Life Style

20 self-care presents to help your stressed-out friends (or you) unwind

This is part of the L.A. Times 2022 Gift Guide. See the full guide here. If you make a purchase using some of our links, the L.A. Times may be compensated.

Nothing says I care about you — and your mental health — more than a gift that’s designed to help someone decompress and relax. Self-care looks different for everyone, but the items featured on this gift list, which range from experiences to physical products under $200, are meant to encourage you to prioritize your wellness during stressful times. Be sure to get something for yourself as well.

Den Mother treatments

Give the person who deserves to be pampered a respite at Den Mother. This dreamy, TikTok-approved healing house in Venice offers several treatments inspired by Nordic, Ayurvedic and Chinese lineages including acupuncture, hot-cold therapy and massage. Among the most popular is the garden massage (neck and shoulders), which is paired with a ritual foot soak in Den Mother’s signature coconut bath milk with a custom blend of medicinal herbs from the Cook’s Garden. Order a drink — options include lattes, kombucha, organic sakes and wines — while you take in the luxurious experience. Purchase a gift card online by selecting “Book an Appointment” on Den Mother’s website.

Gift cards start at $25 at Den Mother

Chado Tea Room afternoon tea experience

The Chado Tea Room gift box with 20 sample sizes of tea

Studies have shown that drinking tea can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Consider treating your overwhelmed friend to an afternoon tea service at Chado Tea Room or bring the experience to them by gifting them one of Chado’s curated tea sets. The family-run teahouse has been serving hard-to-find quality teas from around the globe for more than 30 years. Chado’s celebration afternoon tea service comes with a glass of wine-inspired tea, tea-infused chocolates, sandwiches, soup or salad, a scone, French macaron and a pot of tea for $35 per person. (A tea set comes with 20 samples of various teas for $35 as well. For extra brownie points, throw in a tea infuser. Also, gift cards can be purchased in person or over the phone.

$35 at Chado Tea Room

Loam Candles

Herb Garden candle by Loam Candles

We’ve all heard that spending time in nature is good for us, particularly when it comes to calming stress and anxiety. But what about the times when we’re unable to spend extended periods of time outdoors? L.A.-based gardener Jessica White created Loam Candles for that very reason. With scents such as Herb Bed, Midnight Moon, Community Garden and Harvest Basket, the candles are designed to help you experience the “magic of life lived outdoors” without actually having to step outside. Gift this candle to your friend who needs to bring the natural tranquility of the outdoors inside the comfort of their home. We especially enjoyed the Herb Bed candle, which has notes of lavender, gray sage, tobacco, leather and bay leaf.

$33 at Loam Candles

Rage Ground

A person hits a beaten up car with a bat

Some people book massages to help relieve stress, while others prefer to break things. A gift certificate to Rage Ground (a $50 minimum), located in downtown L.A., is the perfect gift for your overburdened friend who needs to release some pent-up energy. For less than $60, you can indulge in your destructive desires through the Recruit Package, which comes with 34 items for you to throw and shatter. Spend an extra $35 to smash two vehicles — excluding the windows, tires and other parts — for up to 10 minutes. By the end of it, you’ll be exhausted, feel empowered and probably have forgotten what you were upset about to begin with.

$50 at Rage Ground

Me-est Me journal

Journal from Me-est Me

With thought-provoking questions such as “What parts of you feel lonely?”, “How would you like to change?” and “What are you tolerating,” Shana Rehwald’s Me-est Me Journal will challenge you to take your journaling game to the next level. The 88-page guided workbook is filled with self-discovery prompts and exercises designed to “help put you more deeply in touch with yourself,” Rehwald says. One reviewer says the journal provides “the self-discovery you didn’t know you were craving.” And the best part about the Me-est Me Journal is that there are no rules. Feel free to flip through the pages and answer the prompts as you see fit and come back to others at your convenience.

$29 at Me-est Me

Pause Studio floatation therapy

Float therapy pod at Pause Studio

This is the perfect gift for people who are always on the move and often forget to take a moment for themselves. Pause is one of a handful of studios in Los Angeles that offers floatation therapy, a service in which you float inside of a spacious pod that’s been filled with 10 inches of clean, body-temperate water and 1,000 pounds of healing Epsom salts. It’s recommended that you float in the nude, but you can also wear a swimsuit. This weightless, relaxing experience, which lasts 60 minutes, is designed to help you unplug and completely let go of your body given that the highly dense salt water forces you to float without even trying, so no worries if you don’t swim. Researchers have found that floatation therapy can be used to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, sleep quality and injuries. Once you’ve finished a float session, you’ll leave feeling lighter, physically and emotionally. Pause has locations in Venice, South Bay and West Hollywood. It costs $69 for first-time floaters, but $75 per session after that. We recommend purchasing a gift certificate for your loved one.

