8 Holiday Shopping Tips for Someone With Social Anxiety


My favorite thing about this time of year as a child was always, predictably, presents! Now that I’m older, I find myself responsible for giving gifts in a way I was not expected to throughout most of my childhood. I love giving gifts, but finding the perfect presents and actually purchasing them can be overwhelming for someone with generalized anxiety disorder.

With the holiday season fast approaching, stores and malls are becoming even more crowded and overwhelming than usual. Sure, holiday decorations, themed clothing and special festive treats make this time of year seem magical, but for anyone with social anxiety the already daunting task of braving a crowded store becomes even more stressful.

Around this time of year, stores not only become more overwhelming but the other shoppers tend to become more rushed and desperate. This can make shopping, an already overwhelming activity for someone with social anxiety, even more terrifying.

These eight tips will make holiday shopping more bearable:

1. Make a list.

Santa doesn’t have to be the only one making a list and checking it twice. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for can help reduce stress and narrow your focus. Whenever I know specifically what I’m looking for, I find myself getting less overwhelmed.

2. Plan your route.

One of the worst things for my anxiety about being in any large building is not knowing exactly how I am going to get from point A to point B, and what I will encounter in between. Figure out which stores you’re going to go to before you get there and stay on task!

3. Take the mystery and spontaneity out wherever you can.

If I don’t know exactly what I’m doing and when, then I tend to get overwhelmed and have a panic attack. I try not to plan everything down to the minute to avoid a rigid schedule (and room for a little uncertainty is good for anxiety recovery). Yet, I absolutely am the person with a specific list on my phone. I plan what time I go, who I go with, what stores we go to and what I hope to accomplish.

4. Get your shopping done early and go at an off-hour.

Anyone going to the mall on December 24th at 6 p.m. is bound to be overwhelmed and begin to feel claustrophobic. Those are two feelings that often trigger panic attacks for me.

5. Give yourself a cut-off time.

If I get overwhelmed, whether it’s in a store or just walking down the street, then I lose track of time and often go in literal circles trying to get my bearings. Setting a time to leave gives you a safety net. If you are not successful or get overwhelmed, then you can leave and try again next time.

6. Take it slow.

There is no shame in having a panic attack, getting so anxious that you need to leave a store or changing your mind at the last minute. Dealing with anxiety is an ongoing process. You should push yourself a little, but you don’t need to jump in with both feet right away. Test the waters. Go to a grocery store before you go to the mall.

7. Switch to online shopping.

When all else fails, I know that the UPS delivery guy will leave the boxes by my side door without knocking, just like I specified in the “Any Additional Comments” section when I place an online order.

8. Breathe.                                          

There is no shame in leaving a store for a minute, taking an extra minute to sit down in a fitting room or leaving before you planned to. Anxiety treatment and recovery is all about baby steps. Don’t worry if you get overwhelmed and have to take a break.

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