In recent months, countless headlines have hit on a common theme: society’s collective anxiety and burnout. Writing for The New York Times, Erin Griffith took on hustle culture. A few weeks before, Buzzfeed ran a piece painting millennials as “the burnout generation”. Incredibly, the Internet’s response was almost unanimous — millennials don’t have a monopoly on burnout, we’re all exhausted.
[Hustle culture] is creating the idea that Elon Musk is your high priest. You’re going into your church every day and worshiping at the altar of work. For congregants of the Cathedral of Perpetual Hustle, spending time on anything that’s nonwork-related has become a reason to feel guilty.
Framed through the lens of burnout, the current state of wellness makes perfect sense. From CBD to sleep-tech and wellness tourism to meditation apps, our pursuit of well-being is actually a quest to alleviate anxiety. And because wellness is not a vertical product category, there’s more cross-over than ever. As a result, we’re seeing beauty supplements aimed at improving sleep, beverages promising “inner glow”, and a growing number of products targeting mood elevation and stress reduction.
Perhaps the best example of this trend is Recess, a CBD- and adaptogen-infused sparkling water. While it would be easy to write Recess off as a blip on the CBD-craze map, founder Ben Witte has other ideas. “I saw this bigger opportunity to create a consumer wellness lifestyle brand,” Witte explains. For that reason, the brand doesn’t over-emphasize CBD. As Witte sees it, “CBD is a commodity” that will eventually be in everything. Ultimately, Witte believes the thing that will separate Recess is Recess itself — which is why he teamed up with Gin Lane to create a brand and packaging using a matte, sunset palette and simple packaging to convey its core message: keep calm.
We’re living in a world in which we’re all increasingly stressed out, anxious, overly stimulated, overwhelmed by technology, by politics, you name it, and are searching for solutions to feel balanced…
– Ben Witte, Recess founder
Of course, Recess isn’t alone in its pursuit of good vibes. As the luxury counterpart to Recess’s millennial brand, The Nue Co. wants to redefine “the relationship we have with our health” through products claiming to reduce stress, provide restful sleep, and boost energy levels. Although the packaging is different, the sentiment is the same: wellness is your respite.
As a more mystical alternative to Recess and The Nue Co., Moon Juice is the new-agey path “to elevate body, beauty, and consciousness.” Offering adaptogen-based dusts, powders, tonics, and snacks, Moon Juice is proving to be the perfect antidote for our collective anxiety. For founder Amanda Chantal Bacon, who started Moon Juice back in 2011, the inflection point has been a long time coming. Despite criticism, Bacon has launched new products and opened new doors, selling Moon Juice at Barney’s, Sephora, and Nordstrom, while building a holistic lifestyle brand that resonates in an era of exhaustion.
There’s no denying that these brands have hit on something; each of the three mentioned regularly sell out of product or have waitlists for new launches. Still, the elephant in the room remains — do they actually work? When it comes to specific ingredients, dosages, and hard science, the verdict is still out. But as The New York Times concluded in a profile of Recess, “whatever creates this affective experience is invaluable.” Said differently, in an era of exhaustion, the mere sense of wellness just might save us from ourselves.