How to deal with the pressure of holiday shopping when the supply chain is interrupted

Key points

  • Labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and rising prices may make holiday shopping this year more stressful.
  • Experts say that you can reduce stress by making time for self-care and paying attention to your personal health during the holidays.
  • Embracing non-materialistic holiday traditions, such as serving gifts and holiday experiences, can also ease some of the pressure this season.

Finding the perfect gift for everyone on the list is never easy. But this year there are some additional challenges that may make holiday shopping more stressful than usual.

In some areas, the surge of COVID-19 has made in-person shopping a potential health risk. In the 12 months leading up to October 2021, commodity prices have risen by an astonishing 6.2%, putting pressure on shoppers’ budgets. Supply chain disruptions lead to product shortages and out-of-stock information. In addition, as they continue to face the challenge of hiring and retaining retail staff, stores may require longer queue times and delayed replenishment.

So how to stay calm amidst all the uncertainties? According to mental health experts, the following are ways to minimize the stress of holiday shopping.

Find the source of stress

Finding the specific source of your stress is the first step in seeking relief.

“For example, if seeing empty shelves makes people feel stressed, then shop online. If the pressure comes from being in a crowded store, go later or early or shop online,” a licensed clinical psychologist, Said Dr. Yasmine Saad, founder and director of Madison Park Psychological Services.

Dr. Yasmine Saad

If you see pressure on empty shelves, please shop online. If the pressure comes from a crowded store, please go late or early or shop online.

— Dr. Yasmine Saad

For many people, holiday shopping pressure comes from the pressure to find the “perfect” gift-this task is difficult in any year, but it can be especially challenging now. Having a backup plan for the gifts you plan to buy can help you reduce stress when it is difficult to find your preferred gift, said Dr. Maryanna Klatt, a professor of clinical family and community medicine and director of general medicine at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“If your child’s first-choice gift is not available in time, please be honest with them. Plan smaller gifts or activities in advance so that you don’t disappoint,” she added.

Not sure where your stress comes from? Consider documenting your holiday shopping plans and see if you notice any topics or insights that can help you find the source of stress.

Make time for self-care

When you are busy shopping, baking and celebrating, you will feel that you have no time to take care of yourself. However, putting your health first can help reduce the effects of stress and allow you to move on throughout the holiday.

“Self-discipline is important! Make a list of calm activities in advance so that you can get the much-needed rest amidst all the chaos of the holidays,” said Dr. Kratt.

Dr. Mariana Kratt

Self-care is very important! Make a list of peaceful activities in advance, so that you can get the much-needed rest in the chaos of all the holidays.

— Maryanna Klatt, PhD

Practicing gratitude is a particularly useful strategy to reduce stress. According to the University of California, Davis, gratitude can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol levels by 23%. More importantly, keeping a two-week gratitude journal has been proven to reduce stress by 28%.

“Focus on what you are grateful for and involve your family in an exercise that encourages everyone to acknowledge their gratitude for this holiday. Although the inventory is low, it will shift everyone’s attention from scarcity to prosperity ,” Dr. Saad explained.

Mindfulness exercises, such as meditation and body scanning, can be another way to reduce the impact of holiday shopping stress. It can also help improve your sleep, increase your concentration and reduce burnout-all of which can have positive benefits for your stress level.

Other ways to combat stress during the holidays include:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough rest
  • Eat nutritious food
  • Avoid excessive drinking
  • Make time for the things you love
  • Connect with relatives and community members
  • Seek professional help from a therapist

Embrace experiences instead of things

In view of the price increase, product shortages and other challenges of this year’s holiday, embracing the holiday tradition of immaterialism can make the holiday less stressful and ultimately more meaningful.

“Immaterialist holiday traditions are never in short supply,” said Julian Lagoy, MD, a psychiatrist at Mindpath Health. “The loved ones will understand that you love them. This kind of love does not depend on obtaining material gifts.”

Julian Lagoy, MD

Non-materialistic holiday traditions will never exceed supply. The loved ones will understand that you love them, and this love will not depend on obtaining material gifts.

— Julian Lagoy, MD

Dr. Lagoy added that if you really want to prepare some special gifts for your loved ones, please consider making gifts instead of buying them. (After all, research has proven that thinking is the most important thing!)

Dr. Saad advises to use your personal advantage when thinking up thoughtful gifts that are not available in the store.

“Do you like knitting? Are you a transformation coach? A social media expert? Provide knitting gifts, transformative one-on-one communications or social media audits for your friends,” she said.

Finally, focusing on fun and intimate experiences during the holidays will also help reduce the tension in gift giving this year. Dr. Klatt recommends baking and sharing holiday recipes with children in the family, or doing good deeds together.

“Keep in touch with your family by celebrating together, going out to visit Santa Claus or watching the holiday lights. Remind the children that Christmas is not just a gift, but a special time for the whole family,” she said.

What this means to you

Holiday shopping is usually stressful, but pandemic-related challenges (such as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages) can make this the most challenging gift-giving season to date. Although it is understandable to feel pressure, experts say that there are some strategies to alleviate this pressure.

Try to find out what exactly makes you stressed (for example, worry about shortages, or worry about crowded stores), so you can find ways to avoid these stresses. In all celebrations, it is also helpful to make time for self-care and mindfulness. Finally, consider paying attention to non-materialistic holiday traditions (such as baking a precious family recipe) to minimize the stress of this season.