To Buy or Not To Buy

Why we overshop and how to stop.

3 Proven Strategies for Stopping Overshopping, Part 2

Part 2 of 3 Proven Strategies
April Lane Benson, Ph.D.
This post is a response to 3 Proven Strategies for Stopping Overshopping by April Lane Benson, Ph.D.

Now that you've gained some familiarity with the first two proven strategies, it's time to introduce the third strategy, which will help you bring all your awareness together in a way that you take positive action that will help you build the muscle to stop overshopping and start getting what it is that you're really shopping for.

Proven Strategy #3: Instead of shopping, tailor-make alternatives.
Tailor-made alternatives are an important strategy for eliminating overshopping, a defense for when the urge is sharp and strong. A tailor-made alternative is an activity you prepare ahead of time to do instead of shopping, an activity carefully chosen to address your authentic needs. The process works on several levels. Do something instead of shopping and you're taking control of your life and your habit. Do something instead of shopping and you'll probably find that the urge has dissipated. And every time you do this, you reinforce your power to resist subsequent urges.

To use this strategy successfully, however, you must choose or discover or invent tailor-made alternatives that genuinely address your needs, for when you do that you are strengthening the disconnect between those needs and shopping. Perhaps, for example, you overshop out of a craving for the easy personal attention of salespeople, the ready rapport available, buyer and seller joined (if only briefly) in transaction. Underneath this urge, in all probability, is loneliness, the feeling of being unconnected, not belonging, not engaged enough with other people in a way you find meaningful. Instead of shopping, you might choose to sit with and pet a beloved animal. You might call someone you feel close to and meet for coffee or a movie or conversation. You might volunteer your help or expertise, since what we get back when we do this is a feeling of connection. You might even choose some comforting way to connect with yourself, maybe a bath with bubbles and scent and candlelight and soft music.

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Now that you've thought about and listed your triggering emotions and authentic, underlying needs in Part I of this blog, start to think about tailor-made alternatives that meet those needs. These are activities that you will do instead of shopping. Be sure that each contributes to the genuine fulfillment of your specific, important, authentic needs. Take your time with this list and bring all your creativity to it.

Triggering        Authentic             Tailor-made
Emotion            Need                  Alternative
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________
________       ________        _________________________________

________       ________        _________________________________

________       ________        _________________________________

 

Keep in mind:
These three strategies outlined may appear simple on the surface, but each is a powerful new way of addressing your overshopping problem. Don't be surprised if you try one and discover it may take some time to succeed. Overcoming a long-term destructive habit doesn't happen overnight; it takes commitment and daily attention. Be patient with yourself, congratulate yourself for every step in the right direction, and above all, resist any tendency to judge yourself for the inevitable occasional step backward.

What to Expect as You Stop Overshopping
As you stop overshopping, you might feel worse before you feel better. The feelings that you're trying to handle by buying can well up because you're no longer anesthetized or distracted from them by your buying behavior. Be ready for this; having solid strategies for riding out those intense initial feelings is crucial. As you continue to resist the shopping impulse and begin to practice healthier ways of dealing with your feelings, the intensity of the difficult feelings will lessen and your power to resist overshopping will grow. The change you are making is a significant one-you wouldn't be struggling with it if it weren't-and anxiety always accompanies major change. Diffuse that anxiety by focusing on your new tools and strategies and by visualizing what you'll gain: self-control, self-esteem, better relationships, relief from debt and shame and secrecy, and a general feeling of being grounded and competent.


If the compulsion to shop is so strong that you can't follow through on the strategies outlined above or if you want even more strategies and tools, you might want to consult To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop and Shopping Journals. We also offer group coaching to complete the work of the program.

I wish you much success in stopping overshopping, and to moving from mindless buying to mindful being.

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April Lane Benson, Ph.D., is the author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. She specializes in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder.

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