Toys and objects to deal with physical stress.
April 23, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

So there is the stress ball. That one I know. Does anyone have any other ideas for dealing with nervous energy from stress and anxiety in the office that won't bother people around you so much (esp those moments when I can't just go for a long walk or to the gym, etc). It’s a fairly routine problem for me that even after the stressor is long gone, the nervous energy sticks around. I don't so much need the 'take a deep breath' or 'think positive' type of thing, I might not even be actively thinking or worrying about anything; and I already have a good doc for the long term aspects. Just looking for some ideas about the tactile and physical side of this thing, which tends to stick around for a while and can be pretty uncomfortable.
posted by shimmer to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
When I need to feel figuratively 'grounded' at work, I take off my shoes and concentrate on the flat and cool feeling of my socks on the floor under the desk, and picture the stress flowing out like the heat and dissipating.

Also, because I can feel a reminder that fleeing into the parking lot is now a two-stage process, I can relax and stay here working.

Depending on how fresh your socks are, this may or may not affect those around you.
posted by Kakkerlak at 11:41 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have an office with a bit of privacy? If so - knitting or crocheting is actually really good for this sort of thing. Plus - after a bit of time you have a new thing to wear.

Admittedly this solution does not work for all offices, but if you have a reasonable bit of privacy this could be something to consider.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yoga ball as chair. I loved the constant bounce (if I wanted to -- I have ADD and so yes I very much did...) or the ability to roll back and forth to stretch out my back.
posted by Madamina at 11:44 AM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

How about this stuff?
posted by bink at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2013

If it's fiddling rather than thumping or squeezing you need, tangle toys are great.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:48 AM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

What about a textured foot massager put under your desk?
Chewing gum?
posted by tenaciousmoon at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I watch video and edit subtitles for my job, and I'm a constant fidgeter. So I have a lot of different things for keeping my hands busy while my brain is concentrating, for various levels of interaction.

The things I have include:

-Three different colors of "Thinking Putty" which is similar to silly putty except far superior in that it has much less of a residue, there's way more of it, it comes in a nice tin, the colors are far more attractive, and it behaves in a more interesting way. This is by far my best fidget for giving my hands something to do.

-A simple crochet project I can do solely by touch. Often knitting and crochet involves a lot of counting, and a lot of visual checking of progress, which can impede productivity when your eyes are needed somewhere else. But crochet projects are often simple enough to do simply by feel, once a chunk of it has been started. Particularly crocheting in the round so you don't have to worry about row length.

-A series of simple exercises I do while in and by my chair. This includes stuff like twists and squats and arm curls as well as systematic tensing and relaxing of specific muscles.
posted by Mizu at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2013

The scratchier side of Velcro taped to the underside of your desk, for running your fingers/nails across.
posted by 0 at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of these simple head massagers. They look odd, but they feel seriously great and are a lovely way to relax almost instantly.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:56 AM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

My husband taught himself how to roll a coin across his knuckles for this very purpose.
posted by Safiya at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2013

Greek men traditionally use a strand of beads that can be played with in various ways -- it's called komboloi. Whether it would be the right solution for an office would depend on how close your desks are -- i.e., would a gentle clicking bother your cube-mates or whatever. Great figet stuff though. I see there are a bunch on eBay...
posted by acm at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2013

A related previously: What are some objects that a patient in the hospital can safely "fiddle" with?

ETA: See also Cellphone disassembly alternative for idle hands?

Both threads contain suggestions for toys/objects with which to redirect nervous energy.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2013

Worry stones?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:14 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make origami. I have an entire shelf of stress origami made during the project from hell.
posted by punchtothehead at 12:25 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a baseball & cricket ball on my desk - both help me decompress. I spin them around in my hand.

Just a heads up though, whatever you have on your desk, people will feel need to touch/play with. Your cool stress reliever may do the opposite when someone is mindlessly playing with it.

Hope you find what you are looking for.
posted by ACEness at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2013

Chewing gum?

No, gross, please don't, to preserve your co-worker's' sanity.
Instead, start parking a round toothpick between your teeth. Chew it up, discard and repeat. This was the surrogate I used to quit smoking but I still find it useful for dealing with stress, decades after I quit smoking.
posted by Rash at 1:12 PM on April 23, 2013

Sometimes it works for me to tense up a group of muscles, hold the tension as long as I can, and then release. Tense/hold/release feet, lower legs, upper legs, buttocks, abdomen, arms, back, shoulders/neck, and face.

