One of the body’s reactions to fear and anxiety and stress is muscle tension. This can result in feeling tense, or can lead to muscle aches and pains, as well as leaving some people feeling exhausted. Think about how YOU respond to stressful situations. Do you tense up when you’re feeling anxious? Muscle relaxation can be particularly helpful in cases where anxiety or stress is especially associated to muscle tension.
Stress balls are a fantastic way to incorporate a sensory activity for progressive muscle relaxation. In Progressive Muscle Relaxation, we tense up muscles and then relax them. It’s a ‘squeeze – release’ activity.
Repeatedly squeezing the ball releases tension and in turn, helps to relieve stress. In addition to the mental benefits, stress balls also boost blood circulation and help with the treatment of carpal-tunnel syndrome and arthritis — and they’re used as a tool for meditation too!
WHEN to use the MINDFULNESS STRESS BALLS:
You can incorporate this stress ball in your classroom, in your calm corner (check out our February Blog Post on how to set up a Calm corner at School or Aged Care) or when working with Seniors or Children – wherever you are.
- When a person is angry to help him manage his emotions;
- When you feel a person is nervous or stressed because of a specific situation;
- Before lunch time to help decrease energy level.
- In the Calm Corner
- For fun
- As a sensory tool for people with sensory needs
Children who have autism or ADD/ADHD use Stress Balls as a way to keep calm and stay focused, as squeezing the stress ball sends sensory signals that occupy one part of the child’s brain, the anxious one, making them attentive.
BENEFITS of MINDFULNESS STRESS BALLS:
- Relieve arthritis pains
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Promote better sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve concentration and creativity
- Strengthen muscles
- Supports ‘fidgeting’ for kids with ADHD or ASD
- Wonderful sensory activity for people with special needs
What’s the connection to Yoga and Mindfulness:
Sometimes all it takes is a change in your thought patterns to change your day. Unfortunately, mindfulness is something that does not come naturally to everyone. Fortunately, mindfulness is something that we can develop – if we want to.
Stress balls are a fantastic little tool because they actually help you relieve stress. Stress is a psychological response that manifests physically in our bodies. You may notice a quickened heartbeat, racing mind, and tense muscles. With squeezing the Mindfulness Stress Ball, we’re sending a signal to our brain to release stress and tension while focusing ‘on the moment’.
Our attention gets away from the worry or stress and we’re getting in touch with our inner experience. As you get more familiar with your inner experience, it becomes easier to get in touch with your felt sense, a visceral understanding of your situation as a whole.
How to MAKE Mindfulness Stress Balls:
- A Balloon
- Flour, Cornstarch, Playdough, Rice
- Funnel (you can make one out of a piece of paper)
- Empty Water Bottle
- Optional: Decorations (eg cotton wool, permanent marker, …)
- Stretch out your balloon. Try blowing it up for some extra stretch.
- Choose your filling: Rice or Flour, playdough, or beans.
- Stick a funnel in the neck of a water bottle.
- Fill the water bottle with your desire filling. Then spread the neck of the balloon over the water bottle.
- Slowly fill up your balloon. Go slow to avoid clogging the neck of the balloon. If your balloon does clog, don’t fret, you can use a pencil or pen to unclog the opening.
- Gently remove the funnel and try to squeeze out as much air as you can.
- Tie up your balloon and cut off any excess.
- Now for the fun part, decorate your homemade stress balloons.
- Make funny faces, angry faces, smiley faces.
Watch the video on how to make a fun stress ball:
How to USE the Stress Balls:
- Squeeze the stress ball in your left hand for 30 seconds.
- Pulse it for 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the right hand.
STRESS BALL GAME IDEAS:
“Play is the brain’s favourite way of learning” (Diane Ackerman). Here are some fun ways to incorporate some play and laughter to your Stress Ball at School or Aged Care:
1. Tone Your Muscles
Even if you aren’t experiencing stress or anxiety, simply squeezing a stress ball firmly in the hands can help to strengthen the muscles of the forearm, wrists, and hands in no time at all. You can do this practically anywhere – while working, at home while watching TV, use it as a fidgety school in the classroom or before a staff meeting.
2. Relax During Meetings
Many of us feel that our work weeks are nothing more than a series of meetings. If you find yourself getting tired, irritated, bored, or simply disinterested during one of your meetings, consider using a stress ball to keep your hands occupied and your mind at peace.
3. Play Games with the Young (at Heart)
Use your stress ball to play catch with your Kids or Seniors, without fear of punching a hole in your window. Other ideas include learning how to juggle, batting practice, and a good old fashioned game of catch.
4. Massage Your Feet
Slip off your shoes and roll your feet on a couple of stress balls on the ground. This can stimulate acupressure points that provide calming benefits, as well as a boost to your creative thinking abilities.
5. Enhance Communication at School or Aged Care
Ask your kids or seniors how their day was, and then sit back and listen quietly until it is your time to hold the stress ball. This helps to encourage communication while minimizing disruptions.
6. Do a Stress Ball Hunt
Take a break from working and get everyone in the room involved in a stress ball hunt (think of it as a riff on an Easter egg hunt). Choose someone to hide them, and the rest find them. Winner gets a stress ball.
7. Mindful De-Stress Game
Ask participants to stand and form circles of about five to eight people. Give each group one stress ball to begin. Have the first person throw a ball to someone else and remember who they threw it to since they will be asked to remember and continue the same pattern. If there is only one group, you can be part of the group, but if there is more than one, make sure you are not in the mix, since you will need to move around between groups.
Each person throws the ball to someone who has not yet had the ball. The last person sends it back to the original person who “keeps the ball rolling” a little faster then next time. (Do not have them throw to the same person twice until all members have gotten it first.)
Once they have the pattern down, introduce another ball—then another and then another. Balls drop, roll, etc., but urge them to pick them up and continue. With five or six balls going at a time, it becomes quite a circus with a lot of laughing!
Reflection: After about five minutes, have everyone sit down and identify what they can learn from the activity (besides it being hard to keep all the balls in the air!). What did they learn they had to do to be successful? How many thought of what they would eat for dinner, etc.? This is a great lesson on mindfulness, as people are totally in the present, and thus would be an ideal activity for Seniors/Kids to playfully introduce the subject of mindfulness. Point out that life is like the activity—we all juggle many things at one time, and if we are not focused, things get dropped! If we focus too much on the past or present, the stress balls will pound and bombard us if we are not alert.
Mindfulness Stress Balls for Children with SPECIAL NEEDS
Stress balls are a major source for maintaining equilibrium. The most common stress or fidget toys used for children with autism make squishy noises while others require physical manipulation to move. Mindfulness Stress Balls shown to be the most desirable solution for autism during treatment because they are a needed source of distraction that reduces the anxiety levels in the children. To make you understand what these kids go through, imagine how you feel and look when you are anxious. Now, visualize feeling that way all the time, stressful, right? Unfortunately, that is how children with autism feel and the stress balls help in reducing the anxiety. This works the same way you feel when you squeeze the Mindfulness Stress Ball when you are stressed, but you have to work or prevent yourself from an outburst.
Use of Mindfulness Stress Balls, and their incorporation into children’s sensory diets results in better tolerance to sensations, there is better regulation of emotions, alertness is enhanced, and your child’s attention span is increased. Cognitive abilities, writing, and school performance is enhanced in children with autism, ADHD, and other kids with regulated sensory patterns. Attention is the main deficit that most children struggle with.
Mindfulness Stress Balls are a wonderful tool to incorporate some Yoga Time – YOGAZEIT into your day. Take a deep breath and squeeze, incorporate the games and have some fun.
Why not give it a go? Enjoy!