When anxiety strikes, you need something to strike back with. Some people go for a run or kickbox; others meditate or take their dog for a walk.
While all of those are excellent coping mechanisms to help you deal with anxiety, you can’t exactly do those if you get hit with a wave of anxiety while you are sitting at work or out on a date. What you can do, however, is inconspicuously squeeze on a stress ball. You can even make them yourself!
Why Do Squeeze Balls Work?
Stress balls, which now come in an almost endless variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, are almost everywhere now. They are used for both helping deal with acute stress and anxiety, as well as physical therapy. They’re called stress balls because they relieve stress. Pretty straightforward, right?
Stress balls work by giving you an outlet to get out your physical stress, which, in turn, relieves your mental stress and anxiety. People with low levels of stress tend to sleep better, be healthier, and just feel better overall.
As you squeeze the stress ball, the muscles in your hand and wrists activate. When you release the stress ball, those same muscles relax. The repeated pattern of tense and release, tense and release help to alleviate both physical and mental stress and tension. The best part is, you can do this nearly anywhere without drawing attention to yourself.
In addition, the contraction and release of your muscles also release oxygen into your body. That means that your cells are receiving a fresh supply of oxygen, which boosts circulation and renews your tissues.
A positive side effect of using a stress ball is that your hand and wrist muscles will get stronger, which will also increase your grip strength. Grip strength tends to naturally fade over time as a result of the normal aging process, as well as with other conditions like arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. So, while you’re diverting your mind from paying attention to your anxiety, you’re also helping make your body healthier and more resilient.
How To Make Your Own Stress Ball
If you don’t want to purchase a stress ball, they’re incredibly easy to make yourself. You just need a few ingredients that you likely already have in your home—a balloon, corn starch, scissors, and a funnel. Sounds like a science project, right?
- Blow Up The Balloon.
You’ll start by blowing up the balloon until it is between 4 and 5 inches in diameter (about the size of the palm of your hand). Instead of tying it, just pinch it off at the end to stop the air from coming back out. You’ll want to pinch it between an inch or two from the balloon’s opening so that you still have room to put the funnel into the neck.
- Add A Funnel And Fill It With Cornstarch.
Place a small funnel inside the neck of the balloon while still pinching it closed. It’s okay if you lose a little air while you do this. Once it’s in the neck, use your other hand (or a helper) to fill the funnel with small amounts of corn starch at a time until it is full (around one cup).
- Release The Cornstarch Into The Balloon.
Once the funnel is full of corn starch, slowly release your fingers so that it can flow into the balloon. If you release the balloon too quickly, the air will all escape, and you’ll have to start all over. It may also, if released too fast, blow the corn starch into your face, so be careful!
- Continue Adding Cornstarch.
Keep adding the corn starch, slowly, until the balloon is filled about three inches. After that, add it in small increments while slowly swirling the balloon around to distribute the corn starch evenly at the bottom.
- Release The Air In The Balloon.
Once mostly full, pull up on the neck of the balloon to release the rest of the air. You don’t want any left in the balloon, or there is a risk the stress ball will pop when you use it. Imagine a loud bang when you’re already anxious! It definitely wouldn’t help you with your anxiety.
- Close Off The Balloon.
Finally, tie the balloon closed as far down as you can. Use the scissors to cut off the excess balloon neck. Decorate it with markers and stickers if you want to personalize it! Homemade stress balls also make great gifts for anxious friends and family.
Other Techniques For Reducing Stress
If you’re looking for other techniques to help reduce your stress inconspicuously, in addition to a stress ball, there are definitely other options.
Supplements that can help manage anxiety and stress are a great option. Many of these are covert and can just be popped during times of increased stress. They often use natural ingredients like L-Theanine and Rhodiola to help significantly reduce symptoms in as little as 20 minutes. And most of them taste great, too!
Also, much like stress balls, fidget spinners have shown promise in helping people distract themselves when they are feeling extra anxious. Fidget spinners come in a variety of different types and styles and are made to literally allow you to fidget when you’re going through anxiety.
While some can make noise, mostly fidget spinners are small, discrete, and can be carried with you anywhere you may need to go. There are even some that are designed to clip right onto your keychain!
Exercise is another great way to reduce stress, although it can’t be done as easily if you’re experiencing stress or anxiety in public. However, the positive benefits of exercise on mood can be seen after just five minutes.
This can include something as easy as just taking a quick walk or doing a little yoga if you have space. The endorphin release will help you feel better quickly, and your anxiety will start to fade away.
Tips To Manage Your Anxiety In Public
When your anxiety strikes while you’re in public, it’s good to know some tips for helping manage it without bringing attention to yourself.
- Focus On Your Breathing - One of the most covert ways to manage your anxiety if it gets out of control while you’re in public is to focus on your breathing. It’s easy to do, free, and doesn’t even require any equipment.
Just breathe in for four counts, hold it for seven counts, and breathe out for eight counts. Repeat this as many times as you need to feel yourself calming down. If you can, close your eyes.
- Know Who You Can Talk To - If you know that you are likely to get anxious in certain, specific situations, it can help to know who you can turn to if your anxiety gets really dire.
Maybe that’s a coworker who you’re particularly close to, a friend you know you can text no matter what time of day, or a sibling that is always up for sending a few hilarious memes to break the tension. You might even want to develop a code word so that you don’t have to go too much into what’s happening.
- Practice Mindfulness - When you’re feeling anxious in public, it is a good time to practice your mindfulness. Because panic attacks are generally related to triggers that you may or may not be aware of, it’s important to get out of your own head and focus on things that are real.
One common technique that helps to both increase your mindfulness and help fight off a panic attack is finding three things around you that are real and that you can touch. For instance, when your mind is starting to spin out of control, touch the chair you’re sitting on and say to yourself, “This is a chair. This is real.”
Find two other things that you can do the same thing with—your leg, the wall, a pen, your phone, etc. It helps ground you back into reality and takes your mind off your anxiety, which can give your brain a chance to calm itself down as well.
- Excuse Yourself - You don’t always have to give an excuse if you’re feeling anxious, and you need a moment. Just excuse yourself, step away, and take a few moments to yourself to recenter and get your mind back under control. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and it’s ok to look out for yourself.
If you’re at work and you find that this is happening more and more often, you may also want to look into if your anxiety qualifies as an official disability. That would allow you to take the “time outs” you need and still have your job protected legally.
Managing Your Stress
Stress balls, as well as other natural, inconspicuous techniques for anxiety reduction that can be used right when you need it, can be majorly helpful when you’re experiencing anxiety in an inconvenient location.
You can even make a stress ball yourself using household materials if you’re looking to save money! They’re incredibly easy to make and are very beneficial to both anxiety and even grip strength. Start using one today!