Gifts for the most stressed out people you know

Especially if you’re one of them.

You probably know more than a few people whose stress levels are running a little high right now. While there’s no gift that can truly combat the existential terror of 2020, these products can at least take the edge off. Here are a few presents to help your favorite ball of anxiety unwind a bit.

A blanket to crush their feelings

Bearaby Cotton Napper ($249)

Grin and bear it from under your Bearaby. Bearaby

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Weighted blankets aren’t just an Instagram ad fad. Used for years by people on the autism spectrum, these throws have a genuine calming effect. The extra weight and pressure on the body helps trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heart rate and sort of switches your fight-or-flight response off. This effect makes them great for restless sleepers, and there’s evidence that they can help negate some of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by offering a constant but simple stimuli in the form of touch. Bearaby’s blankets are weighty enough to induce these effects, but unlike most products, they get their heft from the fabrics they’re woven from—not from little metal balls stuffed inside. That makes for a therapeutic blanket that looks and feels nice enough to drape across your couch (when you’re not ducking under it to cry).

Salts to soak away the sadness

All Natural Bath Soak ($15.50)

A little earthly seasoning for your bath. Adrina Dietra

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There’s nothing quite like a hot bath to relax your muscles and cleanse you of your worldly troubles—at least for an hour or so. Help your loved ones get the most out of their bathing rituals with salt blends and teas designed to soothe their senses. Our favorite small business to buy luxurious bath treats from is Adrina Dietra’s apothecary, but Etsy is packed to the gills with other options from indie makers, too.

And if you really want your gifts to come with a personal touch, you can check out our guide to making custom bath bombs at home.

Lighting to reset their mood

Spiced Mango Chai Taxonomy Candle ($17+)

Flame on. Paige’s Candle Co

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What’s better than a hot, scented bath? A hot, scented bath surrounded by hot, scented candles. Paige’s Candle Co. is a small, woman-owned business that makes vegan soy wax candles that smell out of this world. We’re especially big fans of the Spiced Mango Chai scent, which is a special holiday-season offering. For year-round relaxation, you can’t beat Lavender or Earl Gray.

A pillow to ease their tension

Medcline Shoulder Relief Wedge and Body Pillow System ($280)

Dream a little dream of looser shoulders. Medcline

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Is this pillow expensive? Yes. Does it look pretty? No. Will it change your life? Almost certainly. For people dealing with tense shoulders and necks, the bizarre design of this sleep wedge will protect from pinched nerves and other nighttime misalignments. Give your loved one the gift of a good night’s sleep for years to come.

A wearable to keep them well

Whoop 3.0 ($150+)

Whoop, there it is. Whoop

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The world is full of fitness trackers and other life-optimizing wearables, but Whoop’s is designed with a unique goal in mind: recovery. By tracking sleep, daily activity, and heart rate variability, this band helps users figure out which habits keep them feeling at their best.

A mask to keep the world at bay

Ostrich Pillow Loop Eye Mask ($35)

Stick your head in the sand. Ostrich

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Best known for creating an extremely antisocial nap pillow a few years back, Ostrich now has a moderately antisocial eye mask to offer. The criss-cross velcro design is a bit more complicated than your standard satin eye shades, but it’s also super effective at blocking out light (and even some sound). The bean-bag-esque filling creates a sort of weighted blanket effect for one’s eyeballs, making it easier to drift off into blissful inner silence while you’re meditating or napping.

A coach for their meditation sessions

Core Meditation Trainer ($149+)

Master the art of mindfulness. Core

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This one ranked among our favorite personal care innovations of 2020. Research ties meditation practices to everything from lowered anxiety levels to better blood pressure and relief from gastrointestinal distress–but self-doubt can cripple attempts at finding zen. The handheld Core orb uses biofeedback and haptic guidance to steer you toward focus and calm. As you hold the softball-size device, ECG sensors monitor both pulse and heart rate variability to track how relaxed you are. Guided programs in Core’s app help you to further learn which meditation methods work best for you. If your chill vibes start to slip away, gentle vibrations will remind you to stay on task.

Pants for when they’d rather wear pajamas

Power-Down pants ($78)

For those rare and stressful jaunts outside. Betabrand

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Many of us have spent the majority of 2020 inside our own homes, and it’s likely to stay that way for much of 2021. But plenty of Americans have to make regular trips outside the house—to work, to get groceries, or even just to get some fresh air. Those excursions are stressful enough without having to wear real pants for them. Betabrand is known for designing business-casual clothes that offer yoga pant levels of comfort, so your giftee can step out in style without feeling like they’ve gotten out of bed. If the skinny-leg style isn’t right for them, go a more unisex route with some chic joggers.

A cool touch

LATME Ice Roller ($15)

Just roll it all out. Amazon

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Ice rollers are often hawked as beauty aids, and they can definitely help reduce puffiness after a night of tossing and turning. But these chilly gadgets really shine when it comes to soothing migraines and jaw pain. If someone you love has been complaining of headaches or a clenched jaw, send them a roller and tell them to keep it in the freezer. Whenever stress strikes, they’ll be ready to gently massage their head, neck, face, shoulders, or anywhere else that could use a cooling balm.

Tools for working out knots

Hypervolt Bluetooth ($299)

For when you just have to get in there. Amazon

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Sometimes stress creates muscle knots so intense, an ice roller just won’t cut it. Your only recourse then is to beat the tightness into submission. Given you can’t show up at your bestie’s place and give them a deep tissue massage in person this year, gift them the next best thing. This percussive massage gun is powerful enough to melt away even the worst knots, and its Bluetooth capabilities mean users can follow tailored programs to optimize their massaging experience.

Something to improve their alone time

Enby ($70)

A one-size-fits-all vibrator. Enby

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We won’t try to suggest that you could (or should) buy a vibrator for everyone on your holiday gift list, but for a close friend or a partner—especially a partner you can’t see in person as much as you’d like—the Enby is a great choice. It won a PopSci Best of What’s New Award in 2019 for serving as the most compelling gender-neutral sex toy on the market. It’s designed to please a wide range of bodies in all sorts of ways, and we probably don’t have to tell you why it’s great for stress relief.

A snack to soothe their sorrows

fx Chocolate ($20)

A classic fix. fx chocolate

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Honestly, you can buy any chocolate you dang please for your stressed out friend. It’s bound to do them a world of good no matter what flavor or brand. But to give the sweet treat’s best properties a chemical boost, fx Chocolate adds in supplements meant to improve your mood. The company makes a few varieties to suit different needs, but Fx Exhale is a good choice for stressed snackers. The actual impact of ingredients like L-theanine and GABA on human brain chemistry are still very much up in the air, but they can’t hurt. After all, it’s chocolate.

A project to keep their hands busy

Himba Snood Knitting Kit ($50)

Idle hands are anxiety’s plaything. we are knitters

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One of the best ways to free your mind from stress is to fidget. Help your loved ones fully enjoy their next Netflix binge by giving them something to keep their hands busy: a beginner’s knitting kit. We Are Knitters provides everything they’ll need to execute a simple project, like this comfy snood.

Rachel Feltman
Rachel Feltman

is the Executive Editor of Popular Science and the host of the podcast The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week. She's an alum of Simon's Rock and NYU's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting program. Rachel previously worked at Quartz and The Washington Post. Contact the author here.