Do Stress Balls Relieve Stress?

do stress balls work

The American Institute of Stress reports that 55% of Americans are stressed during the day.

This is concerning because long-term stress can affect many aspects of our body, like our heart, stomach, and immune system.

If stress is such a dangerous problem, you may find it difficult to believe that a foam “stress ball” could have any impact.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Stress balls will not erase the stress in your life, but the physical process of using one could reduce the effects of short-term stress for some people.

How do Stress Balls Work?

When you are stressed, your body gets tense. You release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which together increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

These boosts can be helpful if you are tackling a physical challenge, but this usually is not the case for daily stressors. That’s why finding a way to de-stress and relieve your elevated energy is helpful.

You need a way to calm down and relieve tension to de-stress. Squeezing and releasing a stress ball could reduce tension, and in theory, stress.

Due to a lack of widespread research on stress balls, this theory has not been proven. Of the few studies completed on stress balls effectiveness, most were on medical patients. All studies also had small sample sizes.

A 2015 study examined how various distractions during a surgical procedure could decrease a patient’s anxiety. Stress balls were proven to be as effective in relieving anxiety during the procedure as talking to a nurse or watching a movie. Any of these three distractions decreased patient anxiety during the procedure compared to having no distractions at all.

A small study from the University of Wisconsin Madison suggests that stress balls are distracting stimuli but do not reduce the physiological measurements associated with stress.

Some people may find stress balls an effective way to relieve stress, while others may not. 

Stress Balls as a Strengthening Tool

The act of squeezing and releasing a stress ball can help build strength in your hand. 

Pain in your hand or wrist may have been caused by a specific injury event or extended periods of repetitive motion (like using a mouse/keyboard). In this case, excessive use of a stress ball could worsen your injury. 

Talk to a medical professional about your pain to ensure a proper recovery. 

Stress Balls for Giving Blood

Stress balls are used in medical settings for blood draws. With a tourniquet placed around the upper arm, you may be instructed to squeeze a stress ball in that hand to increase blood pressure and make it easier to find a vein.

Even if stress balls do not relieve stress for you, there is no doubt they are a versatile tool.

What Other Stress Relieving Activities Can You Try?

There are all kinds of stress-relieving activities to try. Some may work for you, and some may not.

The University of Colorado Boulder has a great list.

Just a few of their ideas:
– Take deep breaths
– Go for a walk
– Rub your feet over a golf ball to get a foot massage
– Do yoga
– Chew gum