$69 (for your first therapy float session) at Pause Studio

Parachute waffle robe

Parachute Waffle Robe in white, tan, brown and gray

Parachute has become widely known for its comfortable linen sheets, fluffy towels and plush duvets, but have you tried one of the brand’s robes? The designed-in-L.A. company offers robes — a clothing item that we feel should be a wardrobe essential in everyone’s closet — in multiple textures and fabrics including linen and organic cotton. We especially liked the waffle robe, made with 100% organic cotton from Turkey. Its lightweight feel is reminiscent of being at a spa — without the hefty price tag. The fit is roomy, and sizes range from XS to 3XL. The sleek robe is available in white, tan, terra and gray.

$129 at Parachute

Kikoko’s Little Helper Mints

Kikoko Little Helpers mints

We couldn’t put together a guide of de-stressing gifts without mentioning at least one cannabis product. There’s several botanical-infused edibles on the market that offer lofty promises to help you calm down, but ones that checks every box for us are Kikoko’s botanical-infused mints. The Bay Area-based, female-led company’s Little Helpers mints are sugar-free and actually taste good while simultaneously making your breath smell better. The mints come in five varieties and dosages dependent on the desired effect. For example, the moringa-spearmint-flavored Calm mint has 5 milligrams of CBD and 2.5 milligrams of THC. Also, consider throwing in one of Kikoko’s herbal, cannabis-infused teas as a stocking stuffer. They have clever names such as Creativi-Tea (a black blend for energy and creativity), Sympa-Tea (a turmeric ginger blend for pain and anxiety) and Positivi-Tea (a mint green tea for mood and joy).

$18-$30 at Kikoko

Piecework Puzzles

A tinseltown puzzle by Piecework Puzzle

Why’s a jigsaw puzzle included on this list? Because the act of focusing on one goal like working on a puzzle without the distraction of technology is a meditative practice in this day and age. I was reminded of the satisfaction that comes from completing a puzzle that took several hours — or sometimes days — by my grandmother, who started regularly working on puzzles at the height of the COVID pandemic and hasn’t stopped. Piecework Puzzles makes puzzles that look shockingly realistic and are just as enjoyable to look at as they are to put together. With several large designs to choose from ranging from astrology-themed to holiday-themed puzzles, including one called Tinseltown, there’s a puzzle for everyone on your shopping list. (I checked out the Power Lunch puzzle.) Each puzzle comes with a curated playlist to match the vibe, which can be found on Spotify.

$38 at Piecework Puzzles

Therabody Theragun mini massager

Therabody mini massager

Whether the person you’re shopping for is a gym rat, parent or remote worker, Therabody’s Theragun mini massager will be useful for anyone on your nice list. The compact but powerful device, which has three speeds, can be slipped into a jacket pocket or purse, offering on-the-go treatment at the first sign of muscle ache or tension. For the ultimate relaxation, whip out the massager while you’re on the couch catching up on your favorite Netflix series. (Also seen in our gift guide for tech lovers.)

$199 at Therabody

Epara Comforting Body Cream

Comforting body cream by Epara

The word “Epara” means “to cocoon oneself” in the Nigerian dialect of Ebira, which is exactly what it feels like you’re doing when you slather the inclusive skincare brand’s comforting body cream onto your skin after a warm shower. The nourishing cream is made with skin-brightening actives, including moringa oil and licorice root extract, that targets hyperpigmentation and imperfections. The cream’s rich, aromatic texture also helps promote glowing, baby-smooth skin. It’s a perfect gift for the skincare fanatic in your life who appreciates an at-home spa moment.

$168 at Epara

POT Gift Card

A Drop-in wheel class from POT

At POT, an inclusive pottery studio that prioritizes people of color, LGBTQ+ communities and beginning ceramicists, you can make more than just bowls and coffee mugs. The studio, which has locations in Echo Park and Jefferson Park, a.k.a. POT Gardens, hosts an array of uncommon ceramic classes including live sculpting (with a nude model), dildos at their sexpot workshops and bongs. The ancient art of making pottery is often described as therapeutic given the focus needed to create a piece of artwork, the act of physically using the wheel and feeling the clay. Consider giving your loved one a gift card to a class where they can expect eclectic music, enthusiastic-but-patient teachers and a memorable experience. We recommend starting out with a two-hour, drop-in wheel throwing class, which ranges from $45 to $65 depending on the location.

Gift cards start at $25 at POT

Ghia First Sip Kit

Ghia first sip kit

In the last five years, there’s been an explosion of booze-free drink options, ranging from calorie-free faux tequila to distilled botanical spirits. Among the most popular offerings is Ghia, a spirit-free apéritif, which launched in mid-2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspired by Mediterranean aperitivo culture, not only is Ghia satisfyingly bitter without added sugars, but it also actually tastes good. The beverage makes you feel as if you’re indulging in alcohol without the risk of a messy hangover. It also consists of no artificial flavors and only natural ingredients including riesling white-grape juice concentrate, gentian root extract and lemon balm extract. Ghia’s First Sip Kit makes a great gift for the sober-curious person in your life as it contains a full-size bottle of the apéritif, two cans of Ghia Soda, one can of Ghia Ginger, one can of Ghia Lime & Salt and a fancy pour spout.

