- Mental Health
Everything You Need to Know About Stress Balls
What is a Stress Ball
Stress balls are small therapeutic toys that you play with in your hands. They come in many shapes, sizes, and materials from beanbags, to small promotional toys you get at fairs, to fancy stress balls that are rated for different resistance levels to aid in physical therapy and strength building.
How Do Stress Balls Work
Stress balls work in a couple of
different ways. For people who are very kinesthetic – have a
strong sense of touch and how things feel – good stress balls will
help focus tremendously when involved in activities that require
sitting still or having a lot of mental focus.
For stress, the action of tensing and
releasing muscles in the hand provides stress relief. By tensing and
relaxing, you flush out the muscle tension which aids in releasing
stress from the body. You can do this repeated tensing and relaxing
without the aid of stress balls, but many people find they are able
to do it longer while playing with something.
From a therapeutic standpoint, stress
balls help to build strength in the hands and related muscles. They
are especially helpful for repeated use injuries such as carpal
tunnel. Many physical and occupational therapists use and recommend
a variety of stress balls in their practice.
In addition, specialized forms such as
Chinese stress balls have been used for centuries to increase agility
in the hands and to aid in meditation and spiritual practices.
Chinese stress balls differ from what most people think of in that
they are generally hard, come in pairs, and are meant to be rotated
around the hands together. They are an excellent form of hand
massage! Chinese Stress balls are available with chimes and without.
Make Your Own Stress Balls
These are a few methods to make your own stress balls
Corn Starch – Corn Starch provides an
excellent filler for a stress ball. It has a good consistency and
won't scrape the inside of the balloon like some sands can. You will
want to use balloons for the outer skin – choose ones that are
fairly thick as this will increase the longevity. The best shape is
round with a fairly small size.
- Prepare the balloon by blowing it up some first and insert a small funnel
- Add corn starch to the balloon until it reaches your desired size – usually about 3 inches in diameter is good, but peoples hands come in different sizes!
- Once you have the size you like, let out air that is still in the balloon and tie it as close to the cornstarch as you can.
- If you want to decorate the balloon – especially if its for a child – make sure to use things that won't rub off or irritate the hands.
Use homemade play dough to fill balloons for stress balls -
There are lots of different recipes for homemade play dough, you can find several here.
I find that the recipes that include
oil and need heating generally work better. Same rules for choosing
balloons applies, only you may want to see if you can find wide neck
Because play dough can make a pretty big mess if the balloon pops, its best to triple or quadruple layer your balloons for this method.
- You will want someone to help as stuffing that second balloon is tricky and takes more than two hands!
- Prepare the homemade play dough – if you are heating it, allow it to cool for an hour before adding it to the balloons.
- Take 3 or 4 balloons and cut the ends off of all but one of them. The one with the end still on will be the last balloon you stuff.
- Add dough to the first balloon – the more you use, the more stiff your finished stress balls will be.
- Take that dough balloon and insert it open end first into the second balloon. You want to make sure the open end is completely covered by the second balloon.
- Repeat for the third balloon
- The last balloon is the tricky one, which is why having an extra set of hands will help! Wider neck balloons also help. Once you get the ball into the balloon that still has its tie off, tie it while getting as much extra air out as possible. Tie the last balloon as close as you can.
Always keep homemade stress balls away from pets and small children. Pets find them fun, but leave a huge mess for you to clean up!
Small children will choke on pieces of
balloons if they break, and sadly many small children have been
killed choking on balloons.
The Perfect Stress Relief Toy
Whether you use your own materials, or not, stress balls are an excellent addition to any office space. Modern cubicles aren't really designed for much movement, and a stress ball can help tremendously to reduce your stress at work!
Try out several different types and shapes, you may be surprised to find the perfect stress ball for you wasn't what you expected!
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