Don’t Use Shopping as an Emotional Coping Mechanism

By: Mary-Catherine Doran

We have all been there… got some bad news or felt down and instinctively thought that shopping would cure all our problems. Am I right? I have 100% been there; but I am moving away from using shopping as an emotional coping mechanism and would love to share with you all how.

Here’s the thing, there is no wrong or right in this situation. The reality is that every single human-being copes with stress in various ways. Some people may feel that shopping is their go-to to feel better, but I would like to share some of the views that made me shift my mindset on this.  

When I was shopping to feel better, I was making an emotional decision rather than a logical one.

What do I mean by that? Well, rather than thinking of the use of the item, and its longevity in my life, I was just seeing something that looked nice. If it looked nice, I was thinking it will look nice on me, and if it looked nice on me it would make me feel good. Let’s break that down a bit more as well, shall we? There are two points I’d like to point out here:

Firstly, I was focusing on what looked good to make me feel better rather than focusing on ways I could make myself feel better. I was using appearance and material things to build myself up. Yikes. There is something very scary in this statement; even as I type it I have to re-read the fact that I was using an outfit to feel better. That itself reflects on the society we grew up in where the media force-fed us this simple way of feeling better was through our appearance. Let’s not focus on that today.

photo: Bianca Lucas

photo: Bianca Lucas

Then, I wasn’t thinking sustainably which was going against a personal ethos of mine.

What do I mean by thinking sustainably?

Well, we all have a carbon footprint and our actions make a difference in the world. The fashion industry has a huge carbon footprint, and by making purchases that are not sustainable we are creating a bigger carbon footprint.

The other important thing to note is longevity of the product. Is it good quality? Is it versatile? Will I wear it in 5 years? These are all the questions that I ask myself now before making a purchase. By the one action of impulse/emotional shopping, I was doing two things that were working against me and that had to change.

So what happened for me to no longer do that emotional/impulse buying?

The big factor is the fact that I started to think of the impact the fashion industry is having on the environment. Although I am currently speaking of the fashion industry, it can be said about any industry. I was notorious for going online to purchase an outfit for a special occasion and for that to be the only time I wore it. Those days are over for me.  I am, however, someone who finds it hard to part with clothing, and this can be both terrible and great as I have some clothes that I still wear that are 10 years old. As they say, everything in moderation my friends.

I grew up in Canada, but currently live in the UK and I see a massive difference with the amount of single use plastic here and I feel it necessary to reduce my carbon footprint one way or another. The other big thing that happened is I started to realize that if I wanted a coping mechanism, it had to come from within for it to make a long lasting impact.  

Meditation, and positive affirmations were outlets to pull me away from the shopping and into a more positive headspace. I began to encourage myself from within rather than from an outfit. At the end of the day, I was also saving a lot of money on things that I would regret purchasing, and that money could be put towards other things that bring me joy.

This leads me into my next point of what happened when I stopped purchasing things online.

photo: Cam Morin

photo: Cam Morin

I was saving a lot of money!

I was able to recognize that purchasing clothes would not bring me joy in the long run, but memories would. Instead of purchasing clothing I can put that money towards booking an adventure that will provide long lasting memories. I was also discovering different ways of coping, which were organic vs materialistic.

Here are some of the things I do as an emotional coping mechanism:

- Go for a walk outside, or be in Nature in some way.
- Meditate.
- Repeat some positive affirmations. My favourites include “What is for you won't pass you by” “ This will make you stronger” “your body is programmed to heal”.
- Journal

As I mentioned at the start of this article, I am not here to preach and tell you to stop shopping if that’s what you need in that moment because we all need different things; I am here to share how I shifted my mindset and hope that it inspires you to discover that there are other things that you can do as a coping mechanism.

Now, I am not saying we can no longer purchase clothes! Of course clothes are a necessity, but you can purchase them intuitively just as you would intuitively purchase food.

There are a few ways of shopping sustainably, which include going to charity shops, or looking at pre-loved items online. There are so many apps and sites now such as Poshmark and Depop, which are amazing ways of purchasing items that have already been loved and looking for a new home. Personally, I buy books and pieces of furniture at charity shops.

I encourage you all to take a breather when you feel yourself making some emotional purchases, leave it in your basket for a day or put it on hold and if you still want it the next day then go for it.

Mary-Catherine grew up in Canada, but followed her heart and relocated to Edinburgh, Scotland.

She started to take a holistic approach to her health when it started to deteriorate a few years back, and prides herself in the improvements she's seen since doing so.

She is passionate about sharing her wellness journey with others and hopes they will learn from her experiences.

You can follow her on Instagram @emseadee