This can be used as a relaxation exercise (with deep breathing and whatnot), But honestly, I often just do it to physically tire out my muscles when I have some nervous energy and can't actually exercise.
posted by snowmentality at 1:20 PM on April 23, 2013

Pen Spinning?

and Progressive Muscle Relaxation when you need to decompress.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:22 PM on April 23, 2013

Paper clip/rubber band art.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:28 PM on April 23, 2013

Eating baby carrots or other healthy finger food -- keeps your hands moderately busy but not so much you can't type. And there's a satisfying stress-releasing crunch!
posted by Pomo at 1:30 PM on April 23, 2013

If you have sufficient privacy (or can sneak off to the loo for two minutes), try scrunching up your face, opening your mouth wide in a silent scream, and clenching your fists until you shake.

I also find detailing (cleaning) an object in my environment very calming. Slowly and methodically cleaning my keyboard, or my desk surface, or my drawer. No using stinky chemicals or frantic motions...a slow groove, meditative, quiet. I find a few minutes with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and a grungy surface very soothing, and it gives me the illusion of control over chaos.
posted by nacho fries at 1:35 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get a nice pair of hand grips and do something beneficial for your body while taking care of the nervous energy.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:38 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like playing with my rolling ring -- it's pretty quiet and most of the time just looks like pretty jewelry.
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2013

I fidget with BuckyBalls all the time, and they're great. I also stretch a lot.
posted by PhatLobley at 2:15 PM on April 23, 2013

I love playing with this silicone pot holder. It's similar to popping bubble wrap, but better.
posted by clearlydemon at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2013

Worry stones are great! Especially when you find your own. I have this one that I picked up about two years's got such a nice feel to it and fits perfectly hidden in my hand. I've collected quite a few of them now and I find them in random pockets sometimes. Just when I need them, really. It's weird, but you build this sort of historicity with something like that. I know exactly which one it is, what it looks like, where I found it, all the times it's comforted me before. Sometimes it's just for puzzling something out. Sometimes it's a reminder to do something. Sometimes it's an inside joke with myself. Which is really all just me anthropomorphizing a rock, but hey, it serves its purpose.

And the best part is, if you lose's just a rock. There are others to be found.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:48 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

oh man, fidgets. yeah. We have a lot of these around the house for the kid, he has autism. The cubigami is a current fave, as is the ball of whacks. The x ball, the y ball, and the star ball are good too. Someone already mentioned the tangle toys, they really are good. The block by block mind puzzle is a good one, and so is this little kanoodle puzzle game. All of these are on Amazon, and if you look at the "customers also bought" links you'll find other ideas as well.
posted by lemniskate at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2013

Not a toy but a hot cup of good loose tea properly prepared is the best non-destructive consumption midday destressor I know of.
posted by ifjuly at 6:47 PM on April 23, 2013

Magnetic sculpture! I have this one - I love playing with it.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:57 PM on April 23, 2013

A Slinky. Mine got taken away, probably best to keep the office door closed if you find it as soothing as I did.
posted by mcbeth at 7:44 PM on April 23, 2013

Yep, I call them my twitchy toys or my magpie/raven/crow shiny things, and they vary from things like a twist tie or paper clip that I'm trying to completely straighten out, to a sparkle filled kid's ball that I toss from hand to hand or try to balance on my head or try to catch one handed, to origami (I keep a couple packets of paper in my office and fold cranes during phone conferences or when I'm stressed/thinking and have a whole quart container of them again and it's interesting to see what others will fold while you work on something together too), to a blue marble I found that I roll around my hands. Flipping pens (does not go so well if you use a fountain pen, but those bring their own fiddly features that compensate). Oh, a pretty rock with an interesting texture... Squishy company swag... Tennis ball or something to roll under my feet. Really, anything smallish and tactile will do. I see all sorts of lovely treasures in this thread!

I don't chew gum in public because I like to pop it which is obnoxious and I find it visually distracting when others chew gum and assume the same must be true of me as well but I do in my car alone, it is weirdly soothing. Totally do the loose tea thing. I have a hot water kettle in my office and a respectable tea stash. I also have a small stash of toys in my car. Tiny palm sized beany type stuffed critters, compasses, matchbox cars, pennies, more rocks...
posted by susanbeeswax at 1:10 AM on April 24, 2013

A very simple thing that's helped me in times of stress or anxiety has been to rub the inside of my palm with my (other hand's) thumb. I can't tell you how or why it works but it's rather inconspicuous and yet so calming.
posted by sevenofspades at 9:05 AM on April 24, 2013

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