that they’re not focused on whatever was making them cry. The same concept applies to stress balls. All of your energy and focus is being redirected and taken out on the stress ball.
According to stress expert and author of Is Work Killing You?: A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress, Dr. David Posen,
“The benefit of squeezing is that it releases some kind of energy — it also induces you to relax”.
There’s a term called Muscular Relaxation that describes what Dr. Posen is referring to.
To get an idea of what muscular relaxation is, make your hand into a fist and squeeze for about 5 seconds.Now relax your hand and pay attention to the tension leaving your hand.Take it a step further and squeeze your hand into a fist again. But this time, breath in when you clench your fist and exhale when you relax your fist. The feeling that you get when you relax your tensed hand is muscular relaxation. It’s all about releasing tension.
Stress Balls Are Not A Permanent Solution!
Another important point that Dr Posen makes is that stress balls aren’t a long term solution to stress. They work best when you use them right when you’re feeling stressed to help relieve some of the tension you’re feeling right at that moment.This is the reason why a lot of people keep stress balls in their desk at the office. You’re bound to have tons of stressful situations when you’re at work so it’s nice to have something close by to squeeze.
If nothing else, stress balls are always something nice to fool around with when you’re on the phone or otherwise pre-occupied. The reason I like stress balls is because they’re a cheap and easy way to help relieve some tension even if it’s only temporary. Back when I was in high school working retail, I used this Infectious Disease BallA LOT.
If you’ve never used one before, get one and see if it helps with your stress. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, get some Baoding balls and practice with them (I intend on getting some for myself).
More stress management techniques.
Young people should have everything to be happy about, but as the generation with the least responsibility we actually experience the most stress. A 2013 survey by the Nightline Association found that 65% of students feel stressed.
Students juggle part time jobs with university, worry about assignments and stress about the future and how to make the next step. Trying to manage all these things at once can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
As a student, every spare minute seems to be filled with worrying – you feel like you have to achieve something and make plans for your future. Instead of relaxing in the holidays, you're planning an internship to add to your CV, or working to earn some well-needed extra cash.
If you're not careful, working too hard and worrying too much can lead to "burnout" – when everything seems bleak and you have nothing left to give.
It might not seem like it when you're feeling down, but living a more stress free life is possible. There are some really easy ways to beat stress effectively. Here are some that I have encountered as a student:
1. A varied and healthy diet
Eating fresh ingredients and lots of fruit is really important. Juices filled with vitamin C, such as orange or grapefruit juice, are said to be good for your immune system so can help with stress.
When you're busy and tired it can be tempting just to grab another pizza or ready meal, but cooking from scratch can be therapeutic as well as being healthier.
Doing sport at least once a week is the best way to reduce stress. It helps your body produce endorphins, which make you feel good. Even daily walks of 30 minutes can help reduce stress levels but it's even better to work out intensively. Even if you don't feel like it at the time you will feel the benefits afterwards.
Joining a sports club could also help with stress as the regular contact with other people should help improve your mood.
And why not try yoga? It's a great way to ease your mind and relax your muscles.
It might sound simple, but sitting quietly for 10 minutes a day can really help with stress levels. If you've never tried meditation before, it's worth a go.
Good breathing techniques can put you in a more relaxed state as they send oxygen surging through your bloodstream, helping to calm you down and beat the stress.
4. Take breaks regularly
Short breaks between working can help you switch off. But longer breaks are important too.
How about taking the weekend off to relax? Make time for fun and for yourself even if this means that you have to schedule time away from your work. You'll hopefully come back to your work feeling fresh.
5. Get a pet
It is said that spending time with animals is good for your health. If you pat a dog for a couple of minutes, your body releases hormones that make you feel happy and can decrease the amount of stress in your system.
Most uni halls won't let you keep an animal though, so spending some time with friends or family who have pets is a good option: you get the love without the commitment.
6. Sleep (and sign off Facebook)
Sleep is always the best medicine and some people find that small 20-minute naps can help increase productivity.
As students we tend to spend too much time on social media sites and answering emails, texts and phone calls. Sociability is fun – but too much of it, and too much computer time, can lead to more stress.
Failing to switch off from work because of your electronic gadgets will only make you even more stressed.
7. Quit smoking
Some people say they smoke to relax, but researchers on the European Board for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco suggest that nicotine suppresses the hormone serotonin, which fights stress. Another good reason to quit.
8. Try to see the positive side
If you missed a deadline, try to appreciate what you learned from this mistake: now you know how to plan ahead. Things might seem bad, but if you try, there is usually something positive to be learned.
9. Listen to music
Listening to music can help calm you down and put you in a better frame of mind. If you're feeling stressed, putting on some calming music while you work could really help.
They say that laughter is the best medicine, and it's really true. Laughing out loud increases oxygen and blood flow which automatically reduces stress.
Not taking life too seriously can help everyone live a better and easier life. Make time for yourself, log out of Twitter and take breaks. It's about time that we students accept that we can achieve just as much in life without all the stress.
How do you manage stress? Share your tips in the comments section below