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Is Black Friday bad for our mental health?

Is Black Friday bad for our mental health?

Shoppers rush for televisions at a Target store in Chicago November 27, 2009. | REUTERS/John Gress

What was the best Christmas present you ever received as a child?

You can probably still picture it now and remember being overwhelmed with joy as you carefully tore the paper off the box. Maybe you had been dreaming about it and dropping hints to your parents for months. Finally, it was right in front of you.

In that moment, you didn’t need anything else in the world.

As adults, though, we’re not always so easily satisfied, especially around this time of year. It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas spending frenzy driven by marketing schemes designed to make us think we need more than we actually do.

You see the “Spend more, save more” signs in a display window and suddenly you need twice as much as you originally did when you walked into the store. Fifty percent off Christmas decorations? Better fill your cart to the brim with garland and ornaments … even though you already have more at home than you can fit on your tree.

And then there’s the worst offender of all: Black Friday.

Did you know that Americans are projected to spend $87 billion — yes, with a “b” — this Black Friday and Cyber Monday? That’s an average of almost $400 spent per person in just two days!

Recent studies have shown that the Christmas shopping craze is doing more harm than just draining our bank accounts, though. Turns out it may actually be affecting our mental health.

Between dashing through stores, trying to fill the empty space under our trees with gifts, and shopping for the big holiday meal, “the most wonderful time of year” can also be the most stressful. And a survey by VitalSmarts revealed that the three top holiday stressors are all related to spending.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they were stressed about keeping up with expectations. (Of course, your house has to be decked in lights … all the neighbors’ are. Of course, you have to buy presents for all of your third cousins you rarely talk to … it’s the thing to do!)

Half of those surveyed said they were worried about blowing their budget over the holidays. And rounding out the list of top three stressors was the pressure to find the “perfect” gift for everyone on your shopping list.

So, what’s the cure for this epidemic of holiday stress? Generosity.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “I am being generous! I’m buying all these gifts for other people.”

But is it really generosity if you’re buying more stuff that no one really needs just because you feel obligated?

You don’t have to buy more presents and go into credit card debt to give things. Instead, give your love … give your time … give your genuine interest … and work to help someone who is worse off than you are.

This Black Friday or Cyber Monday, try spending some time spreading cheer at your local nursing home, hospital, or homeless shelter instead of shopping at the mall. Bring your kids and grandkids along. See what happens.

Or maybe when planning ahead for the gift exchange at your extended family gathering, you can all set a smaller budget and donate the money you would have spent to help someone who truly does need something this Christmas.

There are so many people around the world spending the holidays this year without enough food, clean water, or clothing.

Not sure where to start?

Many organizations put out a Christmas giving catalog this time of year that makes it easy — and fun — for your family to pick out gifts like livestock, medicine, and other essentials for people in need.

So, this Christmas, stop buying stuff … and start being generous. You might be surprised just how much less stressed you’ll be come Dec. 25.

World Help is a Christian humanitarian organization committed to serving the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world. Since its inception in 1991, World Help has delivered humanitarian aid to nearly 84 million people in 71 countries. Website | worldhelp.net   Twitter | @world_help  Facebook | World Help

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