My own anxiety “toolbox” is a bit like Mary Poppins bag.
It is bottomless and full of all sorts of interesting things like books, breathing exercises, iPad apps, affirmations, etc. I am always looking for new things to add to my toolbox and I want to help you build yours up as well, so that is the purpose of this post series called “Anxiety Tool Spotlight”, where I feature ideas or objects that could potentially help people improve their mental health or cope better with their anxiety.
For this post, I am shining the spotlight on worry beads.
I had never heard of worry beads until I saw them advertised in my Twitter feed, but apparently they have been around for hundreds of years. ( I guess even the ancient times had its worriers. ) They originated in ancient Greece and their initial purpose was to be used as beads to count prayers. Their designs and materials became more elaborate over time and eventually people with high social standings began to carry the beads as symbols of their wealth.
Over time the beads slowly evolved from status symbols to worry distractors, which continues to be their main purpose today. The beads are on a string long enough to leave room to slide them one at a time from end to end, or you can swing the string of beads and try to do “tricks” with them such as getting them to land on your hand in a certain way. Really, you just fiddle with them in whatever way is distracting and/or soothing for you. It’s very personal how you choose to use them.
Since I don’t have any experience with worry beads myself I sought the advice of an expert.
I went to the man who first introduced me to worry beads in my Twitter feed, Kevin Norris from The English Worry Bead Company in England.
The Worry Games has no affiliation with Mr. Norris or The English Worry Bead Company. He was simply kind enough to be an expert source for this post.
Mr. Norris wrote me a letter sharing the story of how his business got started, as well as giving me some insights into how worry beads are used:
“I first discovered worry beads with a joke Christmas present, but by New Year I was a changed person. I had suffered from severe anxiety and depression for many years but found by playing with worry beads I was calmer and more relaxed. Unfortunately it was about New Year that the Greek set I had been given started to fall apart. A thorough search of the internet resulted in no more robust sets being found. I decided to make my own.
Two months later I had come up with a set that was also completely unique to me and more tactile than the ones I was replacing. It occurred to me that if I needed better worry beads, so would many others, so The English Worry Bead Company was born.
The worry beads work in two main ways. By just “twiddling” with a set, nice and slowly, your heart rate will mimic the pace of your hand and eye movements. Your breathing also follows and as a result you become extremely relaxed.
The second benefit comes from distracting your mind from negative thoughts. Even the most mentally healthy of us have stressful days and struggle to switch off. By learning tricks with worry beads your mind has to focus on the learning and everything else, including what you were stressed about, disappears. I have found that when I have an anxiety attack, practicing a new trick can break the downward spiral I used to get into and give me a chance of returning to normal.
If you are skeptical about these benefits take a look at Professor Emily Holmes work on “visuospatial tasks” and the work on “hand kinetics”.
As for me, my life has improved immeasurably. I have to take medication for my anxiety and depression and have had lots of professional advice but I cope with the stresses of life far better now with regularly use of worry beads. Give them a try, what do you have to lose?”
The English Worry Bead Co
A trading name of
B4WHY Limited 7426596
England and Wales
Thanks so much to Mr. Norris for sharing his story and worry bead wisdom.
I love the idea of worry beads. I think they would be a great thing to keep in your pocket or purse to have with you during those times that you need something to keep your hands busy and your mind distracted.
As I have talked about before here at The Worry Games, I am somebody who gets racing thoughts and I get stuck on repetitive thought loops where one thought seems to be really amplified in my mind and it feels as though it will never leave. Worry beads seem like they would be really good for pushing your concentration into something else and pulling you out of that negative thought loop. I like things that challenge me as well…I like to “master” things so I can definitely see myself putting some time into learning the various tricks you can do with the beads.
I also love that there are so many styles out there to choose from, and I think it would be fun to pick out a string of beads that really suited my personality. I think they would make a great sort of signature accessory to always carry, along the lines of a pocket watch. I imagine they would be a great conversation piece as well.
Have you tried worry beads? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and if you have any “Anxiety Tool” suggestions for me to shine the spotlight on, please let me know!
Thanks for reading,
Photo Credits: Header Photo Pixabay
All Other Photos: The English Worry Bead Co