With the holidays just around the corner, many of us have to-do lists that are mounting by the day but facing busy malls and gridlocked traffic in order to cross items off your list can come at a price. That price can be encapsulated in one word – STRESS. Not surprisingly, research has shown that holiday shopping can feel much like running a marathon, with similar physiological effects such as increased heart rate (1). Add in the accompanying financial demands, looming extended family dinners, and too much to do in too little time and it’s easy to forget to savour and appreciate this season of joy.
At YEG Psychology, we found ourselves stressing about the same things as we hear from our clients. And, so, just in time for the holiday rush, we offer some tips on how to make crossing off those items on your shopping list a more enjoyable and less stressful process.
- Shop Online – A necessary first point…if all else fails and you simply cannot face the malls, you can always purchase your gifts online with everything you need being just a click away. Be sure to pay attention to the shipping costs, exchange rates and estimated delivery dates to avoid unanticipated costs or delays.
- Get Organized – Organizing your shopping ahead of time will help to ensure a smoother process. This can be done by creating a shopping list and categorizing the items according to store locations in order to plan the most efficient route. It’s never a fun moment when you realize that you parked at the West Edmonton Mall entrance furthest from the store where you plan to shop.
- Plan the Day and Time – Certain days of the week at particular times make for less harried shopping. Monday and Tuesday mornings will typically be the least busy times to visit a mall, while evenings and weekends will most certainly be the busiest.
- Prepare to Wait – Anything to do with shopping will take longer than expected at this time of year and, simply put, planning for and accepting this fact can help make the experience more enjoyable and less stressful. Have reasonable expectations for searching for parking spaces, line-ups in stores, and the general increase in traffic around shopping centres. Tuning into your favourite playlist while driving or reading a magazine while you wait in line can help may the wait more bearable.
- Choose your Shopping Attire Wisely – How many times have you found yourself in the mall wearing your winter coat and scarf that protected you from the chilly weather outside, only to quickly feel as those you are melting while inside? Too many times, we suspect. Dress appropriately for shopping with comfortable clothing and footwear. Layers are recommended with a purse or bag large enough to hold the discarded clothes as the temperature climbs.
- Refuel – Never underestimate the power of food and water to keep the shopping momentum going. We recommend starting shopping on a full stomach and stopping to take breaks for snacks, whether brought from home or treats along the way from your favourite specialty store or the food court.
- Identify “Safe Zones” – Safe zones are areas of stores where there are generally fewer people and the atmosphere is quieter and less chaotic. Going to these areas may be necessary if you feel your anxiety increasing or panic setting in as it will give you a break from the hustle and bustle where you can take the opportunity to calm and regroup. You can be sure the underwear or furniture sections of department stores will meet the requirements, as will washroom stalls.
- Ground Yourself – Grounding strategies help to stop anxiety from escalating. They typically involve engaging the five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. While shopping, there are opportunities for grounding all around you. You won’t have to go far to find a store like Sage or Lush to help you ground through smell. Stores that have blankets or towels may help to ground through touch. There are plenty of stores to ground through taste – Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory anyone?
- Engage in an Act of Kindness – This is the season of giving and so holding the door open for someone, letting someone into traffic, making a donation to charity, or paying for someone’s coffee are ways that you can bring positivity not only to others’ lives but to yours as well. Look back on all that hustle and bustle with a smile, knowing that you positively impacted another person’s life.