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The holiday shopping season is in full swing and you have been lugging bags full of gifts around for a month now. The weekends are spent searching for the best deals and the best parking spots.

Amid all of the mayhem, take some time for yourself. Take a break from lines that snake past the makeup aisle and from screaming children who "just want one piece of candy."

After all, the holidays are a time of peace, and that includes peace and quiet.

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So the next time the veins in your forehead throb because the teenage sales clerk can't find AA batteries, take a deep breath and consider escaping to a local oasis of relaxation.

Monique Frost, New Jersey state certified massage therapist and president of Compass Spa and Wellness in Ocean City, says she sees an up-tick in clientele this time of year as people try to balance the stresses of family, work and budgets.

"They love their family, but they will come over here for an hour or half an hour. It is an escape and a good chance to clear their mind and body," Frost says. "Everybody is home from college and it's just a little crazy at home. You just need that quiet time. Be gentle and kind to yourself."

There are simple things you can do at home to help ease some of the tensions, she says. A nice, slow walk or gentle stretching helps clear the mind. Even a visit to the Christmas tree at the Ocean City Tabernacle can calm the nerves. Be sure to do some deep breathing exercises as well, in and out through the nose, says Frost.

Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water and eating comforting warm meals, such as homemade soups. A salt bath will help diffuse chaotic energy, says Frost, and add aromatic oils, such as lavender. Rather than flowery scents, she says men prefer lemongrass or coconut. In addition, soft music can set the mood for your home.

Guys also don't realize how nice it is to have a manicure done, says Frost. If anything, men should moisturize their hands and rub them together for at least five minutes.

By the time holidays roll around, people's shoulders are aching, as are their feet, and more people are looking to improve their health without medications, says Frost.

"The emotional stuff manifests into our physical self and you feel lousy," she says. "You really have to get yourself nice and clean. I want everyone to think of themselves as a beautiful, white snowflake this time of year."

Farther south, the Cape May Day Spa & Holistic Center is offering a special package for the most weary of wives called "Mrs. Claus & Her Secret." This package includes an ultimate facial featuring the perfecting plant peel, which delivers the equivalent of a 30 percent glycolic peel without any of the redness or irritation.

Owner Andrew O'Sullivan says that most people coming in during this time of year complain that their neck and shoulders ache from stress. He says the spa offers several packages that will give clients ultimate relaxation in a reasonably short period of time.

The sea escape package includes a whirlpool session, a massage a facial and a light fruit plate. For couples, the Victorian experience provides an oversized whirlpool for two that includes a side by side massage and a light lunch.

The perfect escape package lasts four and a half hours, while the stress express package is one and a half hours, and fits in a facial, pedicure and manicure.

"Take a break from the everyday anxieties of getting ready for the holidays," O'Sullivan says. "If anything, you can't beat a good massage."

For the holiday season, Caesars Entertainment is introducing its "SpaTacular" promotion. Available through Dec. 23, the four Caesars properties' spas Caesars Atlantic City, Bally's Atlantic City, Showboat Casino-Hotel and Harrah's Resort are offering specials suitable for every haggard shopper.

Vive Day Spa and Salon at Showboat is offering 50-minute treatments at approximately half the price. The Red Door at Harrah's includes either a 25-minute scrub, facial or massage for $60. Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars also will feature 25-minute facials, sugar scrubs or massages, in addition to a 20-minute reflexology foot massage, for $60 a piece. The Spa at Bally's features Swedish massages or classic Sugar Scrub for $60. Meanwhile, Bellezza Salons at Bally's and Caesars has decadent 30-minute Champagne sugar scrubs, 30-minute pomegranate facials or a 60-minute petite manicure and pedicure, each for $60.

Don't take your stress out on your family or unsuspecting shopkeepers this holiday season. There are plenty of opportunities to de-stress in southern New Jersey.

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