I’m a notorious doodler; open any old notebook to the back pages, and you’ll find the same repetitive, hyper-detailed pattern page after page. But my boredom-busting, self-soothing tendencies have long been met with heavy skepticism and misunderstanding.
Both in the classroom and in corporate workplaces, I’ve been accused of slacking off, zoning out, and focusing on anything but the task at hand. The irony, of course, is that my doodling does exactly the opposite for me: It helps me tune into what’s being said and ignore the racing thoughts in my brain (which are quite plentiful, given my ADHD and anxiety).
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And while explaining the circumstances to teachers and professors was easy enough, it’s been more of a challenge at work, where I don’t always have the opportunity (or the desire) to talk through my neuroses with each and every coworker. So I began to seek out other sensorial solutions for channeling nervous energy.
“Using different sensations and tools can help soothe ourselves, regulate our emotions, and improve attention,” explains clinical psychologist Lori Davis, Psy.D. “Some studies have shown that the repetitive and rhythmic motions of spinning, clicking, rolling, twisting, popping, snapping, and squishing have a calming effect on our nervous systems by providing sensory and tactile stimulation. Other studies show that fidget toys may help us retain more information and be more productive during tasks and learning new material.”
But the brightly colored rubber toys and not-so-subtle fidget cubes weren’t exactly cutting it for me. And with a perpetual baby face, and looming not-so-large at just over 5 feet, roaming the office (or really, anywhere else) with toy in hand doesn’t exactly jive with the professional image I strive for.
Strangely enough, I struck fresh gold when digging through my ever-stuffed tote. I realized that many of my on-the-go beauty products had features that work just like my favorite fidgets.
“It’s such a clever and practical idea to use your makeup as a therapeutic tool,” Dr. Davis says. “You can stick them in your handbag, pocket, or backpack. You can easily keep them by your desk while on Zoom calls, in a car (not while driving!), on a plane if you are feeling anxious or restless, or on a date or at a work event if you are feeling nervous.”
A surreptitious stress soother that’ll keep you looking and feeling your best? Big YES.
These eight beauty products, stellar at their original purposes, also moonlight as fidget toys. Keep ’em where you need ’em to effectively slash angst or boredom.
1. Kjaer Weis Flush & Glow Duo, $56
Kjaer Weis’ gorgeous compacts are sustainable display pieces: The metal cases are reusable and meant to last (legitimately) forever; you can buy refill tins that themselves are recyclable.
To open the artsy case, you swipe it up and flip it around—almost like it was designed as a fidget. Its heft is particularly ideal if you need more pressure or resistance to feel a sense of calm.
You might recognize the multicolor, retractable pen as a frequent arcade prize or birthday party swag from the ‘90s, but this isn’t your average click pen. It’s a clever eyeliner, lip liner, brow pencil, and highlighter all in one.
It also makes for a great clicker toy hiding in plain sight. “This pen provides a more discreet way of reducing your anxiety than kicking your foot, twirling your hair, or biting your newly manicured nails,” Dr. Davis explains. “It can keep your fingers moving and help you stay focused on long tasks or sitting still.”
And, because it looks like a pen, it’s beneficial for those in need of tactile stimulation in more professional settings (workplace anxiety, anyone?). With three color schemes to choose from, the pen does all the heavy lifting of your usual makeup bag.
3. Hally Shade Stix Temporary Hair Makeup, $8.48
Color therapy and fidget friend in one. We know color can have a direct impact on mood, so it stands to reason that a swipe of Halley’s Shade Stix Temporary Hair Makeup can help brighten your perspective. Plus, the one-day hair color allows for the whimsy of a full-on dye job without the hair damage that can come from bleach.
On the fidget front, pop off the bottom of your Shade Stix to reveal plastic bristles, created to blend color through hair but equally helpful at providing short-term relief if tactile stimulation is your thing. Simply rub it against your fingers or arm (like a mini dry body brush). Available in Blue, Purple, Pink, Red, Green, Orange, Yellow, and Silver.
For those who lust over glossy lipsticks and decadent packaging, Guerlain’s Rouge G may induce drooling. Choose your shade of choice, and pair with one of the ultra-luxe cases to transform your lipstick into a work of both art and mental health: Hold the weighty tube in your palm as a grounding tool, or snap the magnetized lid open and closed to busy your hands.
When you’re feeling nervous on a date, work event, or night out with friends, simply head to the bathroom for a quick reset, or keep yourself grounded (and your lipstick fresh) using the flip-up mirrored case wherever you find yourself. There’s a lipstick hue and design choice to suit any style. Shown above in Urban Emerald, and below in French Mademoiselle, K-Doll, and Neo-Gothic.
Makeup artist Gucci Westman—who has worked on some of the most famous faces and fashion shows and is, herself, chicer than chic—has been touted as a champion of holistic living and, while it might just be happenstance, the multifunctional eyeshadow trios from her namesake makeup line are prime examples of that ethos in practice. The silky, cream-to-powder shadows blend with ease, minus pesky fallout, but the real star is the innovative magnetic pod packaging that snaps together and apart.
Designed for easy portability, the pod format can also benefit anxious hands, for those prefer repetitive motions and buildable toys. Arrange and rearrange the shadows to redirect your attention away from distraction and nuisance. You can even use your fingers to apply the color to lids, too, thanks to the shadows’ springy, elastic texture.
“Touch is an important part of regulating our nervous systems, so the act of applying this hydrating serum can promote a feeling of calm,” says Dr. Davis. “You can also enjoy the sensation of twisting open the product.”
The serum, packed with skin-plumping hyaluronic acid and peptides, is housed in a travel-safe container that twists up to reveal its spout, then retracts back into itself for mess-free moisturizing. That same twisting mechanism is a surprising salve for restlessness. A cute little desk mate for a midday slump—skin or mind.
7. Physicians Formula 4-in-1 Brush, $12.99
Playing up your favorite features can, in itself, be a self-validation tool, says Dr. Davis. The brush heads on this cool tool add subtle sensory benefits. “Sensory brushes are often used for individuals with autism and sensory processing disorders to provide deep pressure, which can help to regulate the nervous system and improve attention,” she adds.
The densely packed bristles and varying brush sizes give users multiple options for both makeup application and sensorial experiences. And since this single tool can function as both fidget and on-the-go applicator, the compact design is a serious space-saver. (Just be sure to wash or wipe off the brushes before and after using them on your face. Artís Brush Cleaning Wipes do the trick.)
With shade names like Strong, Gifted, Creative, and Humble, a glance at the bottom of these tubes is like a mini confidence pep-talk. You can also self-regulate by repeatedly clicking the magnetic mechanism that locks the lipstick into place (logistically, this means no cap falls off in your bag, so no smudges over the inner lining).
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention how truly comfortable this lipstick is. The flexible formula moves as you smile and chat, keeping lips soft with sunflower seed oil. Available in 10 shades (shown in Wise).
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