Improving mental and physical health through exercise
Feeling stressed? You’re not alone - well-being figures reveal around 20% of us now have anxiety. No wonder we're experiencing a boom in stress-relieving toys; fidget spinners are now so popular, they made up 17% of global daily online toy sales by June 2017.
But are these gadgets just a fad, or is there any point to them? We tested five of the most popular stress-busting tools to find out.
1. The fidget spinner
We tested: Blue Tri Fidget Hand Spinner Toy by iGadget Tradings, £6.99, amazon.co.uk
Many fidget spinner manufacturers claim the gadget relieves ADHD, autism and anxiety. While there is some research that fidgeting (jiggling legs, for example) can help children with ADHD to concentrate, there's no scientific evidence that fidget spinners have the same effect. I hoped it would distract me from my overflowing To Do list, but no luck; it actually made me feel more stressed, as it was disorientating to watch it spin around so fast and then stop abruptly when put down.
Verdict: This might entertain a fidgety school child, but it had no appeal for me. 2/5
2. The traditional stress ball
We tested: Stress Balls in Yellow by StressCHECK, £6.99, amazon.co.uk
Stress balls are designed to help relieve tension and stress - the idea is that when you tighten and then release your fist, it helps you let go of the angst too. I used it during a busy day at work to help me calm down and renew my focus. I tried squeezing the ball as tightly as I could for three seconds and then releasing, repeating the exercise 20 times; however, I still felt anxious afterwards.
Verdict: While I didn't exactly feel calmer, I did feel more alert and worked more efficiently for the rest of the day. 3/5
3. The wire head massager
We tested: TRIXES Head Scalp Massager Relaxing Therapeutic Portable Stress Relief by Digiflex, £4.99, amazon.co.uk.
According to advocates, a wire-based head massager can help relax muscles in your neck that tense up when you're stressed. I used to find this tool creepy, like a big spider. But when I used it on a morning train commute - ignoring the bemused looks from other commuters - the touch of the fingertip-like prongs relaxed me.
Verdict: Although this made my heart race the most out of all the gadgets tested, maybe because the massage stimulated blood flow to my scalp, I was left feeling more positive and energised for the day. 4/5
4. The putty
We tested: Crayola Silly Putty Original Craft Set by AJ Every Day, £5.11, amazon.co.uk
Silly Putty is sometimes known as 'thinking putty', as it's meant to help you process your thoughts while you play. My first thought, picking it up on a dreary grey Monday, is that this is brilliant stuff - smooth, mess-free and moldable. I felt immersed in the activity and opened up creatively, fashioning a little stick figure. When the five-minute timer I had set myself went off, I wanted to keep playing.
Verdict: Putty may not be a traditional stress-relieving tool, but it definitely gave me a creativity boost which made me feel good. 3/5
5. The stress-busting app
We tested: Recolour, free to download on iOS and Android with £9.99 monthly optional subscription
I used this colouring-in app when I came home tired after work, and it was really satisfying. It is very easy to use - you click on an area of your chosen pattern, including flowers, plants, animals and abstract designs, and it floods with colour. I soon started to feel myself start to unwind. The only mistake was using the app while my phone was still available for calls, so I was interrupted. Next time, I'll switch to airplane mode first.
Verdict: I'm planning to use this app a lot more to relax on the sofa after a long day, although I've already worked through all the patterns available on the free version. I'd recommend using it with a 'night filter' too, so there's no sleep-disrupting blue light. 5/5
While all these gadgets may be a fun distraction, they're no substitute for medical help if you have anxiety. Finding a solution that helps you relax and manage your feelings is an important factor in relieving anxiety, so talk to your GP if you're struggling.