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Do Stress Balls Help With Anger Management?

Stress balls have become a popular tool for attempting to manage feelings of anger and reduce stress. These small, squishy balls are easy to find in stores and online, marketed as a way to channel frustration and tension through the hands. But do these colorful little balls actually help calm anger? Let’s take a look at what experts say.

What the Research Shows

There has been limited scientific research on stress balls specifically for anger management. However, studies do show that activities involving the hands can help reduce anxiety, stress, and frustration. Squeezing a stress ball engages the senses and provides distraction from angry thoughts. The repetitive motion can also be soothing and relieve muscle tension.

In one small study, researchers found that letting frustrated participants squeeze a soft ball helped lower stress hormone levels and increased reports of feeling better. Other research has shown that fidget toys like stress balls can help restless children pay better attention in class by releasing nervous energy through the hands. So there is some evidence that stress balls may help with emotions like anger by providing an outlet for agitation.

However, experts caution that stress balls should be used along with other healthy anger management techniques, not as the only solution. “Squeezing a stress ball can temporarily alleviate angry feelings by giving your hands something to do,” says psychologist Dr. Beverly Flaxington. “But it doesn’t solve the underlying issues or teach long-term coping strategies.”

How to Use Stress Balls for Anger

Psychologists recommend using stress balls as part of a comprehensive anger management plan:

  1. Learn to identify anger warning signs. Pay attention to body cues like clenched fists, faster breathing, tense muscles. Recognize angry thoughts like blaming others or dwelling on frustration. Knowing your personal anger signals makes it easier to intervene early.
  2. Take a break and redirect your attention. Excuse yourself from a heated situation giving yourself time to cool down. Squeeze a stress ball in your hands for a few minutes focusing on the sensation. This can interrupt the escalation of anger.
  3. Practice calming techniques. While squeezing the stress ball, take some deep, slow breaths. Imagine the anger flowing out while squeezing. Or visualize peaceful imagery. Use calming self-talk like “relax” or “stay cool.” Deep breathing, visualization, and positive self-talk are proven ways to reduce angry feelings.
  4. Identify solutions. Once calmer, reassess the anger-provoking situation more rationally. Look for constructive solutions to the problem causing frustration. Seek compromises. Stress balls can’t solve problems for you, but calming yourself helps evaluate things more clearly.
  5. Develop healthy coping habits. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep, healthy eating and productive outlets for frustration – like talking to a friend or journaling – keeps anger from building up. Stress balls can be handy for quick relief, but lifestyle habits reduce overall stress and irritability.
  6. Know when to seek help. If uncontrollable anger is impacting relationships and daily functioning, counseling provides tools for long-term change. Therapists teach relaxation techniques, communication skills and cognitive restructuring to help manage high levels of anger. Stress balls alone won’t fix destructive anger issues.

Science shows that occupying your hands with a stress ball can temporarily relieve angry feelings. The act of squeezing provides distraction from thoughts, releases tension and can improve mood. While not a cure-all, portable, inexpensive stress balls can be helpful as part of an overall anger management plan. The best approach combines stress ball breaks with learning long-term calming strategies, getting regular exercise, improving lifestyle habits, and seeking counseling if anger remains difficult to control. With some practice identifying triggers, intervening early and utilizing healthy coping tools like stress balls, it is possible gain control over anger.