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9 Ideas for Stress-Busting Gifts

Whether it’s from the hectic holiday season or the quick pace of our everyday lives, at least one person on your shopping list could probably benefit from the gift of a little relaxation. Instead of a new pair of socks or a tinned fruit cake, give the gift of stress-relief this year.

Combatting tension and anxiety not only increases happiness and improves our mental state, but it can also improve physical health. Fatigue, headaches, upset stomach and sleep problems are just a few of the issues that can be decreased when stress is reduced, according to the American Institute of Stress. Angela Kurzyna, MA, Psy.D., BCB, a health psychologist at HMH Integrative Health and Medicine, offers ideas for gifts that deliver the most stress relief for your money.

Aromatherapy: Essential oils have become increasingly popular in recent years. Try lavender if the goal is relaxation, wild orange or rosemary to uplift the spirit or frankincense to alleviate nervous tension. If you are buying for someone new to essential oils, consider adding a diffuser, or simply buy them a natural candle made with essential oils.

Stress-fighting food: Black tea, dark chocolate and nuts like pistachios and almonds are just a few of the highly giftable foods that may help reduce stress.

A day of fun: A study published in the journal Psychology, Health and Medicine concluded that leisure time promoted long-term health-protective benefits in people with high stress levels. Maybe your recipient enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles, or is an adventure-seeker who would love a day of ziplining through the trees. Think about an activity they would like and plan a day of fun.

A spa day: An article in American Psychologist summarized the many health benefits of massage including reduced levels of stress hormones in the body—something we could all benefit from during the holidays. Consider a spa gift certificate for a hot stone massage, relaxing facial or a bit of meditation time in the steam room.

A simple kind act: If your recipient is a parent of young kids, give them a few kid-free hours while they take a nap or get some “me” time. Get your friend’s car washed or take it for an oil change. No matter how small, the kind act of checking off an item on someone else’s to-do list can be a thoughtful gift and will alleviate stress relief. A recent Harvard study suggests that an act of kindness may also benefit the giver; just watching someone preform an act of kindness has powerful effects on immune system functioning.

The gift of learning: Learning a new skill or gaining new knowledge has been shown to enhance mood, reduce stress and increase brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt as a result of experience. Some fun and stress-relieving ideas include learning a second language, cooking classes, learning to play a musical instrument, a course on home decorating, learning ballroom dancing or learning to meditate.

Time together: Holidays can be a time of financial stress for many. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give another is permission to not exchange gifts and instead spend uninterrupted quality time. People often feel obligated to purchase a gift for you if you have done so for them. So often we receive gifts that never get used or wind up re-gifted. Having a conversation with selected people in your life to not exchange gifts and instead spend time can be liberating and a helpful reminder that the season is not about purchasing “the perfect gift” but rather being together with family and loved ones.

Homemade gifts: A DIY gift can be one of the most meaningful and endearing gifts given. If you enjoy crafting, this may be a great opportunity for you to relieve stress and make a wonderful homemade gift. Canned fruit, homemade soaps, lotions and candles can be simple, low cost, fun and stress relieving for the giver and the receiver.

The gift of life: Consider giving seeds, plants or bulbs for the holidays. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that coming in contact with indoor plants (like touching and smelling) can reduce physiological and psychological stress. Since winter can be a particularly bleak and dreary season, it is nice to have plants that can be grown or started indoors to remind the recipient of the spring season ahead. Some particularly stress-relieving plant ideas include decorative succulents or trees in a box that can be started indoors, then transferred outdoors once they reach maturity.

Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine offers stress-relieving tools to help you relax and manage tension.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


The American Institute of Stress

Journal of Physiological Anthropology

Psychology, Health and Medicine



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