6 min read

·

Caitlin Harper

Do Anxiety Rings Really Work?

There are plenty of coping mechanisms people can use for anxiety, but a recent trend on TikTok is to use anxiety rings. So what are they, how can you use them when you’re feeling anxious, and do they really work?
Do Anxiety Rings Really Work?

When it comes to stress and anxiety, people who experience symptoms will do just about anything for some relief. Many people know coping mechanisms like breathing exercises, treatments like therapy and medication, and lifestyle changes like healthy eating and good sleep habits can help with anxiety, but what about tools like anxiety rings?

In this post we’ll break down what anxiety rings are, where they come from, what they do, and whether they work. We'll also include some tips and tools you can start using today to cope with anxiety.

Looking for a therapist who specializes in anxiety? Get matched now.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

If you're struggling with anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder, are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S.—nearly 20%—have an anxiety disorder.

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Occasional anxiety and stress are normal. But some people who have intense, persistent, and excessive worries or fears that interfere with their everyday lives might experience an anxiety disorder. Whether you’re dealing with everyday stress or something more, it makes sense to look for ways to cope—and some people have been turning to anxiety rings.

What are anxiety rings?

An anxiety ring is a ring you wear on your finger that is supposed to help you cope with the symptoms of anxiety. If you've ever seen a fidget spinner before, it's a similar concept.

Some component of the ring, which looks just like a normal piece of jewelry, moves. Some rings have little balls on them that you can spin around the entire ring, some rings have a middle piece that spins around, and other rings have a decorative element that moves, such as flower petals or other shapes.

Anxiety rings are popular topic on TikTok

Videos using the hashtag #anxietyring have racked up millions of views, with many folks claiming the rings help them deal with anxious feelings. That’s valid, but it’s important to keep in mind that an anxiety ring should be part of an overall mental health wellness plan—not expected to cure anxiety.

Not everything you see on mental health TikTok is actually good for your mental health, so if you're using TikTok to find support and community around your mental health, be sure that the sources you're using are reputable and that any creators you follow for mental health advice are trained and licensed mental health care providers or credible sources like journalists who cite and share verifiable sources.

What do anxiety rings — or fidget rings — do for mental health? 

Anxiety rings or other types of fidget spinning devices are essentially a grounding technique.  When you're feeling anxious, stressed, worried, or any other symptoms of anxiety, you play with or move the parts of the ring and it centers you in the present moment or distracts you from your anxious thoughts.

People find the act of spinning or playing with the ring relieves the symptoms of anxiety or stress and can be soothing. Folks who are trying to break habits such as smoking or biting their nails have also found them helpful, as they serve as a distraction or an outlet.

When we feel anxious or stressed, our sympathetic nervous system response, commonly referred to as “fight, flight, or freeze,” kicks into gear. Our body is flooded with stress hormones because we perceive whatever situation we’re in as unsafe. Our anxious thoughts race toward the past and future, we can catastrophize, and we are all-around not focused on the present. 

In order to signal to our brains that we are not actually in danger and we are safe in the present moment, we need to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest,” and trigger our relaxation response—and we can do this with grounding techniques.

What are grounding techniques?

“Grounding techniques are a type of mindfulness,” says MyWellbeing therapist Gianna Volkes. They’re basically an exercise or activity that helps you manage an intense emotion by helping you get out of your head — steering your attention away from distressing thoughts, feelings, or memories and zoning in on the present moment.

Don’t have a ring? You can also try other grounding techniques. Here are a few more she suggests:

  • Go for a walk—even for just a few minutes
  • Sit down and actively press your feet into the ground. As you press your feet down, feel the muscles in your legs start to activate. Take a deep breath while you do so. Notice how it creates a sense of firmness and stability in your body. Use your mind to pay attention to that firmness in order to be, quite literally, grounded.
  • Imagine relaxation moving through your body, starting with the toes, going all the way up to the top of the head. Then bring your attention to the breath in the belly. Then, add a calming word to repeat silently to yourself on the exhale, like “one,” or “peace.”
  • Try balloon breathing: get comfortable in your chair or on the floor, put your hands on your belly, and imagine that your belly is a balloon. Take a deep breath in and imagine the balloon filling with air. Take a long slow breath out and imagine the balloon deflating and getting smaller. Repeat 10 times, or until you feel calmer.
  • Use an anchoring phrase either out loud or in your head such as "I am okay" or even "I am grounded" and repeat it a few times until you’re in a better place. Even this small nugget of positive self-talk can help.

So do anxiety rings actually help with anxiety?

Anxiety rings and other coping mechanisms can help us manage the symptoms of anxiety, but they can't treat our anxiety. Like self-care, grounding techniques and coping mechanisms serve to help us manage our symptoms but they don't address the root cause. 

Maybe we're dealing with trauma, stressors, difficult living or working situations, or unknown causes of stress and anxiety. When dealing with these things, whether we know the cause or not, it can be difficult to support ourselves with coping techniques alone. But there are other ways to get the care that we deserve.

How can I treat my anxiety? 

It's important to support ourselves, but when it comes to anxiety, getting support from healthcare providers, including potential access to medication, can help us address the root of the problem and find more long-lasting relief.

Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling

If you're ready to work with a therapist now, you can find the best fit for you and get started. If you're not sure how you're feeling or you don't know what the next best step is, talk to your doctor. 

You can bring up your mental health and any symptoms you might be feeling in a visit to your regular doctor during an annual check-up or any other appointment. While they might not necessarily be an expert in mental health, your regular doctor can talk to you about medication, referrals, and next steps to get you the support you need.

Work with a therapist who specializes in anxiety 

If you know you're struggling with anxiety or you suspect that the stress you're feeling might be anxiety, whether you are looking for a diagnosis or not, working with a therapist can help. Therapists who specialize in anxiety are trained to recognize symptoms, explore potential causes, and develop a treatment plan that is tailored to you.

Dealing with anxiety is stressful but you don't have to navigate it alone

The average person with anxiety waits years before seeking treatment. The longer symptoms go on without treatment and care, the harder it might be to work through what you're experiencing and find relief. But it doesn't have to be an uphill battle. With the right coping mechanisms for you, support from your healthcare providers, and a support system, you’ll be on your way to taking good care of your mental health.

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About the author

Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.

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