As a sober mom (8 years in January!) I am freaking serious about stress relief. I have to be, because I never, ever get to opt for the easy relaxation of a glass of wine or other substance to take the edge off at the end of a long day of crushing the game at home and at work.
No, these days I have to do way more time-consuming and boring stuff like meditate and exercise regularly in order to keep myself from becoming one of those frazzled moms in a stock photo whose kids are covered in like, spaghetti.
You know, this lady:
She’s just trying to talk on the phone and her kid’s on the freaking table! UGH.
But because of my commitment to walking around with all my feelings exposed like a raw nerve, I am now able to recommend to you the creme de la creme of non-alcoholic stress-relief gifts. I suggest buying them for your damn self before Christmas even starts ― this s**t is stressful!
1. Shiatsu Pillow Massager With Heat, $79.95
I have Amazon Prime, so I bought this for $49.95, but now that I own it I can legitimately say that I would pay upward of $5 MILLION for this thing. It’s second only to paying another human being to massage you.
Basically, it’s like a hard pillow that you lean against and it has four nodes that knead your back or neck or wherever you put it. (I’ll just say this: Butt stress is real.) Also, it heats up. It’s basically life-changing.
(Buy me the foot massager next?)
A bath caddy will keep parents from electrocuting themselves while hiding in the bathtub from their kids, and aromatherapy oils or bath bombs make the experience of sitting around in your own warm filth feel luxurious. I like any of the Dr. Hauschka bath and body oils ― just dab a little on your temples and neck and breathe in to help release some of that “been-lifting-a-50-pound-child-because-I-refuse-to-accept-he’s-growing-up-and-will-someday-leave-me” muscle tension.
You can find cheaper necklace diffusers, but the Cor pendant is by far the most stylish-looking and effective. The 14-kt gold version conceals a wick that comes in 3 essential oil blends meant to boost energy, focus or calm. The “Mad Men”-esque pendant is something I’d wear anyway, but I love that I can untwist it throughout the day and take calming whiffs of lavender or chamomile.
If you’re not into looking like a necklace-sniffing weirdo, Uma oils are a luxury aromatherapy option that you can just dab directly onto the skin. They’re on the pricier side, but they are legitimately the best-smelling body oils on the market ― every time I wear one, I get compliments. They come in blends of Pure Calm, Pure Bliss, Pure Rest, and Pure Energy, each of which is intended to improve “mood, mental balance and overall health.” You can get a 15-ml bottle of a stress-relieving blend for $49 or a sampler of 5 mini-oils for $45.
If you can’t afford fancy relaxation oils this holiday season, you can get a basic oil diffuser for around $20 on Amazon Prime, and use it with pure essential oils known for their relaxing properties, like lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, bergamot or rose.
6. S’Mores USB Foot Warmers, $29.99
I’m one of those “cold lady” cliches who basically gets under a warm blanket on the couch around November and doesn’t come out until April. But I really knew I was getting old and boring when I put a “heated blanket” on my Christmas list. I could tell specifically because my 5-year-old was like “That’s boring, Mom.”
But this year I’m taking it to the next level by asking for heated slippers. Specifically, these USB-powered plush slippers that look like S’Mores. Finally, my icy extremities will no longer hold me back from ultimate wintertime comfort.
7. Handheld Scalp Massager, $1.92
I don’t know who invented these weird-ass things that basically just scratch your head for you, but the feeling is bizarrely intense, even, dare I say ― erotic? It doesn’t really work when you do it to yourself, but you and a partner can take turns massaging each other’s scalps and getting all tingly.
Not aromatherapy, aCHRomathery. I guess that’s where you stare at a color and it helps improve your mood? Seriously, though, I stumbled across these little tins at a craft fair and they’re actually pretty neat. They’re themed by color ― green for fertility and balance, blue for peace and respiration, etc. ― and each kit includes a colorful image card, an essential oil blend, a lava bead diffuser bracelet and a code for a guided meditation related to the theme. I liked the smell of yellow the best ― the blend of bergamot, rosemary, lemon, and basil is supposed to promote “happiness and brain power.”
9. A Headspace Subscription, $12.95-$94.99
Everybody’s favorite meditation app can be gifted for a month up to two years. There’s currently a cute deal where you can give a year of Headspace with a Askinosie chocolate bar, which also comes with its own mindful eating exercise. The app, which I use regularly to control stress, has themed packs of sessions focused on stress, anxiety, sleep and even pregnancy. There’s also a new section of short meditations designed for kids.
10. Kava Stress Relief Tea, $6.42
Herbal tea always disappoints me because, as a recovering alcoholic, I want it to get me high a little. But Kava actually sort of does. Not in an illegal way! It just gives you a little buzz―I mean, “promotes relaxation.” I’ll take what I can get, OK?
11. Women’s Cat Union Suit Pajamas, $27.99
Tis the season for cozy pajamas. You’d think I’d be a little bit ashamed to be a grown woman in onesie pajamas, but once I felt how comfortable it was to lounge around the house in a fleece one-piece, I lost all sense of shame. I regain it briefly when I have to get mostly naked in order to pee, however. Target has a good selection of one-pieces (with and without animal themes) for maximal winter coziness.
12. Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set, $29.99-$49.99
I swear by acupuncture for treating stress and muscle tension, but I use this acupressure mat when I can’t make it to an appointment. Lying on a bed of spikes may not sound instantly appealing, but the plastic points stimulate pressure points, which reduces tension, relieves back and neck pain, and releases a rush of endorphins.
13. Hitachi Magic Wand, $59.95
Look, we can’t talk about stress relief without talking about vibrators. And if you’re a busy mom with no time to spare, the Hitachi Magic Wand has the sheer horsepower to get the job done fast. It’s not the prettiest vibrator, but it’s ultra-efficient. Alternately, a gift card for a woman-friendly sex toy shop like Babeland is the kind of gift lifelong friendships are built on.
It’s insane how much stress we store in our feet. This foot therapy gift set includes the Earth Therapeutics tea tree oil repair balm, a cooling foot scrub with wintergreen and chamomile, a pumice stick, a scrub brush and a foot roller for working out tension. It would all go quite nicely with a foot massage.
These rollerballs of essential oil blends aimed at reducing anxiety are great to keep in your purse or car and apply to pulse points when you feel stressed out. “Chill Out” includes lavender, clary sage and sandalwood, and it also comes in blends intended to increase energy, balance hormones and relieve headaches. Another great option is Aveda’s Blue Oil Balancing Concentrate, which combines aromatherapy with cooling acupressure.
Funded by Kickstarter last year, the Nervana Generator and Headphones Unit are designed to stimulate the Vagus nerve through the ear to promote feelings of relaxation. I had a chance to try the unit for review and liked it so much I purchased my own. You plug the unit into your iPhone and it synchronizes with your music. You can vary the duration and intensity of a session, but it basically feels like a slight electric crackling or warmth in your ear. Different people have different experiences, but for me the headphones produce a relaxed, liquid feeling similar to the one I get after a meditation session. It’s pricey but cool, and it’s on sale for Christmas! You can read more about the technology here.
When in doubt, buy a mom a massage. Any local spa will do. I chose Bliss because they have lots of national locations and they’re my favorite spa to visit for an utterly luxurious experience. Also: They have heated massage tables and put your feet in bags of warm paraffin wax during your massage.
Whether you’re shopping for an overworked mom in your life or treating yo’self, these gifts are great for helping stressed-out parents take a break at any time of year.