3 Sensory Stress-Relieving Tactics to Try

Don't worry, they definitely aren't fidget spinners...

If a fidget spinner––you know, that tiny triangle-shaped piece of metal or plastic that spins along an axis––hasn’t found its way to your work, your child’s backpack or, heaven forbid, your dinner table, consider yourself lucky! The super-simple toys have quickly become the time-waster of the summer. 

But as seemingly insignificant as the hand-held gadget might appear, there is science emerging to back its benefits. According to a recent Forbes article, fidgeting may help to occupy the parts of your brain that might otherwise be distracted by productivity-impeding thoughts. In other words, time spent twiddling a fidget spinner might ease anxiety about your performance at work or troubles at home. What’s more, studies has also found that pairing movement with thinking, even when that thinking isn’t complex, can help you better retain and understand information. 

Here are three stress-relieving sensory activities and exercises––which can be done as easily mid-meeting as behind a desk––that definitely aren’t fidget spinners. 

1. Flex your muscles 

As another Forbes article noted, stress and anxiety at work naturally cause your muscles to tighten, which can help compound your stress. And while pushing out negative, stressful thoughts from your mind isn’t always possible, you can relieve stress from your body by slowly tensing and relaxing your muscles in a controlled way. This is where those tried-and-true stress balls you see littered in cubicles, or the “original” fidget spinner, might prove useful. 

2. Breathe in, breathe out 

Despite the fact that we breathe every day, the way in which we do can have a big impact on our stress levels. According to The American Institute of Stress, deep, controlled breathing is the best stress-reducing tactic. The action also forces you to focus on your body, helping to expel any extraneous thoughts causing you stress. To start, breathe in deeply through your nose and expand your belly, then breathe out slowly through your mouth. A few repetitions should put you at ease.

3. Put your senses into motion 

Whether we see, smell, touch, taste or hear something that piques our interest, our senses tend to be our biggest natural distractions. And when that sense is activated in a meditated, planned way, you can help to momentarily distract your mind from negative emotions and thoughts. As the Forbes article above suggests, engage in activities that activate your senses, like listening to calming music, scrolling through family photos, smelling a bouquet of fresh flowers or giving your hands a quick massage. The key is to find out which of the five senses helps to reduce your stress the most, and stick with that.