$60 at Ghia

Unplug meditation app

The Unplug mobile app

The Unplug meditation app was created for the person who doesn’t have time to meditate. With hundreds of guided meditation videos, some of which are as short as 60 seconds, you can tap into the benefits of meditation without having to dedicate too much time to the practice. The Los Angeles-based company, which also has a physical studio for in-person classes, offers virtual meditations designed to help with various concerns including sleep, PTSD, work productivity and stress. You can gift a one-year subscription to the Unplug app for $69.99.

$69.99 at Unplug

YNM Home weighted blanket

The YNM Home original cotton weighted blanket on a bed

There’s limited research on whether weighted blankets can actually help you sleep better or ease your anxiety, but one thing that’s undeniable is the fact that they feel like a soothing, warm hug — and that’s sometimes exactly what you need when you’re feeling stressed out. YNM has weighted blankets in various colors, sizes, weights (ranging from 10 to 25 pounds) and fabrics, including linen and cotton. We especially liked the ultra-soft, faux-fur weighted blanket. One YNM customer summed up how you feel using one of the blankets: “If you have racing thoughts or unease when going to bed, something about the extra weight distributed around your body really helps calm those feels down and adds this interesting element of being protected.”

$69.90-$179.90 at YNM

We Heart L.A. Parks adult coloring book

The We Heart L.A. Parks Coloring Book by Leanna Lin's Wonderland

Remember how relaxing and therapeutic it was to spend hours doodling inside your favorite coloring book when you were a child? Well, the fun doesn’t have to stop just because you’re an adult now. In fact, it’s probably just as — or more — enjoyable now that you’re older. Leanna Lin’s Wonderland, the fanciful gift shop and art gallery in Eagle Rock, sells an L.A. parks-themed coloring book (by L.A.-based creative collective Narrated Objects and edited by writers Andrea Richards and Teena Apeles) that’s filled with activities and coloring pages, featuring more than 50 public parks in Los Angeles. Make it a fun adventure by taking the book along with you to the corresponding L.A. park as you spend the afternoon coloring those pages.

$19.99 at Leanna Lin’s Wonderland

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself

"Set Boundaries Find Peace: A guide to reclaiming yourself" book

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

One of the many reasons that we may be feeling overwhelmed or stressed out is because we haven’t done a great job of setting healthy boundaries. And let’s face it, setting boundaries and learning how to say no to loved ones can feel uncomfortable and challenging at first. Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed therapist, author and renowned relationship expert, provides us with the necessary tools to do so with her book “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself,” which published last year. Tawwab also created an accompanying workbook filled with applicable exercises for you to do while you read the book. We recommend purchasing a physical copy of the book at a local bookstore such as Reparations Club.

$26 at Reparations Club or at Penguin Random House

Speks’ 2.5mm magnet balls

Magnet balls from Speks

At those times when you’re feeling antsy, it can be helpful to play with a toy to distract you from your wandering and often negative thoughts — hence fidget spinners had a moment a few years ago. Speks, the desk toy brand, has taken the concept of fidget spinners up a notch with its extensive line of oddly satisfying toys that have been designed specifically for stressed-out adults, including the brand’s magnet balls, which come in 19 colorways. (Experts urge you to keep these toys away from children.) The magnetic balls, made from neodymium along with iron and boron, are meant to be touched, smashed, stacked and built into anything you can imagine and they can keep your mind occupied for hours. There’s also a social media community that shares its creations, and Speks Ed offers tutorials on how to make fun shapes and designs such as a Spexmas tree or angel fish.

$34.95 at Speks

SBJ Esntls’ Papaya Glow face oil

Papaya Glow serum by SBJEsntls

When Los Angeles-based makeup artist Jessica Monzalvo launched SBJ Esntls last year, she strove to create an inclusive brand that would remind people of the importance of taking care of themselves. “I believe that beauty itself is a journey [that] goes beyond physical appearance,” she says. Rooted in Latinx culture, SBJ Esntls specializes in making products that can “help you through your transformative self-care journey,” according to Monzalvo, and her Papaya Glow face oil is no exception. Packed with ingredients including papaya seed, vitamin E and jojoba, the multi-use, lightweight face oil can also double as a makeup remover. Pair the face oil with SBJ Esntls’ A Guide to Self-Care Zine, designed by artist Rocio Zavala, to create the ultimate self-care moment for your stressed-out friend.

$38 at SBJ Esntl

Pinch Me Therapy Dough

Therapy dough by Pinch Me Therapy Dough

We loved this gift so much that we decided to include it again on this year’s list. Created by Nancy Rothner, a clinical hypnotherapist who specializes in stress reduction, Pinch Me Therapy Dough is basically the grown-up, more aesthetically pleasing version of traditional Play-Doh. It is infused with placating, spa-quality oils and comes in soothing scents such as Zen, Beach and Relief as well as its newest scent, Bonfire, which is reminiscent of cozying up in front of a fire. Enjoy kneading, squeezing, rolling and pinching the pliable dough until you feel relieved and centered again. Or if you’re a bath person, consider gifting the brand’s new Bathe Me Therapy Bath, a bath tea that’s filled with a blend of botanicals meant to help you relax.

Starting from $14.99 at Pinch Me Dough

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