As we move deeper into the new year, the magic of the holiday may have worn off, and many of our New Year’s resolutions are becoming faded memories. With tax season approaching and the pace of our working lives becoming more and more accelerated, stress can start to take a toll on us emotionally.
How Stress Impacts Spending
According to a joint study out of Rutgers and the University of Miami, stress causes people to use their resources to regain a sense of control. In many ways, stress is a response to a loss of control in a particular situation, and one way we cope with that is by spending.
The study also notes that stress can lead to both beneficial and reckless consumer behaviors.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, stress tends to increase people’s saving habits. This is to ensure that money is available when needed. Saving is always a great idea for establishing financial wellness, so this aspect of stress can actually be beneficial.
Reckless spending in stressful situations tends to take the form of increased spending on things people perceive as necessities. However, stress also alters our perception of what those necessities are. For instance, people who are stressed about a new job tend to overspend on work clothes.
One of the authors of the study says stressful situations lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol. This makes us hyper sensitive to threats, so we work hard to ease that feeling. In short, we enter survival mode.
So how can you cope with stress? The first step is to prevent it before it starts.
How to Prevent Stress
While we can’t control every stressful situation that life throws at us, there are two-time tested ways to prevent stress from taking over our mind and body.
Meditate — Meditation is a powerful tool for preventing stress, and it’s becoming more and more popular in top companies and schools. While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, it has only recently undergone scientific scrutiny. Researchers found that meditation is a successful tool for reducing anxiety and depression when practiced for as little as 10 minutes per day.
Hit the gym — Exercise and physical activity is another great way to prevent stress before it starts. When you work out, you produce a group of natural painkilling chemicals called endorphins. These help lift your mood and make you feel at ease. Additionally, endorphins help you sleep, which is something that is often disturbed during stressful times.
How to Deal With Stress Once You’ve Got It
If you are feeling the urge to impulse-shop, try these strategies:
Give it 24 hours — If you’ve spotted an item you just need to have, stop and say you’ll come back tomorrow to get it. If you still want it, it’s likely a need. If you don’t, you just saved yourself some money and storage space.
Find another outlet — If you’re using shopping as an outlet for stress, try something different. As mentioned earlier, meditation and working out are great options, but they may not be for everyone. Find something that works for you, where it’s journaling, reading, gardening, or taking a stroll through the neighborhood.
Remember: The problem with stress spending is that it ultimately leads to more stress down the line.