Let's face it, who hasn't experienced at least once some benefit by squeezing a ball with all his/her might, perhaps the one that belongs to the loved pet, in a moment of great stress? Without disturbing the dog's game, however, anti-stress balls exist and serve, as the word itself suggests, to counteract a moment of strong emotional tension, anxiety or fear. These are very soft balls that fit in the palm of your hand and can be squeezed easily, thus providing an outlet for nervousness. That's all, a very simple remedy. But do anti stress balls really work? Science has dedicated numerous studies to anti-stress balls, so let's see what emerges from the research.
Anti-stress balls, immediate benefits
Anti-stress balls have the task of distracting attention from the stress-causing event and moving it onto something else, such as the sensations you feel when squeezing the ball. In fact, this system has proven useful in managing anxiety and reducing stress levels in situations that normally increase tension, such as in the case of sick people undergoing hospital treatments. Squeezing the anti stress ball during the treatment significantly reduced stress (Kasar et al, Complement Ther Clin Pract, 2020). Not only that, using the anti-stress ball during medical treatments, injections, diagnostic tests or even sessions at the dentist has been shown to reduce perceived pain or discomfort (Soltani et al, Clin Oral Investig, 2023 - Karatas et al, Gastroenterol Nurs, 2023).
Anti-stress balls, long-term benefits
The regular use of anti-stress balls, at home or in the office, made it possible to reduce chronic anxiety but also sadness and depression in four weeks. These results were also obtained in people experiencing a period of severe stress caused by an illness (Ozen et al, Hemodial Int, 2023). The use of anti-stress balls allows you to look away from obsessive thoughts and fears, which would then inevitably end up enlarging and linking to each other in a spiral that can only worsen the state of anxiety. Finally, the use of anti-stress balls helps strengthen the hands and forearm muscles.
Anti-stress balls, effective but not for everyone
We have seen that the scientific studies carried out so far have shown a generalized benefit of anti-stress balls when it comes to reducing immediate anxiety and pain but also stress and long-term sadness. However, anti stress balls don't always work as we would expect. Studies have highlighted that there are benefits but not always and not for everyone (Yanes et al, JAMA Dermatol, 2018). Some people may not respond to this anti-stress remedy, after all, this can be expected, we are different and we respond to stress and stimuli to reduce stress differently. Maybe the anti-stress ball isn't right for us, or it might be more relaxing for us to pass it between our fingers or play with it in another way. In addition, the anti-stress ball can be very useful for immediate relief in the event of a particular event that generates anxiety. As regards long-term action, as we have seen, it can help but for a more powerful and complete effect it is better to combine it with other interventions, such as walks in nature and/or meditation, art therapy, aromatherapy or following our hobbies that fascinate us most. In any case, since the anti stress ball has no contraindications and is easy to find in shops or make at home, it can definitely be worth a try.
Anti-stress ball, how to use it
Hold the anti-stress ball in your hand, then squeeze it and finally release the muscle tension. Repeat this contraction and relaxation movement, it can be just for a few seconds or for several minutes, depending on the benefits you feel. You can also combine this movement with breathing, inhale when you contract your hand and exhale when you relax, try to take slow and deep breaths in order to maximize the action against anxiety and stress (Mehrez et al, Cancer Nursing Practice, 2015).
DIY anti-stress ball, how to prepare it at home
Get a balloon and inflate it to a diameter of about ten centimeters. Close the opening of the balloon, if you have assistance from another person use your fingers otherwise use pliers, about a couple of centimeters from the opening. Slide the opening of the balloon over a funnel, keep the balloon closed. Fill the top of the funnel with cornstarch. Open the opening of the balloon slightly so that the starch can flow inside. The operation should be done slowly otherwise there is a risk of the starch flying into the air. Continue to lower the starch until it reaches a height of 7-8 cm, or however big you want your anti-stress ball to be. At this point remove the funnel, let out the excess air, this operation is important otherwise you risk breaking the balloon at the first squeeze, and close the balloon with a knot. Finally, you can indulge in the decorations of the anti-stress ball, this is also a therapy against anxiety!