July 13, 2024

Two common ways people try to relieve stress are watching TV and playing with fidget toys, but is one better than the other? Here is an overview of the potential pros and cons of each stress-busting strategy.

Watching Television

For many people, watching TV is a go-to relaxation method after a stressful day. The passive act of watching shows and movies allows the brain to decompress and distract itself from anxious thoughts. The audiovisual stimulation of television provides an immersive escape that can make stress melt away, at least temporarily. Background noise from the TV can also provide soothing white noise that drowns out rumination.

However, research suggests that watching too much TV can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. The constant noise, flashing visuals and negative content of many shows can overwhelm the nervous system. Television viewing is also associated with increased social isolation when done in excess, which may remove a key buffer against stress. Passively watching TV prevents mental relaxation and refocusing.

Fidget Toys

Fidget toys like spinners, cubes and tangles have become popular items for people to keep their hands busy while studying, working or just relaxing. The act of fidgeting helps to release nervous energy and eases restlessness. Fidget toys can enhance concentration when used moderately while working. The sensory input and hand motions of fidget toys may also help to soothe frayed nerves.

Research shows fidget toys help adults and kids alike manage anxiety and stress levels. They provide a harmless outlet for nervous habits and excessive movement tied to anxiety. Fidget toys are also portable, silent, and discreet, so they can be used to subtly self-soothe almost anywhere. However, some people report that constant clicking or spinning becomes a distraction that ends up elevating anxiety. It’s best to limit use of fidget toys to avoid obsession.

Both watching TV and using fidget toys have the potential to help manage stress in the short-term. However, research seems to favor fidget toys as the healthier habit for relieving anxiety in the long run. Fidget toys engage the senses and avoid the overstimulation of screens that can sometimes backfire and agitate the nervous system. In small doses, fidget toys stimulate focus rather than impede it. They also provide a discreet outlet anytime, anywhere for releasing nervous energy associated with stress. Just be sure not to overdo it. In moderation, fidget toys beat passive screen time as a tool to alleviate anxiety.