The experience of mental and physical stress can take a toll on the body, causing sudden heart palpitations and shortness of breath, followed (hopefully) by a period of relaxation as the stressors pass. Brief moments of tension and release are healthy—the fight or flight response can quite literally save your life in certain situations. But chronic stress is not, and if not dealt with, it can lead to serious problems like depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
While we certainly recommend treatment options like therapy and meditation, there are some simpler tools you can turn to in moments of stress—toys. According to The Atlantic, a study by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University showed that fiddling with small toys can actually help you relieve stress, enhance your productivity, and even give your memory a boost. Here are some suggestions to help you start breathing deeply again.
Stress balls are a classic workplace de-stressor, and there’s evidence they can actually improve your health. Stress creates tension in the body that needs to be physically released. As stress expert Dr. David Posen explained to the Huffington Post, “the benefit of squeezing [a stress ball] is that it releases some kind of energy—it also induces you to relax.” Squeezing a stress ball can also relieve arthritis and strengthen muscles in the wrist and hands.
Play-Doh and putty
Play-Doh relieves stress in the same way as a stress ball—the tension and release your muscles experience as you mold the dough can relieve the physical aspects of stress and boost your concentration. Knowing the benefits of Play-Doh as a stress reliever, companies have begun to make putties specifically for this purpose—Pinch Me therapy dough infuses putty with essential oils to incorporate the sense of smell into your stress toy therapy.
A series of small magnetic balls that, when linked together, can be molded into different shapes and structures can serve as an unlikely form of stress relief due to the attention required to interact with the toy. The molding action takes your mind off of the stressor and focuses it on a tactile activity. (Don’t leave them out around your kids and pets, however—they are dangerous if swallowed, and you’re trying to reduce stress in your life.)
Similar to sculpting toys, puzzle de-stressors occupy the mind, allowing you to release your stressful thoughts and focus on the task at hand.
Mini Rubik’s Cubes
Rubik’s Cubes were first marketed as toys in 1980, but they have great stress-relieving properties, too. As you move and slide the small cubes into different positions in an attempt to create solid colors on all sides, your mind is occupied and your fingers are kept busy. A keyring-sized cube allows you to relieve stress wherever you go.
Another cube shaped stress toy, an infinity cube consists of interlocking pieces that combine to form a cube. The idea is to move the pieces around to create different shapes and structures. There is no goal with this one—just the fun of making shapes and focusing a distracted mind.
Fidget spinners became a popular fad in 2017, gaining notoriety for their ability to help kids with ADHD focus. The three pronged toy is weighted and spins between your fingers. Unfortunately, they began creating more stress for teachers and parents—and becoming an actual distraction for kids—leading them to be banned in many schools. Still, they can be useful for adults in search of relief from stress at work.
Pipe cleaners are another versatile stress relieving toy, combining the benefits of sculpting with a fidget toy.
Acupressure massage rings
Acupressure massage rings hit pressure points on the hands to relieve stress, enhance concentration and improve circulation—but they are also fun to play with.
Biting your nails or chewing on pens and pencil erasers are all habitual effects of anxiety and stress, and curbing them can be hard. Thankfully, there are toys to mitigate your dependence, or at least protect your cuticles and teeth from being damaged.
If you ever sucked on your necklace or put the pendant of a chain in your mouth, a chew necklace may save you a chipped tooth or harmful metal ingestion. The necklace is made of chewable rubber to mitigate your oral fixation.
Chewy eraser top
These rubber attachments for the ends of your pencils and pens come in different shapes and sizes, allowing you to unconsciously chew away and not burst open your pens or wind up with bits of eraser in your mouth.