Is the Holiday Season Stressing You Out?

Get quick tips on how to cope with holiday stressors, like gift-giving.

Posted Dec 05, 2019

The holiday season is often called the most stressful time of the year, with gift shopping cited as being highly stressful by almost a third of Americans.
The holiday season is often called the most stressful time of the year, with gift shopping cited as being highly stressful by almost a third of Americans.

It may come as a surprise to see shopping on the list of stresses, as shopping and impulse buying are often associated with pleasure and hedonic desires, where the result is immediate and often very gratifying. But my research found that almost 25 percent of young people engage in impulsive buying as a strategy to avoid stress and anxiety. This leads to a negative cycle: you shop and engage in impulsive purchases to reduce stress, but shopping leads to more stress instead.

So why do some people shop more and buy more impulsively than others? To find the answer to this question, we recruited over 150 young adults and gave them personality and working memory (the ability to process and remember information) tests.

There were 2 key factors that predicted impulsive buying behavior:

1) Motor Impulsivity

This trait impulsivity was measured by statements such as “I act on spur of the moment” and predicted 44% of impulsive buying behavior.

2) Cognitive Complexity

The more an individual engages in problem-solving behavior and plays puzzles, the less likely they are to buy impulsively.

Is there an antidote to impulsive buying and making it through the holiday season a little less stressed from shopping? Here are 3 ways to counter Holiday Stress

1.  Give Experiential Gifts

Researchers found that people are happier and more satisfied with experiences compared to new things. And this happiness lasts longer too because our experiences are connected to our identity more than material goods

2.  The Perfect Gift - An Empty Box

Here is my idea about the perfect gift – an empty box!

What is so great about this gift? For starters, it develops creativity. Research shows that when we allow our minds to wander instead of focusing on a single task, we are more innovative and inventive. That is what unstructured play offers–a wide range of possibilities. The empty box allows a child to transpose their imagination to it and build a fort, a castle, a farmyard, anything that they can imagine.

The empty box also encourages pleasure instead of perfection in playing. It's often easy to step in when children are playing with toys and show them the 'correct' way to build it or play with it. But that's exactly when children lose interest in a toy when they have to play with it a certain way. It is when having the freedom and space to be creative that they get the most pleasure.

3. Disconnect

We usually think of disconnecting as removing technology for a while. But here, I am referring to disconnecting from certain people. A recent study shows that even being around someone who is stressed can affect our brains. Researchers found that when one of a pair was exposed to stress, both in the pair showed the same changes in the way the brain responded to stress. So just being around a stressed partner can stress you out.

Watch my interview about getting over the holiday gift stress: