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Question: Why Is Black Friday Making Me Anxious?

So much for retail therapy.

Black Friday is one of the most popular shopping days in the calendar, and bargain-hunters wait for it like football-lovers long for the World Cup. Sure, for some people it might feel good to get that hoover for 65% off, but really, it's anxiety-inducing.

There seems to be something that Ireland is forgetting. It’s something increasingly imposed upon us by advertisers, corporations and the high street. We have forgotten that we are not Americans. We are Irish people; we cross the road without waiting for the lights, we apologise for things that aren’t our fault, and chips are batonnet cut deep-fried potatoes. So it’s concerning that the phenomenon of Black Friday - a wholly American invention - turns Irish people, seemingly overnight, into zombies who will gladly mow down a pensioner to get their fix of a slightly reduced Full HD 32" Curved LED Smart TV.

If, like me, you’d rather stick pins in your eyes than go into battle with some middle-aged woman over a Zara coat that even with it's "generous" 20% off is more than you earn in a week, then you probably still feel steady pangs of anxiety throughout the day. The good little consumerist voice in your head is saying ‘think of the money you could be saving today. You’re missing deals with every minute passing. Tick tock, bitch.’

And god forbid you check your emails. I opened my inbox to a tidal wave of shouty subject lines; ‘BLACK FRIDAY DEALS’, ‘DON’T MISS OUT, BUY NOW’, ‘THE BEST ON THE HIGH STREET PLEASE BUY FROM US WE HATE TODAY TOO BUT SURE LOOK' metaphorically slapping me in the face.

It really is anxiety-inducing.

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Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate shopping (I spend many a lunch break browsing the rails of Topshop) nor am I taking a sustainable viewpoint (although, we really should be talking about this), it's just between the shouty emails that flood my inbox and the intense experience complete with crowds and lights gives me the feeling of worry, nervousness and unease. Maybe it's all down to my slight social phobia or my already-existing general anxiety that likes to spring up for the fun of things or maybe,  there's a logical explanation for it. 

The experience of Black Friday can trigger your fight-or-flight reflex. This is the part of the brain that deals with potential threats, and makes your heart pound as adrenaline and other stress hormones spike. Anxious people tend to have sensitive fight-or-flight triggers, and there are many potential anxiety-provoking aspects to Black Friday: loud noises, large crowds, and unpredictable strangers in close proximity. The risk of conflict is also heightened: A study from Eastern Illinois University in 2011 found that while the majority of shoppers in Black Friday crowds behave politely, a minority behave in antisocial ways, "exhibiting negative and potentially dangerous behaviours," including belligerence, cursing, or grabbing products from others. Aggressive people in your personal space can easily trigger an anxious response, even if you're not anxious in other situations.

So what can you do? If you can’t turn off your emails and social media and watch Gilmore Girls all day, then you can take part in the anti-Black Friday movement, Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day is ‘an international day of protest against consumerism’ where, you guessed it, you buy nothing. You could get a 20% saving on an iPad, or you could get a 100% discount by just… not buying it.

But, if that good little consumerist voice in your head just won't quit and you're still intent on getting in on the Black Friday action, it’s important to listen to your body and take the necessary steps to minimise your risks of getting ill or having a panic attack. Careful planning can help with this – start early and do the bulk of your shopping online. If you really have to face the high street, go when you know it will be quiet (early morning or late in the evening), pick somewhere that feels familiar, and have your exit route planned out.


Whatever you do, don’t let Black Friday get you down, and know that as much as you hate being bombarded with adverts, at least you’re not working in retail today (so, so sorry if you are).

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, Aware provides information and emotional support to those affected. Visit their website or call them between 10 am and 10 pm, seven days a week at 1800 80 48 48.

Main image by @whowhatwear on Instagram

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