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Consumerism and Mental Health

Just about every female I know is exhausted at the moment. The reason? Christmas and its after affects. While nervous exhaustion can be brought on by having to deal with families over the holiday period, this physical exhaustion is associated with shopping for gifts, cooking extra meals and the sheer work involved in organizing that once-a-year present and food extravaganza that Christmas has become.

Ask many people what Christmas means to then and the answer goes something like this: A constellation of frantic demented activities by parents (usually the mother) over what to buy their children for Christmas. Trying to keep up with the ever-increasing volume of gifts necessary to satisfy the young, simply because “everybody else does.” The stress of having to pay off purchases for the rest of the year that one could never really afford in the first place. The burden that this annual financial overload puts on the income earners and ultimately the recipients of all the gifts: the kids.

This “overpurchasing-to-please” phenomenon is actually blowing up in our faces. In trying to make our kids happy, we are definitely succeeding in two things. One is that we are giving them things that they really don’t need to be happy and creating the myth that “things” make a person happy.

The second reality is that the stress of paying for all these gifts is taken out on the kids themselves somewhere down the track as the bills trickle in. Financial problems rate very highly on the official stress scale and when there are constant money shortages, then mental health suffers. Given the current world financial climate, this may well be a great time to reorganize and re-prioritize your life.

Money and objects do not buy happiness, in fact our children and teenagers are clearly showing signs that they have in fact been given “too much” and expect a lifestyle that is neither sustainable in the long term nor good for their own mental health.

Perhaps we can use this current downturn in finances to find a better, more realistic way to live and love. One that involves real values, rather than meaningless gifts that soon lose their glitter.

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