This past year has been a tough haul. The past twelve months seemingly have lasted about a decade. Stress levels have been in the red zone of the Stress-O-Meter. 


Not that it's any consolation, but you are not alone. It looks like we are all in the same boat. “A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that three in four Americans said that the pandemic is a significant source of stress.” (https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/11/coronavirus-pandemic-stress)


The stress statistics are revealing. “Forty-eight percent of Americans experienced increased stress over the past fiver years. Thirty-one percent of employed adults have difficulty managing their work and family responsibilities. Fifty-three percent say work leaves them overtired and overwhelmed.” (https://inc42.com/resources/burnout-10-signs-youre-burning-out-and-how-to-stop-it/)


We are at the point where there is even a term for our stress – mental fog. Health experts say it's a normal reaction to a very abnormal year. However, there is some good news. “While many people will likely continue to struggle with mental health symptoms in the long run, research on past mass traumas suggests that most people will recover once the coronavirus pandemic ends. The majority of people tend to be resilient. They may have struggled during the time of the challenges but generally come out OK on the other end." (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/05/06/992401123/if-your-brain-feels-foggy-and-youre-tired-all-the-time-youre-not-alone)


If you want to determine how you fit into this demographic,  take the “Stress-Detector” test at: https://www.oprah.com/omagazine/the-stress-detector-test_1.  


Now, with all this in mind, as we head into summer it might be a good time to take a deep breath and just “chill” for a bit. Perhaps you ,might want to stretch out under a tree and take a nap. If so, do I have a deal for you. Become a Nap Reviewer. 

“We are currently hiring for a team of five people to become ‘Nap Reviewers’, and get paid to nap! The team of ‘Nap Reviewers’ will need to be prepared to start work straight away, as well as being committed to napping everyday for thirty days. Applicants must be able to sleep alone during the testing period to ensure that the naps are undisturbed. Our dedicated nappers will be required to take part in a variety of experiments testing out theories such as the best nap duration for feeling refreshed, the effects of napping on overall levels of fatigue, and the effects of napping on memory, motivation and productivity.”


You'll get paid $1500 to do this. Applicants must be over age eighteen . Applications close on May 31st 2021. To apply, go to: https://eachnight.com/sleep-studies/get-paid-to-nap/


If there is any doubt in your mind you can nap you way to fame and fortune, you can take some inspiration from a guy in Italy. He's known as the “King of Absentees' because he skipped work for fifteen years and collected pay the whole time. 

“Hospital employee in Calabrian city of Catanzaro continued to be paid monthly salary to total of around $655,000. Police say the hospital employee continued to be paid a monthly salary. Police gathered their evidence from attendance and salary records as well as witness statements from colleagues. In 2005, the man is alleged to have made threats against the hospital director to stop her from filing a disciplinary report over his absenteeism.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/21/italian-king-of-absentees-allegedly-skipped-work-for-15-years)


Another way to (literally) chill is to enjoy a frosty treat. A kid in Brooklyn did just that. “A four-year-old cartoon fanatic went a little overboard by buying nonrefundable SpongeBob SquarePants Popsicles on Amazon. The order was for fifty-one cases, containing 918 popsicles” to the tune of  $2,618.85. 


Did the kid's mom know? Nope. The wily Amazon shopper had the order delivered to his aunt's house. Don't worry, though. Friends set up a Go Fund Me page and the debt has been paid. (https://nypost.com/2021/05/05/boys-botched-amazon-order-leaves-him-with-2620-worth-of-spongebob-squarepants-popsicles/)


That story made me wonder about my favorite treats – candy bars. Specifically, it's been a long time since I was a store's check-out line and nabbed a Snickers or a Milky Way? You too? “Standing in line to pay at a grocery store, you’re in an optimized selling environment, carefully fashioned by marketers and retailers. That’s where the pushers put the impulse buys: gum, mints, chocolate bars, gummy bears, sodas, snack bars.”


It turns out the lack of shoppers during the pandemic has affected those impulse buys. “Over the past year, fewer people have been standing in line to pay at the grocery store—or anywhere, really. One recent survey found that sixty-one percent of consumers are doing more grocery shopping online now than before the Covid-19 pandemic. That means fewer impulse buys. North American sales of gum fell fourteen percent last year and mints by fifteen percent.”


Never fear, though. Candy makers are figuring our ways to trigger your impulses – even online. “Hershey is experimenting with an 'Add a Hershey’s' button at the end of the ordering experience.” (https://www.wired.com/story/gummy-bears-candy-bars-casualties-pandemic/)


That got me to thinking about all those candy bars I enjoyed as a kid but are no longer around (or are almost impossible to find). Those of you with a few extra miles on your personal odometer might recall these, back when a nickel actually could buy something. (https://www.metv.com/lists/17-bygone-candy-bars-you-will-never-eat-again)


“ Today, Hershey's and Mars dominate the checkout aisle, but decades ago candy companies like Hollywood, Clark, Peter Paul and Annabelle cranked out delectable bars filled with nougat, nuts, brittle and fudge.” Some of these were: 

Big Time, Powerhouse, Seven Up, Skybar, Marathon, Chicken Dinner, Old Nick, Charleston Chew, Zero, Chunky, Oh Henry!, and Mallo Cup. 


A particular favorite of mine was Milkshake. Sometimes stores would put a wooden stick in one end and put the bars in the ice cream freezer. This would make them hard as a rock. Then, as the bar melted, you'd have chocolate coated malted milk on a stick. They don't make “stress relievers” like that anymore.  


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews