When you look up stress relief gifts online, you'll find pages and pages of spa gift baskets, books on stress, and music for stress relief. Throw in a joke book and a spa vacation, and the stressed person should feel as good as new. Or so you would hope. Well, it's a start.

But you may be able to do a whole lot better than that, and for less money too. Stressed people often feel very disempowered. While you want to express empathy and caring, it's important to make sure to do so without smothering them and without making them feel even more overwhelmed by additional obligations.

So here's the first rule of thumb: know your stressed friend or loved one. Know what they like and what they are like, their sense of humor, their taste in music and books, what they like to eat, and whether they prefer breathing space or company when they're stressed.

One of the most valuable gifts you can give them may well be a simple hug, or, even better, lots of hugs as needed. Nurturing touch by someone you care about can be very soothing. In addition, make time to listen if they need to talk.

While a pet theoretically may help relief stress and may seem like a great though not inexpensive gift (and yes, there have been studies to prove that pets do in fact relieve stress), do not go to the SPCA and adopt a dog for your friend without checking first. Remember the part about being disempowered?

An exception: if you know for a fact that the person always really wanted a specific kind of pet. Even then, consider going shopping together. The SPCA is full of well-intended Christmas presents.

Music can be a great source of stress relief as well - if it's the right kind. If you know your friend well and you found something that's just perfect, by all means, go for it. Theoretically, new age music is very soothing. But some people hate it, and they will feel merely annoyed by it if they play it at all. So if you're not really sure, get a gift card for CDs or iTunes.

Books are also a great possibility, yet they too can be a little tricky. Some stressed people, already overwhelmed, may feel less than thrilled by what feels like yet another reading assignment. While books on stress management are popular gifts for stressed-out folks, they may not be quite as welcome as you might expect. Sometimes humorous or encouraging books can be better. And once again, gift cards are also a good option.

If you really want to give a specific book, here's an idea: Get one that provides immediately usable information without lengthy theory or fluff. And if you want to go the extra step, consider pre-reading it and marking the good parts with little sticky notes so your stressed friend can get the important information with minimum effort. Later, once things have eased up again, they can always enjoy reading it in more detail.

Author's Bio: 

And if you want a really inexpensive stress-relieving gift, you are invited to get a FREE fluff-free ebook with seven mood-boosting and stress-reducing strategies. Or maybe you want the full-sized version of Elisabeth's new ebook instead, with lots more strategies and still no fluff: Elisabeth's new ebook: Feel Better Quickly: Emergency Rescue Toolbox for your Mood.

Last, but not least, please visit Elisabeth's eclectic self-help blog for more resources for body, mind, spirit, and prosperity.