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Stress balls are therapeutic tools for helping people manage stress through the physical act of squeezing, rolling, or tossing a ball.

Made of various materials, from foam to rubber to metal, these balls can assist people in diffusing emotions like anger or anxiety and may even be able to curb panic attacks.

It’s important to note that research doesn’t suggest that stress balls can reduce stress and anxiety.

However, according to experts we spoke to, stress balls may be a beneficial tool for easing stress because they alleviate the physical experience of intense emotions. As Michelle Hunt, a mental health counselor and therapist at Empower Your Mind Therapy, explains, stress is not only an emotional and mental reaction, it is also a physical experience.

“As stress builds in our bodies, it needs a way to be released in order to not perpetuate our emotional and mental state,” Hunt says. “Stress balls give a point of release for stress. They help calm the nervous system and assist with processing.”

More often than not, she adds, the physical release created by stress balls can actually decrease physical sensations of stress, and other powerful emotions.

How does this work exactly? According to Vianey Reinhardt, a licensed professional counselor at Connections Wellness Group, the repetition of squeezing and releasing the stress ball creates the overall effect of stress or tension reduction.

“A user can hold the stress ball in their hand and squeeze the ball for up to 5 seconds and then release,” Reinhardt says. “This process can be repeated several times until the user experiences a reduction in tension.”

Another benefit to stress balls, both Hunt and Reinhardt note, is that these therapy tools are both discreet and socially accepted. People can use them without feeling self-conscious in public and even keep them handy on their work desks without worrying about other people seeing them.

Stress balls can be made from a number of materials like foam, fabric, pliable plastic or latex, rubber or even metal. When choosing a stress ball, it’s important to consider the durability of a product’s materials and read reviews to make sure the ball you’re considering is durable, especially if it’s the kind filled with water or foam. (These are more susceptible to pops or punctures, particularly if they’re used by children.)

Another consideration is size and strength. Stress balls come in various sizes and different levels of soft or hardness. Being able to test out a few balls can help you choose the right one for you.

What’s most important, Hunt says, is that you select something that speaks to you in some way, whether it’s the squishability of the ball itself or its shape or color.

“Stress balls come in different styles,” she says. “So, having an item that’s more tailored to your preferences can help with feeling a sense of control in how you express your distress.”

We looked at a number of different products to determine which ones to recommend and include.

We evaluated various products based on the following criteria:

  • value for the price point
  • positive customer reviews
  • aesthetic
  • size and strength of each product

We also considered different styles and materials of stress balls to provide a breadth of useful options.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = $15–20
  • $$$$ = over $20

Best overall

Serenilite Hand Therapy Exercise Stress Ball Bundle

  • Price: $$$$

This three-pack of stress balls features a soft, medium, and hard density ball depending on what level of grip strength you prefer in the moment. Along with variety, these balls get top marks because they are covered in nonstick fabric and feature a durable gel core, meaning that they’ll hold up long term.

With more than 2,500 5-star reviews, these stress balls are the most reviewed — and loved — option on Amazon.

Best aesthetic

Ban.do Feel Better Destress Ball

  • Price: $

For a decidedly chic stress ball option, look no further than Ban.do’s collection, which features various Instagrammable shapes to choose from, including a rainbow, a croissant, a self-help book, a strawberry, and a grapefruit.

Made from slow rising polyurethane foam, these cute squeezables have a 4.5 out of 5-star rating from customers, who rave about their bright colors and durability.

Best water ball

MAGICLUB Giant Stress Ball

  • Price: $$$

This oversized stress ball is made from thick thermoplastic rubber and filled with small beads suspended in gel, making it a fun, squishable option.

Available in three colors — red, black, and purple — it’s a good option for adults and kids alike since it’s made from nontoxic materials, is BPA-free, and can be easily washed if needed.

Best splat-style balls

Funky Egg Splat Ball Squishy Toys

  • Price: $$$

If you’re looking for a ball to toss against a wall or desk surface, this egg-shaped option wins for splat factor. Made of thermoplastic rubber, these splat balls come in a pack of four and will stick to most surfaces, creating another dimension that may help subside feelings of stress as you squish and throw them.

While the reviews for these balls are mostly positive, some reviewers mention that the balls leaked or broke, especially when used by kids.

Best koosh-style ball

Large Rainbow Stringy Ball

  • Price: $$

For those looking for a koosh-style ball, this rainbow option is a fun way to destress. Great for squishing, tossing, or looping around your finger to bounce, it’s made from hypoallergenic soft silica gel and complies with children’s product safety rules, making it a good choice for kids too.

