No less than three different surveys have identified Christmas shopping as the most stressful activity of the festive season. For many Australians, stress, anxiety, headaches, fatigue and a short temper, are all part and parcel of the gift shopping experience. Which makes you wonder why so many of us put ourselves through this hellish nightmare year after year.
In a recent survey by Bigpond Shopping¹ over half of Australians said that Christmas shopping is the worst thing about the festive season, with a third identifying it as one of life’s most stressful tasks, topped only by moving house, starting a new job and sitting in traffic.
The BigPond Shopping survey also found that over a third of us do not do any of our Christmas shopping online, despite 66 per cent seeing the internet as something that would make their shopping experience more pleasant.
Stress expert and psychologist Stephanie Thompson said that battling heavy traffic to shop in overcrowded shopping centres was a definite trigger for stress, and that ‘retail rage’ was more common for 45 per cent of people at this time of year.
“It’s well documented that overcrowded, fast-paced environments, such as big shopping centres, often lead to people becoming short tempered, anxious or upset. Christmas shopping is a daunting task for many people, so my recommendation is to minimise stress by avoiding peak shopping periods and even leaving the kids at home if possible,” she said.
Similarly, the PayPal Bags of Stress Xmas Survey² found that almost 70 percent of Australians believe their stress levels increased while searching the shops for the perfect present. One in four said they experience headaches and nearly half admitted they become short tempered when shopping for gifts at Christmas time.
Clinical Psychologist and Founder of The Happiness Institute, Professor Timothy Sharp, said shoppers underestimate the level of pressure they put themselves under during Christmas shopping.
“Even low levels of stress can trigger headaches and anxiety and many people become short tempered and feel claustrophobic when faced with busy,overcrowded shopping centres,” Professor Sharp said.
“Christmas is traditionally a time for celebration with friends and family but with many people becoming short tempered as a result of the stress of shopping in-store, this holiday break often turns into Christmas chaos.”
According to another recent study, this time by Roy Morgan Research, around 60 per cent of Australians dislike Christmas shopping, just 20 per cent plan their shopping expeditions, and the majority of us often come home without a single purchase for our efforts.
Christmas also means a busy schedule of parties and social events, entertaining friends and family, as well as in family fighting when everyone comes together.
“Theoretically, this is the month we slow down to reconnect with loved ones, celebrate the year past, and gratefully acknowledge all our blessings. In reality, for many, it is the most stressful month of the year,” said Jo Bassett life coach and creator of website www.livingsavvy.com.au.
Jo Bassett from Living Savvy has put together 5 top tips to avoiding Christmas stress:
1. When it comes to Christmas shopping let’s face it, it’s a jungle out there so it’s best to be prepared. Take a moment to think about what you want, make a list and even write down what shops you want to visit.
2. Don’t be afraid to turn down an invitation – you don’t have to say yes to every Christmas or end of year celebration. Sometimes enough is enough and if you always say yes your holiday season may end up just being full rather than fulfilling.
3. Family stress – Don’t expect miracles when it comes to family members who don’t get on – if you and certain family members bicker all year long, you can be sure there’ll be tension at Christmas lunch.
4. Donate to a Christmas charity – It’s important to remember there are those less fortunate than you and while you stress over Christmas shopping take a moment to think of those who will have nothing waiting for them to open Christmas morning. Jo and her family always donate a gift at the Kmart Wishing Tree which is Australia’s largest Christmas gift appeal and has distributed more than 4.5 million gifts to people in need over the past 21 years.
5. It may sound simple but it’s often the little things that can make the most difference – take a moment to remember what this time of year is about, what it means to you and what you want to get out of it. Write it down and stay true, remember there’s no pleasing everyone.
Gillian Needleman, a psychologist at the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health says shoppers can reduce their stress levels by planning ahead and by avoiding the larger shopping centres all together.
“It’s about planning and leaving yourself enough time to do it so you’re not in a rush. You might also want to choose smaller shopping centres rather than those huge centres – which are just hellish at this time of year.”
An additional stress for Christmas shoppers can be the belief that we have to always choose the ‘perfect’ gift and for many, this can translate into spending a lot of money on presents.
“It’s impossible to match the value of people and you really can’t put people’s value into the things you buy them,” said Gillian Needleman.
“A gift is a gesture made in good faith and I think if you can take that perspective you’ll get it right.”
1. This research was conducted online by Pure Profile on behalf of BigPond in December, 2009 on a representative sample of 1,001 Australians from across Australia in both metropolitan and regional areas. Australians were surveyed in relation to their Christmas shopping attitudes and behaviours.
2. National survey of 1,009 Australian consumers conducted by PureProfile on behalf of PayPal, 3-4 December 2009.
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