28 Stress-Relief Gifts to Give Your Most Anxious Friend (or Keep for Yourself)
Between keeping track of our kids’ virtual classes, thinking about the upcoming election and coping with the ongoing pandemic, you could say we’re more than a little stressed. And TBH, so is just about everyone we’ve talked to lately, including our therapist. Thanks, 2020. So finding time to relax, unwind and discover activities that spark joy is more important than ever these days. Most of us just need some inspiration to help us get started. Enter: These 28 stress-relief gifts. Whether you’re sending a care package to your work wife you haven’t seen since March or treating yourself to something, these items are sure to promote a sense of calm.
1. HEETA Hair Scalp Massager
Quick: What’s your favorite part of going to the hair salon? The scalp massage, obviously. But it doesn’t just feel amazing: A study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that a 15- to 25-minute scalp massage can reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. In between hair appointments, your anxious pal can rub this tool on her scalp in circular motions while she’s in the shower to feel calmer instantly. (Her hair will feel cleaner too.)
2. Dr Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Foaming Bubble Bath
We’ve taken more bubble baths in the past six months than we have in years. There’s just something about climbing into a warm tub at the end of a long day that makes us feel instantly at ease. And according to a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it isn’t a total placebo effect. Researchers found that taking a 30-minute warm bath twice a week for four weeks actually reduced symptoms of depression. The lavender scent of this epsom salt-based bubble bath will likely help too. Another study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery found that inhaling the scent of lavender can significantly lower stress, anxiety and depression levels.
3. Watercolor Paint Set
According to psychotherapist and relationship expert Gin Love Thompson, Ph.D., doing something creative, like painting with watercolors, can help calm the mind. A 2016 study published in the journal Art Therapy found that making art (even if you’re not particularly artistic) reduces cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Have a painting newbie on your hands? This set includes paints, paper and brushes, so she'll be good to go.
4. Spafinder Wellness 365 Gift Card
Ever floated out of a great massage feeling blissed out? There’s a reason for that. Research conducted by the Massage Therapy Foundation in Illinois shows that massage therapy can reduce the physiological effects of stress by reducing cortisol levels and slowing the heart rate. We’ll take that as an excuse to treat ourselves to a couple more shiatsus this year—once it’s safe to do so, that is. (With a Spafinder gift card, the recipient can get pampered at any participating spa in their area.)
5. Skin Gym Rose Quartz Face Roller
The jury’s still out on whether jade rollers can really help with wrinkles and puffiness. But one thing they definitely do is relax tense facial muscles. “Jade rolling feels like a tension-relieving, relaxing facial massage, which helps to drain lymphatic fluid that is held stagnant beneath the tissue,” say the beauty experts at Dermstore. Sign us up.
6. TheraBox Self-Care Subscription Box
This subscription box will arrive on your doorstep every month as a reminder to take care of yourself. Each one is curated by therapists and features a therapeutic activity, plus six to eight wellness goodies ranging from eye masks to tea bags.“I really enjoy getting a little reminder to slow down and take care of myself,” writes one reviewer.
7. The Sill Philodendron
It turns out, becoming a plant parent can actually be an effective way to relax. The Journal of Physiological Anthropology notes that caring for a plant reduces physical and psychological stress. Plus, this little guy will look so cute perched on your windowsill. The philodendron is a pretty forgiving plant (um, just in case you forget to water it), so it’s fantastic for new plant owners.
8. Highline Wellness CBD Relief Roller
Wonder why CBD has gotten so popular over the past few years? According to a 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal, evidence suggests that CBD has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Highline Wellness’s CBD Relief Roller contains 100 mg of CBD oil, plus a blend of coconut oil, and lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and lemon extracts to relieve tension when you rub it on your wrists or temples. Oh, and it smells amazing.
9. Pinch Me Therapy Dough
Some therapists recommend carrying around dough to use whenever you feel stress or anxiety coming on. This way, you can have something to do with your hands if you feel like fidgeting. Pinch Me’s dough also has an aromatherapeutic aspect to it, although some users say the scent wears off after a few uses.
10. ProsourceFit Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set
This spiky contraption might look like a torture device, but it’s actually really relaxing. Acupressure mats are designed to naturally reduce muscle tension, pain and headaches. When you lie on one, the mat massages key pressure points, encouraging the body to relax and release anxiety and stress, according to a study conducted by faculty members at the University of Malaysia. “The first time I used it, I was on it for about 15 minutes and my headache was gone,” one reviewer claims. No Advil necessary.
11. Quility Premium Adult Weighted Blanket, 15 lbs.
There’s a reason we’ve been seeing weighted blankets everywhere recently. “Any kind of weighted blanket will really calm you down,” Molly Giorgio, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, told us. Spend a few minutes snuggled under one of these, and your worries will start to melt away. This particular blanket has more than 10,000 five-star reviews (!) on Amazon.
12. Fred & Friends Slow Brew Sloth Tea Infuser
Seeing this guy hooked onto the side of her tea mug probably won’t make her feel any more relaxed, but filling it with a soothing blend of lavender-chamomile tea should do the trick. A study conducted by the Depression Research Unit at University City Science Center in Philadelphia found that chamomile can reduce anxiety. And it’s caffeine-free, so she can sip it before bed.
13. Mount Lai Gua Sha
When done correctly, gua sha massage can move lymphatic fluid and break down tension in muscles. That second part is particularly key if you’re someone who holds a lot of tension in your face and jaw muscles when you’re stressed. After prepping your skin with a hydrating serum, like Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, glide the stone across your face in outward strokes and you’ll actually be able to feel your facial muscles relaxing. Ahhh.
