What holiday shopping is like when you have anxiety

Let’s be real: Holiday shopping can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Sure, some people absolutely adore it, but we’ve all procrastinated it to the point where you have to find gifts for the ‘rents and Aunt Sue and your friends in the two days leading up to Christmas. Stress, stress, and more stress.

But for people with anxiety, holiday shopping can be not just an annual nuisance, but an absolute dread. In fact, many people with anxiety just resort to online shopping, not just because it’s easier, but to spare them a possible panic attack. That’s because IRL Christmas shopping can be a cocktail of all of the worst anxiety triggers, and it can be really tough to deal with. Here are all the things that people with anxiety hate about holiday shopping.

The pressure to get the perfect gift for everyone on your list all in a short span of time is dizzying on its own

For many, anxiety makes you feel like you have to do everything perfectly—get the perfect gift for everyone that makes them happy without your bank account crying out in despair. And when you have a massively long list filled with things you have to buy in all different stores, it can feel like the world is spinning around you. It’s easy to start the “thought spiral”: How do I even pick out a nice tie? Does Dad even want a tie? Does anyone want *anything* that I’m going to buy them? These are all terrible ideas; why am I even doing this?! This is going to be the worst Christmas in the world!! etc.

“Hi! Welcome to *insert store here*! Can I help you with anything?” is TORTURE

Yes, store employees only say this to help (or because their job requires it), but most times, this drives me RIGHT out of the store.

It sounds antisocial, but many people with anxiety want to be left alone with their shopping, because the entire thing is already sensory overload without having to deal with human interaction on top of it all. Anyone else may welcome the assistance when they’re trying to find a gift for a loved one, but for me, it’s just added pressure.

The crowds of people are suffocating

So many people, all around you, getting in your space, making so much noise. A lot of people with anxiety have real problems with crowds, not because they don’t like people, but because it can feel practically suffocating with so many people around. And when you consider the aggressiveness of a crowd that’s running around during holiday shopping, stressed out from the season? *shudder*

The blaring Christmas music = ultimate sensory overload.

OK, so imagine this: an already anxious person in a jam-packed, bustling store clutching an overwhelmingly long list with “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” blasting at full volume. It’s certainly possible for someone with anxiety to love Christmas music, but often, their senses are more susceptible to being totally overloaded. . . and Christmas music generally isn’t all that calming. (I’d be chill with “Silent Night” playing, though.)

Oh, and all of this is happening for a really, really long time, because of the insanely long lines

When you find that perfect item and go to pay, you end up standing in a line that’s at least three times longer than usual, so if your anxiety starts to flare up because of all the crowds and loud music and stress, there’s no escaping without dropping your items and leaving, which means you’d just have to do it all over again.

Then, you have to drive home during holiday traffic

And the final piece in the holiday shopping saga: You finally lug everything you need into your car, and your brain is fried, your senses overloaded, your heart racing, your palms sweaty. You sit in the confines of your quiet car and take a deep breath. But it’s not over. In this heightened anxious state, you have to drive through holiday traffic, with everyone beeping and road-raging and cutting into your lane, and you’re pretty much holding your breath during the entire thing, trying to will yourself to calm down so you don’t accidentally hit anyone until you somehow manage to get home in one piece. You toss your shopping bags on the floor and fall onto your bed, telling yourself that you’ll never, EVER do this again.

The takeaway here? Online shopping is truly and unequivocally a godsend. Thanks, Amazon. Sincerely, everyone with anxiety.

[Image via Warner Bros.]

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