Keep Calm & Shop On: 9 Expert Tips for Keeping Your Sanity on Black Friday

Black Friday shopping

Every year, we hear about people going nuts on Black Friday: fighting over toys, shoving each other in line and just being plain rude. We’d like to think most people don’t intend to lose control — the excitement, speed and stress of the holiday gets the best of them.

To help you stay calm this Black Friday (even if others can’t), we got some expert advice. We asked physicians, therapists, social workers and more for their best stress-relief tips.

Here are nine ways to not go crazy during Black Friday:

1. Practice Letting Go (Literally)

Much of Black Friday stress stems from getting (or not getting) the best deals. To help cope, stress therapist Cheri Augustine Flake suggests you physically practice letting go before you hit the stores.

“A week or so before Black Friday, go shopping,” she says. “Grab a cart and begin filling it up. Get what you really, really want. Not what you need for your household or life to function well, but what you really, really want.”

Completed your tour of the store? Put it all back.

“Walk away and feel what it’s like to not have it all,” she explains. “Feel the attachment (or lack thereof) and allow this discomfort to teach you that you are just fine without every single thing. That no matter what you get or don’t get, you are still you.”

2. Make a List — and Stick to It

One of your first priorities is to create a Black Friday budget and shopping list. Not only will it help with your finances and gifting, it will also limit stress.

Keep clear priorities,” advises John Vespasian, a writer who specializes in rational living. “Do not waste time with offers for products you don’t need, or that you did not plan to buy. Make an electronic shopping list, and your stress will be (cut) in half. ”

3. Be Intentional With Your Schedule

Finished your budget and list? You’re not done yet.

It’s time to look through the Black Friday ads and form a plan of attack. Which stores have the best deals on the items you want and when?

Making a schedule means not running around like a turkey with your head cut off.

“Taking these steps will help you be intentional about which store(s) to visit on Black Friday,” explains licensed clinical psychologist Erika Martinez.

She also suggests “assigning different stores to family members, reducing the sense of urgency to go to all of them.”

4. Shift Your Mindset

The key to a stress-free Black Friday? Remembering what it really is: A shopping day with better prices.

If you miss a deal, it’s not the end of the world.

“Make it a game — become a hunter/gatherer,” says Dr. John Mayer, an author and clinical psychologist. “If you adopt this mindset, then losing an item or bargain is just part of the hunt. Similarly, dealing with all the shoppers and their anti-social behavior becomes ‘being in the jungle’ — fun times!”

Maintain the mindset this is a fun activity, not life or death,” adds Donna Corbett, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker.

“Any bargains you get are extra, as most people will shop for the holidays whether or not they get a good deal. Maintaining this point of view will help you take a step back and observe the fray, rather that getting involved in it.”

5. Stay Hydrated With Magnesium Water

When you prepare for Black Friday, pack a water bottle.

Even better, stir in a tablespoon (or two) of magnesium citrate powder.

Magnesium is known as the anti-stress, anti-anxiety mineral,” explains Dr. Carolyn Dean, a physician and stress-management expert.

“Serotonin, the feel good brain chemical that is boosted artificially by some medications, depends on magnesium for its production and function… Over 75% of Americans do not get their recommended daily allowance of it.”

6. Avoid Mob Mentality

Acknowledge the reality of mob mentality and make a conscious decision to avoid it.

“Studies show that people make different choices in large groups than they would make in other situations,” explains social worker and family therapist Carl Grody.

“They become more aggressive and less empathetic, and when someone needs help, people are less likely to offer assistance,” he says.

“If you feel yourself being swept up in the group mentality, stop and ground yourself so you can make choices you’re happy with later.

7. Try a Breathing Exercise

Turns out mom was onto something when she insisted you count to three before getting mad at your sibling for stealing your toy.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed on Black Friday, follow that same rule.

“When tension mounts, rather than putting your focus and attention on the event, take three long deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth,” says health coach Tammi Hoerner. “This tells your brain this is not a life-threatening emergency and allows you to physically stay calm.”

8. Use a Stress-Relieving App

Want to stay low-stress — but high-tech?

Download Serenita, an app that promises to reduce stress levels in just five minutes.

It uses your phone’s camera to extract specific biomedical markers, then guides you through a personalized breathing exercise to help calm you down.

“You can use Serenita anytime, anywhere,” explains founder and stress expert Dr. Oren Fuerst.

“For example, while waiting in a long line with other Black Friday shoppers, you can simply place your finger on the phone’s camera lens,” he says. “The app will assess your stress level and give you a breathing exercise designed to reduce stress within a few minutes — before you even get into the store or to the cashier.”

9. Practice Gratitude

If all else fails, remember what you already have: Literacy to read this post, loved ones to buy presents for — and money to go Black Friday shopping.

“Gratitude helps us to take stock of what we have — often, we are so caught up with what we don’t have,” explains Dr. Perpetua Neo, a psychotherapist and coach.

“We trick ourselves into inventing reasons for things we don’t need based on an imagined lack. Practicing gratitude is a way of being kind to ourselves. When we do that, we slow down our stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), and instead learn to soothe ourselves.”

Listen to the experts to keep your cool on Black Friday — while scoring all of the hottest deals.

Your Turn: How will you stay calm and collected on Black Friday?

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.

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