13 Stress-Relief Toys That Actually Work
Some days, life can make even the calmest person feel anxious. First, try taking a few deep breaths, then find your zen with one of these calming products.
In a study exploring the therapeutic effects of weighted blankets, 63 percent of participants said they felt less anxious after using one. Like a hug for your whole self, a weighted blanket applies full-body that could stimulate the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Choose a blanket that’s about 10 percent of your body weight and crawl beneath it to experience deep tissue pressure stimulation that can reduce anxiety, increase relaxation, and improve sleep. Find out which 10 stress-relief strategies actually backfire.
Art therapy workbook
Board Certified Registered Art Therapist Jill Howell created Color, Draw, Collage to help individuals deal with the stress of everyday life through creativity. More than just a coloring book, this art therapy workbook also teaches practical coping skills and helps users get to the root of their problems. Don’t worry if you can’t draw a straight line; a Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce the stress hormone cortisol, regardless of skill level.
Sound therapy machine
These stress-relief toys are based on vibroacoustic therapy, which has been around for thousands of years. Just look at the Aborigines in Australia, who have been healing the sick and soothing the mentally ill for at least 40,000 years using the low vibrational sounds of the didgeridoo. HUSO combines this ancient tradition with modern acoustic technology; the company essentially remixes the vocals from sound healers with vibrational frequencies and sound engineering for maximum relaxation. For a more transformative experience, there are also wrist and ankle pads that vibrate on major acupuncture meridians. Check out these other stress-busting ways to unwind after a hard day.
One of the oldest stress-relief toys on the market, stress balls are still one of the best. “When you get stressed you also tense up, and the act of repeatedly squeezing and releasing a stress ball helps you relax,” says marriage and family therapist Andrew Sofin. He also recommends them for clients with nervous energy, who have the tendency to “get lost” in distracting behaviors such as playing with their hair, biting their nails, or tugging on a sweater thread.
Weighted sleep mask
There’s a reason why doctors treat migraine patients by applying constant pressure to their face while covering their eyes with wet towels. According to emergency room doctor Wallace B. McKinney, MD, activating deep touch receptors in the body triggers comfort signals in the brain. Filled with soothing microbeads, NodPod uses deep pressure touch therapy and cozy light-blocking fabric to promote relaxation and a deep restful sleep.
Don’t underestimate the power of smell. A study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine found that individuals who inhaled a soothing essential oil blend of lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree, and peppermint felt less stressed and depressed than those who didn’t. An essential oil diffuser, which disperses tiny scent microparticles into the air, is a quick and easy way to enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of aromatherapy at home. Don’t miss these other 15 five-second strategies for shutting down stress.
Lizzy Mello, co-founder of Litt Wellness, recommends YogaToes to relieve tension in the feet. “They bring space between the metatarsals and create a gentle stretch without strain,” she explains. Slip them on while you’re reading or watching a movie and let the stretching begin. While you won’t get the same full-body relaxation as yoga from these stress-relief toys, your tired feet will certainly thank you.
White noise machine
It might seem counter-intuitive, but a little bit of sound can actually help you fall asleep—which can be hard to do when you’re feeling stressed. Constant ambient sound, or white noise, can reduce “the difference between background sounds and a ‘peak’ sound, like a door slamming, giving you a better chance to sleep through it undisturbed,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. If the whir of a fan is soothing but the chill in the air keeps you awake, check out Snooz, a portable white noise machine that mimics the sound of a fan without the breeze. Make sure you know how to spot the signs that stress is making you sick.
Cranial electrotherapy stimulation device
Alpha brain waves, which are linked to a calm mental state, can be increased through mindfulness, meditation, and cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES). Lauren Dummit, co-founder and clinical director of Triune Therapy Group in Los Angeles, began researching at-home devices after seeing how much one of her patients benefited from CES while in a residential treatment program for an eating disorder. She now recommends this light and sound machine to other patients with eating disorders, as well as those with anxiety, depression, ADHD, insomnia, and other struggles.
Light therapy is one way to beat symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and also shows promise in improving function in patients with bipolar disorder. Bright light exposure can even help individuals without a mood disorder; most of us aren’t getting as much sunlight as our bodies need, especially in the winter. The HappyLight Liberty by Verilux, a portable light box, is small enough to carry in a purse or briefcase to the office yet emits as much light as lamps ten times its size. Don’t miss these weird symptoms you didn’t know where linked to stress.
Developed by co-workers who used to text each other messages of encouragement, Shine offers stress relief in two ways: Shine Texts are bite-sized, research-backed bits of advice sent daily, while Shine Talks are short app-based talks on topics related to self-care. “Shine helps people reduce stress and feelings of anxiety by using affirmations that build skills and provides an individual with a new, more positive choice in self-care. In psychology, we call this being able to take committed action,” explains Anna Rowley, PhD, a consulting psychologist and adviser to Shine. Learn these other life secrets from people who never seem frazzled.
Reflexology foot massager
These stress-relief toys may resemble medieval torture devices, but those nubs and ridges are meant to stimulate trigger points that can relieve pain and improve your mood. In reflexology, the feet are a map for the body, and ailments—including anxiety—can treated by applying pressure to the correct location on the foot. As reflexologist Rosanna Bickerton explains in The Telegraph, reflexology “triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing anxiety, stopping the fight-or-flight response and letting the body heal.”
Palo Santo sticks
Palo Santo, also known as “holy wood,” comes from a specific type of sustainably cultivated tree in South America. It’s believed to ward off bad energy, and calm and cleanse both the body and mind. “There’s something very elemental, analog, and balanced about the ritual of lighting a match and burning a stick of Palo Santo,” says Suji Meswani, co-founder of Skeem Design. “What’s more, its natural aromatic properties, with hints of mint and citrus, leave a beautiful scent that lasts for hours.” For even more relief, check out these 37 expert stress management tips.
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