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The story of the stress ball

stress ball

 

We’ve all had occasional moments in the office when things haven’t been going well – and around 30 years ago a man named Alex Carswell had one of those episodes.
In frustration he threw his pen at the wall and ended up smashing the glass in a framed photograph of his mother. This gave him the idea of producing a stress-relief aid for busy executives and office workers that would help them let off steam without damaging property.

In 1988 Carswell patented the modern Stressball, a soft blue ball made of polyurethane foam that emitted the sound of breaking glass when it was thrown. And following in his footsteps, various other manufacturers produced squeezable stress relief aids to fit into the palm of the hand.

They became popular with stockbrokers to help them cope with the pressure of seeing fortunes being made or lost in a day- and there was one on almost every banker’s desk. When investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, for example, its assets included more than 2,000 stress balls.

Today there are many varieties of stress relief toys – even human-shaped ones with stretchy arms and legs in case you feel like tearing someone’s limbs off! Seriously though, many people do get a sense of relief from manipulating a foam or rubber ball when under pressure.

But how do these little aids work? In a nutshell, they help produce Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) which is a relaxation technique. By forcing your muscles to tense up as you squeeze a stress ball, and then relaxing them again, you become more aware of the tension in your body and the difference between tension and relaxation. It’s easier then to decide to relax on purpose as a method of combating anxiety. Ideally, don’t just stop with a stress ball, but take five minutes out to tense and relax all of the muscles in your body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet.

Using a stress ball has the added benefit of strengthening the muscles in your hand and stimulating acupressure points – although you might benefit more from finding a less stressful job!

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