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It's a malady that tends to strike around holiday time—although it can theoretically happen at any time of the year. You find yourself in a sea of people making its way through your local shopping mall. The crush of the crowd makes you feel claustrophobic. You run from store to store, vying against other shoppers for your turn at the racks. It seems as if no store has exactly what you're looking for.

You hear the strains of carols playing over and over again on store speakers. The lines at the cash registers appear to stretch for blocks. When you finally find something to buy, you get behind someone who has to make a complicated exchange. You wonder if you'll get home in time to wrap your gift before the office Christmas party.

You might not realize it, but even in the best of times, going to the mall can be a stressful experience. You can feel as if you're undergoing sensory overload as you take in all the sights and sounds around you. There are so many racks to explore…so many clothes to sift through. Because of the variety of stores offered in modern malls, you might wonder where to begin with your shopping. Should you head to the shoe store first—or to the music store? Which store is offering the best sales? It has been said that offering an individual too many choices can be just as—if not more—stressful than only offering a few.

Then, there's the stress inherent in dealing with other people. You have other customers to contend with—customers who can be rude and irritating. You might encounter clerks who don't know their jobs well, or don't care if their work is done right. You might even run into managers who seem to care little about the customer's perspective.

You can deal with mall-related stress in any number of ways. To begin with, you can purposely avoid the mall during high-traffic times. You might even consider steering clear of the mall altogether during holiday time. Instead, you might consider shopping online, or through catalogues, or by going to specialty shops. The less you encounter the mall during high-stress times, the more relaxed your holiday shopping is likely to be.

Another important tactic to consider is to write down exactly what you need at the mall and keep to the list. In other words, you should resist the urge to impulse buy. Otherwise, you might find yourself saddled with shopping bags filled with merchandise you don't need and will never use. You could also incur a tremendous amount of unnecessary debt through "binge buying."

Also consider limiting the number of stores you visit at the mall. You shouldn't feel as if you need to visit as many stores as is humanly possible on each trip. If your shopping is completed after browsing through a single store, simply leave the mall. Otherwise, it's likely you'll be wasting precious time and money.

Don't be caught off guard by sales. Some shoppers seem to believe that, just because there's a sale going on, they need to buy. The fact is, there will always be sales. In order to save money, simply consult your local newspaper in order to scope out the ads of stores having sales in a given week. That way, you can plan out your shopping adventures ahead of time. Otherwise, you can find yourself running from sale to sale and store to store and becoming stressed out in the process.

Going to a mall can be therapeutic. Store promotions can be fun and can help to take your mind off your problems. You might enjoy an afternoon makeover or spending a few minutes testing out easy chairs. And mall shopping can be a necessary part of life. However, you have to recognize when you've hit your limit. Too much shopping can tax your nerves and can leave you feeling uneasy. What's more, you can be left with huge bills at the end of the month because of your shopping indulgences. As with most things, mall shopping is best done in moderation. If you shop only when you need to, chances are you will be removing an important stressor from your life

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