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Americans turn to everything from piñatas to cannabis to ease the stress of 2020

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Between a devastating pandemic and the daily mudslinging leading up to November’s elections, Americans are stressed out — and they’re looking for relief in everything from gumdrops to piñatas.

Data compiled and released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40.9 percent of U.S. adults reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health effect stemming from coronavirus-era conditions. Nearly a third of respondents — 30.9 percent — said they’ve experienced a combination of both anxiety and depressive disorders.

Dr. Steven Stosny, a Washington, D.C.-based relationship expert, says it’s the worst he’s seen it in his 35 years of practice. Stosny, who coined the term “election stress disorder” during the 2016 race, estimates his calls have increased at least 40 percent in the last four years.

Nerves from the pandemic, coupled with the outrageously polarizing White House race, have created a sort of perfect storm of stress. And companies across the country are taking notice.

“As people are far more attuned to their health and wellbeing, we’re seeing far more brands trying to connect to this as well,” Emma Chiu, the global director of communications agency Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, tells ITK. Retailers are “reaching out like they’re a friend,” Chiu says.

Procter & Gamble recently introduced a line of gumdrops called Stressballs that feature ingredients containing soothing properties. A description on Stressballs’s website declares: “It’s OK that we’re all stressed. Let’s have a ball, anyway.”

“The key word that they’re picking up on [from consumers] is, yes, I feel stressed. And yes, I want comfort,” says Chiu.

If you can’t chew your way to health, you can try to sip your way to sleep. PepsiCo announced last week the launch of Driftwell, aimed at helping its drinkers relax and fall asleep. The blackberry and lavender-flavored beverage includes magnesium and an amino acid found in calming teas.

“Relaxation and dealing with stress is a lifestyle shift,” PepsiCo said in a statement announcing the libation.

Calming and meditation apps have also seen a surge in popularity. Earlier this year, mindfulness app downloads jumped 25 percent.

“The number of people downloading meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace has really surged, and I think people are trying to look for their own way to find stress relief at this time and a feeling of comfort,” Chiu says.

Cannabis products have also seen huge spikes, “literally doubling in sales” this year, according to Chiu.

“A product called Beam — which Glossy magazine has coined the ‘Nike of wellness’ — they have seen 100 percent of sales increase since March,” she says. Beam sells a variety of CBD products, including a $95 “Dream” sleep powder that it says will help your “body and mind wind down for a better night’s sleep.”

Some stress, Stosny points out, is normal.

“It’s not really stress that’s the problem,” the “Empowered Love” author says, “it’s how you cope with the stress.” The doctor quotes “Hamlet,” saying without stress, life would be “flat” and “unprofitable.”

Stosny doesn’t put much stock in gadgets and gizmos that aim to give customers a dose of R&R but says most of them sound harmless. He advises people see a professional if stress is interfering with their normal functioning.

“If it’s making you into someone you’re not, if it’s making you into a different person … in other words, you’re violating your personal values,” then people should seek help, he says.

Far more than food, drink and everything in between, Stosny said what helps are connections to loved ones, friends and community.

“Stress can make us feel isolated and when we cope with blame, we feel like victims. Connection is the antidote.”

Some Americans, however, prefer a side of savage to boozily cope with their stress.

Piñata maker Nipyata! says there’s been a “huge spike in orders” during COVID-19. The company offers a variety of alcohol bottle-filled piñatas, including its “Flu Trump-yata.” The $110 creation features an animated image of President Trump sporting a face mask and a sign that reads, “Just like the flu.”

“We’re living in a challenging time, and anything that helps put smiles on people’s faces we truly believe is a positive thing,” Nipyata! co-founder Will Hench tells ITK. “Have some candy, maybe an adult beverage, smash open a Nipyata! and hope that things are going to change for the better in 2021!”

Tags 2020 Coronavirus Donald Trump Mental health PepsiCo Procter & Gamble Psychological stress Relaxation Steven Stosny Stress
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