5 Tips to Help Manage Emotional Shopping Triggers

Just days ago I was shivering in bleak, frigid frostbite weather. So, you would think that I’d be rejoicing and feeling alive now that I was vacationing in sun-drenched 76 degrees while my pallid, dry, pores desperately absorb the rays.

But no.

My back still ached from putting away Christmas decorations weeks ago, and I was having one of those menopausal days where I just felt melancholy for no good reason at all.

Where had my happiness gone? I yearned for it back. I absolutely needed it back.

That’s when I spotted the hotel boutique. I hadn’t noticed it before, although I wasn’t surprised since all nice hotels had one strategically placed along the path towards the elevators so you had no choice but to notice all the beautiful merchandise and be reminded several times a day that you deserved to bring home a “little” souvenir…another beach bag, designer sunglasses, or perhaps new sparkly jewelry!

Anyway, I stood there, wishing I could shake the mood I was in, but the mood stuck to me like pesty grains of sand from the beach.

My thoughts continued to drift to the boutique. Hmmm, maybe if I went inside to browse, I might feel better. Wouldn’t a new dress make me feel good? When I shop I don’t have time to think about my aching joints, or the fact that my kids are growing up too fast, or that I woke up with three new gray strands of hair.

Shopping has a way of hypnotizing my brain, filling it up instead with light, mindless thoughts. If I ventured into the boutique I could get lost in the racks of flowing dresses, starfish embellished beach bags, and bling studded sandals. For a little while my physical and emotional aches would be forgotten.

How many times had I been tricked by that mirage before? I knew better now.

Emotions are one of the biggest contributing factors to trigger shopping urges. And it is all too easy to fall into the emotional shopping quicksand, especially because it actually can temporarily ease the mood you are in. But once the shopping spree ends and reality returns we are still left with the emotions and now have additional problems such as added debt, more clutter, stressed relations, and even guilt.

Many emotions can trigger an urge to shop. Boredom, loneliness, anger, and even excitement can lead one to a full shopping cart of empty solutions.

Often if I’m bored, I may want to fill the time with shopping. Shopping can easily become a recreational hobby..something fun to do. Run a mile? Nah. See a movie? Not interested. Some online retail browsing? That sounds perfect.

Shopaholics who are lonely often end up making a trip to the mall simply to interact with others. Years ago, when my shopping was at its worse, I had truly believed that sales people were my real friends. I had their cell phone numbers and they had mine…didn’t that count for something?

Anger can also send a shopaholic into a shopping frenzy. It can be a quick way to let off steam and some may even shop for revenge, using shopping as a way to “get back” at their spouse or signifiant other.

Even an overload of happiness can tempt you to go treat yourself to a reward. There have been times when I am in such a great mood that it is easy to throw caution to the wind and go buy, buy, buy! This can often happen during holidays, vacations or anytime there is reason to celebrate.

So, what can we do to avoid a shopping pitfall during these emotional times?

1. Recognize the emotion. It is imperative to ask yourself “What am I feeling?” before making any purchase. Then you can determine what it is you are really shopping for and whether those Prada patent leather pumps are the answer. One you identify what it is you are truly seeking then you can take productive steps toward a real solution.

2. Pause before making the final purchase. Stop yourself and take a break before committing to the purchase. Put things in your online cart or leave them on hold at the register, but don’t complete the transaction. The Power of the Pause has been the number one tool I use to help prevent myself from unnecessary purchases. Forcing some time before buying will give your brain time to reset itself and judge more clearly whether you really need the items you have set aside. Often as time passes those items become less important and the urge to buy subsides.

3. Remind yourself of the consequences. Understand that shopping will only add to your problems. Will you be increasing your already unmanageable debt or bringing more clutter into your home? Will the new purchases put more strain on your relationships? Think further than the brief pleasure shopping brings.

4. Create new habits by finding other activities that can help change your mood. Work on a hobby, watch a funny movie, chat with a friend, or even some quiet meditation might help.

5. Accept your emotions. Stop trying to avoid or run away from what you’re feeling and face emotions head on. Acknowledge and welcome the feelings knowing they will eventually pass. Life isn’t perfect for anyone and some days are simply hard. `

For those who have control over their spending, a little retail therapy may be harmless, but for compulsive shoppers it can lead to a slew of unplanned purchases resulting in debt, guilt, and ultimately low self esteem.

Let’s make “Shopping is not the answer” our new mantra.

I turned and walked away from the boutique knowing there was nothing to be bought that could change what I felt. My back will eventually heal, my few gray hairs blend in fine with my highlights, and as for the kids…yes they are getting older and so am I.

That’s life and we must not get stuck in what can’t be changed.

Instead we must live in the present….and I needed to move forward and begin enjoying the gift of a sunny vacation day with my family.

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