14. Cleverfy Aromatherapy Shower Steamers (Set of 6)
No time for a long warm bath or a yoga class? No worries. Just place one of these essential oil-infused shower steamers on the bottom of your shower (but not directly in the stream) to experience a mini aromatherapy session while you shampoo and condition. This set includes lavender, eucalyptus, vanilla, watermelon, grapefruit and peppermint varieties, all of which will transform your bathroom into a calming oasis.
15. Clever Yoga Seven Piece Yoga Kit
This seven piece kit from Clever Yoga includes a yoga mat, a non-slip yoga mat towel, a hand towel, two yoga blocks, a yoga strap and a carrying case, aka everything you could possibly need to start developing a yoga practice. Which, BTW, you totally should. A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that women who practiced yoga three times a week for four weeks experienced lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress than they had previously.
16. Cloud Massage Shiatsu Foot Massager
There’s nothing like a good foot massage when our entire body is feeling tense. There’s just one problem: Our partner hates giving them. But thanks to this one from Cloud Massage, he’s off the hook. It has three levels of intensity and five different settings (including heat) for a totally customizable experience. Our recommendation? Set it up under your desk while you’re working from home and suddenly mining through your inbox won’t feel quite so draining.
17. Dammit Doll
Sometimes, you just want to take your pent-up stress out on something. But yelling at the kids or slamming on your keyboard isn’t exactly the best approach. Instead, try this Dammit Doll. It’s designed to be durable so that you can squeeze it, smack it against your desk, whatever feels good. Reviewers say it’s a great gift for your most high strung friends and family members.
18. Zen as F*ck
As long as you don’t mind a little (OK a lot of) profanity, this guided mindfulness journal will make you laugh out loud—and help you shift your perspective. “I love this book so much I bought it for myself and one of my friends but now I feel like buying it for everyone I know, it’s fantastic,” writes one woman.
19. Sivio Weighted Eye Mask
You’ve heard of weighted blankets, but what’s a weighted eye mask? Well, exactly what it sounds like. This plush version from Sivio is filled with glass beads that apply soothing pressure to your eye and temple area. Reviewers say it works wonders for tension headaches and insomnia, if those are issues you deal with.
20. Caydo Full Range Embroidery Starter Kit
As Dr. Thompson explained in relation to watercolors, doing something creative with your hands can help calm the mind. If you’re not into traditional forms of art like drawing or painting, embroidery totally works too. This starter kit includes five embroidery hoops, 50 different colors of thread, 14 pieces of fabric, needles, scissors, a thimble, an untwist tool and instructions so you’ll be well equipped to take up the new hobby...or give it a try for a few nights, at least.
21. Mindful Modern Velvet Meditation Cushion
Setting a meditation cushion up in the living room just might be the push you need to finally start using the Headspace subscription you signed up for back in June. This one is designed to promote posture while you sit cross-legged and keep you feeling supported. Researchers at John Hopkins University found that meditation can reduce stress, so if a comfy pillow is what it takes to get you practicing more, it’s definitely worth it.
22. The Five Minute Journal
Think the idea of practicing gratitude is just a bunch of woo-woo crap? You might want to rethink that. Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that keeping a gratitude journal and expressing thanks to people who make a difference in your life can actually help you cope with stress. This guided journal’s daily prompt asks you to list three things you’re grateful for. Oh, and filling out the day’s page will only take you five minutes.
23. Asutra Lavender & Chamomile Aromatherapy Spray
We’ve already established that lavender and chamomile can have calming effects, so it makes sense to combine them into one super soothing aromatherapy blend. Spritz it on your chest, use it as a room spray or put some on your pillow before bed to help you unwind.
24. Weezie Towels Women’s Long Robe
Don’t underestimate the power of slipping on a luxe bathrobe after a particularly challenging day. Weezie Towels’s signature Long Robe is made from 100 percent long staple cotton, so it basically feels like wrapping yourself in a cloud. Psst, you can get it custom embroidered for an extra $15, if you want to feel even fancier while wearing it.
25. Pure Enrichment Sleep Therapy Sound Machine
Remember how you used to put a sound machine in the kids’ rooms to help them drift off? Yeah, the super relaxing sounds from them can benefit you too. This sleek model plays a seamless loop of waves, white noise, fan, rain, stream or summer night sounds based on your preference. According to users, it’s a game-changer for those who have trouble sleeping.
26. Ejiubas Paraffin Wax Machine for Hands and Feet
It’d be nice if we could take a spa day every time we felt stressed. But alas, we have those things called responsibilities. So for now, we’ll settle for a quick pampering sesh at home to leave us feeling zen. This paraffin wax machine rivals the one they use at our favorite nail salon in that we feel our worries melting away as soon as we coat our hands in the warm, smoothing wax.
27. Dodow Sleep Aid Device
If you tend to experience physical symptoms like a racing heart, or a tight throat, learning to take deep breaths can make a huge difference. This sleep aid device will help you do just that. It projects a circle of light onto the ceiling that expands and contracts, which you’re meant to sync your breathing to. But you don’t have to limit yourself to nighttime use. Feel free to switch it on whenever you want a moment of calm.
28. Recess Hemp-Infused Sparkling Water (Pack of 6)
A glass of wine after work totally takes the edge off, but it’s not worth the throbbing headache we usually wake up with the next morning. Thankfully, sipping on one of these sparkling waters provides the same effect—without the hangover. Each can is infused with a blend of hemp, american ginseng, l-theanine and lemon balm to help you feel “calm, cool and collected,” in the brand’s own words.