Managing anxiety during holiday shopping may seem to be a challenging mission, but it’s not mission impossible. Standing for hours in the lineups, struggling to find a single parking spot, walking around overcrowded malls… Holiday shopping can be a nightmare even for those who don’t usually suffer from anxiety.
Dr. John Oldham of Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor explained, “I would suggest that people who get anxiety being in crowds have a plan. What I mean by that is, if you’ve got a person in your family for whom you want to pick up a specific gift, figure out where the store would be that you would most likely find it, go there, and get your business done and go back home. Don’t just get lost in the maze of the mall.”
Dr. Oldham suggests for those with moderate to severe anxiety to get most of their holiday shopping done online, or begin gift-shopping early before the crowds start picking up. “If you want to go shopping but being in crowds stresses you out, you might prefer an outside mall instead of a crowded indoor mall. This allows you to walk around and not be closed in with the crowds, and you don’t have to do your shopping on your computer at home,” Dr. Oldham added.
To cope with anxiety, Dr. Oldham shared some helpful strategies based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. For example, you should have a set of reminders handy to calm yourself down when you feel a surge of panic. Bring a book with you so that you can take a break, sit down, and read until you feel better. Being aware of the things that make you uneasy will help you better prepare for your mall visit.
Some people don’t necessarily get anxious but rather get irritated with the crowd. To address this, Dr. Oldham suggests trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. For example, as you are growing angry standing in a line, imagine how the cash operator feels serving irritated customers and working for hours under pressure.