Reviewers note that this style ball seemed to ease their stress and can also be used as a fidget toy, as a tool for sensory therapy, and to help ease obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)-related behaviors like skin picking.

Best for kids (or small hands)

Power Your Fun Arggh Mini Stress Balls

  • Price: $$

This three-pack of small stress balls are bright and colorful and offer soft, medium, and hard resistances. While there are a lot of options for kids, these stand out because they change colors when squished (from yellow to orange, blue to green, and pink to purple), which adds another dimension to this calming toy.

While some reviewers complain about these balls breaking, many also note that they received replacement products through the company free of charge.

Best scented ball

Total Tranquility Aromatherapy Stress Ball

  • Price: $

For a full sensory experience, this handmade rose blossom- and lavender-scented stress ball is infused with essential oils. Packaged in its own carrying tin, it’s easy to take on the go or it can stand in for a candle on your desk or beside your bathtub.

Reviewers love the packaging and the scent of this stress ball, though some note that the texture is more putty-like than expected.

Best bulk option

Outer Space Stress Balls for Kids and Adults

  • Price: $

If you’re buying stress balls for your family or as gifts, this pack of 12 galaxy-themed balls is a good option. Their two-and-a-half inch size makes them small enough for kids to enjoy and they’re made from nontoxic foam, meaning they can’t leak or explode.

However, some reviewers say that these stress balls can be a little too tempting for pets — it’s important to keep these away from furry friends.

Best baoding-style balls

Top Chi Solid Stainless Steel Baoding Balls with Carry Pouch

  • Price: $$$$

If you’re looking for a stress ball without the squish, these Chinese baoding balls are a great option, especially if you plan to use them for helping with concentration or during meditation. At one and a half inches in size and one pound in weight, they’re smaller than traditional baoding balls, making them usable for most people.

The overwhelmingly positive reviews mention that these balls are great for wrist and hand strengthening as well as their stress relief.

Best for travel

Secure Stress Balls on a String

  • Price: $$$

This three-pack of stress balls is great for travel since each ball comes with its own leash that can be attached to a backpack or purse strap, and can be wrapped around your wrist while in use.

Each pack comes with a soft, medium, and firm grip ball, giving you a variety of strengths to work with, and each ball is made with hypoallergenic thermoplastic rubber that’s both safe and easy to clean.

Is there research on stress balls?

Clinical studies haven’t found evidence to support the idea that stress balls reduce stress and anxiety.

However, many people find these products help them focus, calm, or distract themselves, as part of a useful tool in their overall stress management.

Do stress balls work for anxiety?

While Hunt says that stress balls can be great tools to use in the moment to help ease the physical discomfort of anxiety, they won’t solve the cause of that stress.

“It is important to explore the triggers for stress and utilize different coping skills in order to decrease the intensity of symptoms over time,” she explains. “Stress balls alone are not effective in processing where the stress is coming from and understanding the root of the stress response.”

Do stress balls work for anger?

According to Reinhardt, stress balls can help manage symptoms of frustration, stress, or anger. However, she adds that it’s important to monitor the benefits of using a stress ball in reducing these emotions.

“If it appears that the act of using a stress ball provides minimal or no benefit at all, it would be appropriate to seek additional coping mechanisms or seek the help of a mental health professional who can provide guidance and tools for managing challenging emotions,” she says.

Do stress balls help with panic attacks?

While clinical studies haven’t found evidence to support the use of stress balls to prevent panic attacks, Reinhardt says that they can be excellent tools for diverting the brain when someone feels a panic attack coming on.

“Distracting the brain from focusing on the stimulus for that fear and refocusing on a specific task, such as squeezing a stress ball, allows for an interruption of the fear response and gives the brain a chance to settle into a less escalated state,” she says.

For many people, stress balls can be a useful tool for easing uncomfortable emotions and helping them work through the physical sensations of anxiety, anger, frustration, and tension. The variety of options out there means most people can find a stress ball that will work well for them, whether they’re looking for a particular size or prefer a specific color or material.

That being said, there is no real clinical evidence that stress balls have a direct effect on stress and anxiety.

While stress balls can help alleviate emotions in the moment, it may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional to understand the root cause of stress (or other difficult emotions), especially if these feelings are interfering with your daily life.

Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.