What to Give the Stressed Out People in Your Life (Including You)

A black eye mask.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Amazon.

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In a year fraught with disagreement, one thing we can all agree on is that 2020 has been … stressful. Whether someone close to you is desperate for stress relief, or you need aids to soothe your own nerves, these tried-and-true recommendations from Slate staff should bring a little calm to your life.

These days, who doesn’t need help combatting sleepless nights? Earlier this year Charles Czeisler, the chief of the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recommended a “soft eye mask that can conform to your face and block out light,” to ensure a better night’s slumber.

If it’s the area around your eyes that could use some TLC, Slate writer Shannon Palus has this recommendation: “These under-eye masks are refreshing and fancy in equal measure and are a great gift for the self-care enthusiast who has everything,” she wrote. “Like so much of skin care, whether the serum does anything is sort of a mystery to me—but I don’t care because it feels soothing on my skin, especially after a day that involved crying and/or general stress.”

Tend to your inner spirit with yoga. Rebecca Onion wrote about the multitude of benefits yoga has brought to her life: “It’s taught me how to shift my center of gravity so that I can stay balanced when the toddler I’m carrying unexpectedly lurches left or right, how to sit well at my desk, how to slow down and breathe when I’m worried I can’t get everything done that needs to be done.” She recommended a subscription to Glo, to take excellent yoga classes in the privacy of your own home, and this affordable yoga mat.

Small indulgences can mean a lot when we’re feeling deprived of comfort. Cleo Levin loves this luxurious moisturizer from Compagnie de Provence. “I first received this hand cream as a gift, but now that I have experienced it, it has become a staple of mine,” she wrote. “The incredible scent is both subtle and sophisticated.”

“Both seasoned eucalyptus enthusiasts and folks who’d never buy their clothes from stores that sell incense will enjoy this festive-yet-calming super diffuser to scent your space.” wrote Slate’s Jamilah Lemieux, in her 2019 gift guide for stressed out parents (and we thought we were stressed out then?!). “It has an extra touch of class and gives you something pretty to look at as you contemplate the meaning of life and hide from your family’s annual Taboo tournament.”


If your loved one prefers a more minimalist design, this air humidifier offers similar benefits. “It’s very useful in dry homes, especially during the winter when the heat is on. I like this one because it also allows you to infuse the air with essential oils (a little extra side gift). The calming and soothing scents can help you relax and sleep better, and they smell great,” wrote Slate’s Aldana Cardich.

Nothing soothes the nerves like a break from screens, so it’s no wonder that throughout this pandemic, thousands of us have turned to puzzles. As Charlotte Arneson wrote, “In a world that feels like it’s falling apart, I’ve found it uniquely calming to work through a puzzle. There’s solace in all these little pieces fitting together just as they should.”

Add some sunshine to your days with this rainbow-maker. “I can say with complete sincerity that nothing has made me happier in my quarantine home life than this spinning crystal.” wrote Cleo Levin.

With everyone learning and working from home, a nice, long shower may be your only refuge. Why not enhance your enjoyment? “Once upon a time, my showers were a desperate race to wash my disgusting hide before the hot water ran out. I was unwilling to replace my high-flow showerhead because I feared that the loss of pressure accompanying a low-flow showerhead would drive me crazy,” wrote Dan Kois. “But then I found the Delta 2-Spray Showerhead, which delivers the high-pressure experience while using less water. According to Wirecutter, where I first discovered it, this is due to an absolutely not-made-up technology called Delta H2Okinetic. All I know is that this faucet has made my showers—once a month, whether I need one or not—a total dream.”

Or maybe a hot water bottle is just the thing to settle you or a loved one down after a tension-filled day. Laura Miller said that since buying hers, “I am now inseparable from it. Not only does it make the bed cozy each night, but I refill it in the morning and keep it on my lap while I work. It’s like a pet you don’t have to feed, walk, or pick up after.”