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Houston's 10 Best Stress-Reliever Bars

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and we all need to take some time out of our busy schedules filled with work, school and other responsibilities to relax and unwind. Many of us like to have a few drinks after a stressful day at work, but these places have other features that can help to relieve stress besides just the alcohol.

Going out for some drinks with friends can be a lot of fun; just don't get too carried away. We are not trying to be your nanny or anything, but getting arrested for a DWI or PI will actually add more stress to your life -- just sayin'. It's best to find some other coping mechanisms to deal with the stress in your life besides excessive booze, and these places have got you covered.

Note: This list is in alphabetical order.

THE BIG EASY SOCIAL AND PLEASURE CLUB Although blues musicians often sing about their troubles and misery, the music has the power to turn life's lemons into lemonade and make both the performers and the audience feel good; a lot of blues songs have humorous and sexy lyrics as well.

A good time can always be had at Big Easy while you're listening to the blues and the dance floor is always jumping, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Stop by on Sundays for zydeco (no cover), and play a few games of pool anytime you're out there.

5731 Kirby, thebigeasyblues.com

EIGHTEEN TWENTY LOUNGE/JOYSTIX CLASSIC GAMES & PINBALLS On the first and last Friday of each month, stop by Eighteen Twenty Lounge, grab a few drinks, then pay a $15 cover for Pac-Man Fever Fridays, which gains you admittance into Joystix Classic Games and Pinballs next door in the same building, where you can play more than 200 video games all night for no additional fee.

Video games are a good way to blow off steam, giving you a break from your real-life stress by focusing on the games instead of your problems. Joystix also has some air hockey, foosball, basketball shooting, shuffleboard and punching-bag games; the punching bags are a great, safe way to vent some frustration and anger caused by life's everyday challenges.

1820 Franklin, 1820lounge.com

THE FLAT Dancing can be a fun way to exercise, and doing so causes your body to release endorphins that make you feel good and reduce your stress level by interacting with receptors in your brain. Heading over to The Flat and dancing the night away is a good way to reduce stress; the club plays a variety of music such as hip-hop, house, reggae, Latin and more throughout the week. The Flat also has a cool patio to chill out on, and enjoying Sunday brunch out there is a nice, relaxing way to end your weekend.

1701 Commonwealth, theflathouston.com

FUEGO HOUSTON This new Miami-inspired, upscale Latin nightclub has an impressive audio and lighting system that was installed by the same company that handled the lights and sound at nightclubs Liv in Miami Beach and Rain at Las Vegas's Palms Hotel, among others. Salsa, merengue and bachata music is played here, all of which is upbeat, cheerful music that will put you in a good mood. Fuego plans on dance lessons for the uninitiated in the near future, or just find a partner who's willing to teach you, then move around on the dance floor and feel your stress fade away.

11555 Fuqua, fuegohouston.com

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LAST CONCERT CAFE Go visit the Last Concert Café and watch some jam-band sessions and join in with the free-spirited, good-natured patrons dancing out in the sand in front of the stage, some with hula hoops, others spin-dancing with tethered glow-in-the-dark objects. Drop in on Wednesdays for a live music performance by local rock band Potroast, and stick around after their set for the midnight drum circle; beating on drums should relieve some workweek pressure.

1403 Nance, lastconcert.com

PALACE BOWLING LANES Sometimes you just need to throw some balls around after you've had a bad day, and this no-frills bowling alley/dive bar is the place to do it. Palace Bowling is probably the only place in Houston to live out any Big Lebowski fantasies you may have, since it's decades old and luckily does not have any glow-in-the-dark lanes that you play with the lights turned off.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, indoor smoking is now a thing of the past here, but the classic bar food and ample parking out front remain. Join a bowling league and you can come out and relieve your stress every week here with your teammates.

4191 Bellaire, facebook.com/palacebowlinglanes

RUDYARD'S Rudyard's calls itself "Montrose's living room since 1978," and relaxing in this living room can indeed relieve stress. Rudz has got you covered with live music upstairs that you can often thrash around in a mosh pit to, pool tables to knock around some balls, and darts. Luckily, the club has authentic steel-tipped darts with old-school dartboards, not the plastic-tipped darts used with electronic dartboards preferred by many bars today. If all else fails, indulging in the large craft-beer selection and famous cheeseburgers served here will put you in a good mood. Enjoy.

2010 Waugh, rudyardspub.com

SLICK WILLIE'S FAMILY POOL HALL Knocking some pool balls around with a stick is a good way to relieve some stress; you don't even have to be good at the game to go play and take your mind off of things. On Mondays the pool games are free here and Wednesdays/Sundays are $5 for all-day play.

This Montrose Slick Willie's location also has air hockey, a basketball shooting game, darts and foosball for all your competitive needs. It's okay to show up here hungry if you like eating fried appetizers all night; they seem to go well together with beer drinking and pool shooting.

1200 Westheimer, slickw.com

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TSUNAMI EXOTIC TEQUILA EMPORIUM Galveston is always a nice place to visit this time of year to relieve stress by getting away from it all. The next time you go, swing by Tsunami Exotic Tequila Emporium on The Strand; it has one of those punching-bag/boxing games that you can go to town on. This machine provides a perfectly legal way for you to go out and punch something to ease your tension. Tsunami also has a couple of pool tables; playing a few games can get your mind off of any problems you have and relieve your stress as well. Oh yeah, this place also serves a lot of tequila -- more than 45 different types, to be exact.

2314 Strand, yagaspresents.com/tsunami

WALTERS DOWNTOWN With all of the visiting bands who play punk, hardcore, metal and related subgenres at Walters Downtown, it's a good spot to go visit to get into a mosh pit and thrash around a bit and relieve some stress. Go ahead and give it a try; release pent-up frustration by hurling your body toward strangers.

And contrary to the misconceptions of some, the participants are not violently trying to hurt each other; most everyone in a Walters mosh pit is out to have a good time and will help you up if you happen to fall down. Good times.

1120 Naylor, waltersdowntown.com

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