Q: Holiday shopping—arrgh! The crowds and the chaos drive me crazy. Tell me how to keep my cool.
No matter how good Internet shopping gets, sometimes you just have to go to the store—which, during the holidays, is about as much fun as a Teletubbies marathon or an ob-gyn checkup—or, shudder, both simultaneously. Start with a strategy to avoid the throngs as much as you can. Weekends are deadly; can your husband watch the kids while you hit the mall on a weeknight? You'll get twice as much done in half the time.
Another trick is to look at the vendor's website beforehand to try to spot what you want so you can locate the merch quickly once you're through the doors. Of course, you'll probably still get caught in an overcrowded shop at least once or twice. "There's no way to make those situations less demanding, but you can make yourself more resilient," says Evans.
Your main defense: Don't shop on an empty stomach. "You're inadvertently stressing yourself out. Your brain cells don't have the energy you need to function, so you become 'hangry,' a combo of hungry and angry," she says. While this might make you a formidable opponent in the tug-of-war for the last Wii on the shelf, it'll drain you more than it's worth, so eat up. If you're going to be shopping a while, pack a healthy snack, something that has a little fat, plus fiber and protein, Evans advises. Have a nibble every few hours to keep you on an even keel. And resist dashing into Starbucks, since "caffeine releases adrenaline, which is a stress hormone," she notes. Once again, a mantra can't hurt. Try "This is temporary" or "It will be over soon." It'll see you through—at least until January and many happy returns!
Deborah Skolnik, a and mom of two, experiences very little stress this time of year, as her mother-in-law always hosts a fantastic holiday.