Last year’s COVID-19-driven anxiety came as a rising tide of stressors was already making everyday life hectic. We all could use some help, but where should we look for relief? As people continue to cope and adapt, scientific studies suggest that we can turn to a familiar and comforting activity to help manage stress and sharpen performance – chewing gum.
Chewing gum helps us focus in moments when people must perform under especially demanding conditions. Pop culture is filled with examples of people chewing gum to manage anxiety during periods of high stress. Many of us regularly reach for chewing gum to make high-pressure moments more bearable. But could gum chewing be used as a tool to reduce stress?
COVID-19 has been toxic to mental health.
Last year, the American Psychological Association (APA) warned that Americans face a secondary pandemic – one that’ll remain even when the virus has been addressed.
The APA found troubling impacts from the pandemic on families with children at home and young adults. Nearly half of American parents said the level of stress in their life had increased compared with before the pandemic. Nearly seven in ten Americans said that living through coronavirus had trapped them on a rollercoaster of emotions. And it was the most tech-savvy group, adults from Gen Z, who were the most likely to say that their mental health got worse during the pandemic.
A Leading Cause of Work-Related Ill Health
The stress of ordinary life already takes a heavy personal and economic toll on society. A London study found that “in 2019/2020 work-related stress, depression, or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health and 55% of all days lost due to work-related ill health.”
A Natural Solution?
Are those choosing chewing gum on to something? Our instinct to seek comfort from a stick of gum actually rests on firm science. Studies show that gum chewing offers mental health benefits, from sharpening our concentration and enhancing memory to actually reducing stress!
Research shows that gum chewers are “less likely to report high levels of life stress than non-chewers. This suggests that chewing gum may ameliorate strong, chronic stress, or perhaps that it is used in an attempt to reduce stress.” This is especially good news for young people.
The Persistence of Student Anxiety
The problem of debilitating stress in the workplace also extends into the classroom. Students today face persistent anxiety. We’ve all seen our kids stressed to complete homework or prep for a test. However, students who chew gum report lower anxiety and depression, improved mood, and less school-related stress.
Empowering Our Kids
Parents face a universal conundrum: How can we empower our kids to succeed without placing them at risk for paralyzing academic anxiety?
Researchers agree – it’s hard to find a solution for kids facing high anxiety in school. But results do show that daily gum chewing helps reduce anxiety levels and improve mood.
Gum chewing has also been shown to improve mental clarity – sharpening concentration and enabling high performance. A leading stress researcher found that “an individual’s perceptions of stress and mental fatigue decreased as a result of chewing gum.”
We’ve all seen how chronic stress affects our concentration, making it that much more difficult to fix the problems causing stress in the first place.
Surprisingly, chewing gum also helps you be alert, boosts your ability to focus, and extends attention spans.
I’m a big fan of finding accessible, simple ways to be more productive. By helping you stay alert, chewing gum can help you or your child focus on a task. Chewing gum doesn’t just help you in the moment, it also helps you focus over time. Research even shows it can improve memory!
In such a stressful world, chewing gum is an affordable, simple step we all can take to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and aid concentration.
Give it a try!