Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Tips For Surviving The Mall In December With Chronic Pain

On my way to the D.O. yesterday I decided to stop by the mall and pick up some tea. The mall is right on the way and neither are close to our house so combining these trips seemed like the right thing to do. I parked by the entrance closest to the Teavana to minimize the amount of time I would have to spend in the mall - there is no harder time to be at the mall than in December.

I was in and out in about 15 minutes but that was all it took to feel like I had been exposed to every holiday shopping cliche. There was the miserable man sitting with a pile of coats and shopping bags as he waited for his loved ones to shop. There was the kid having a full blown meltdown. There was the confused shopper with too many bags, taking up too much room, unsure of where to go and what to do next. There was the harried woman annoyed at all the obstacles in the busy mall. There was the pushy sales tactics employed by the kiosk workers. There were grown people fighting over the only mall cart in sight. There was the absolute bombardment of sights, smells and sounds that really are the hallmark of the holiday mall experience.

Yep, nothing like bumping around the mall in December. It's a real slice of life.

Thankfully, this was a quick trip to get something very specific so the pain was minimized. Unfortunately, I will need to go back to the mall at some point to pick up a couple Christmas gifts. Over the years I feel like I've gotten better at navigating the holiday mall gauntlet with chronic pain so I thought I would share some tips that I use to help me through:

1. Only attempt it if you are feeling okay. Don't even bother if you are already feeling pretty bad, or if you are hungry, thirsty or tired. The environment is too overwhelming to tackle when you don't have enough spoons, so to speak.

2. Bring some water. Around here it's pretty cold and dry this time of year so keeping hydrated is more of a challenge. Having a little water on hand can make a real difference. Plus, if you find yourself needing to take pills during the trip you'll have your water to help you.

3. Don't forget your sensory blockers - rimmed hat, ear plugs and tinted glasses - to help you cope with the mall environment.

4. Know your mall and go with a plan. These days almost all malls have websites with maps. If you don't already know your way around the mall, you should take the time to plan your trip using the mall's site. Think about the stores you want to go in, figure out where they are, how you want to navigate them and which entrance you want to park near. I promise this will save you time. Ultimately the less time you spend in the mall the better. Note: if you have a lot of shopping to do, you may want to make 2 or 3 trips - tackling different sections of the mall each trip.

5. Plan some recovery time after. No matter what, the mall is going to be crowded, annoying and full of triggers. Just plan on giving yourself plenty of time to rest after.


  1. I hate hate hate shopping malls. So much light! So much noise! So many stimuli all happening at once. Different music blares from every store, plus the relentless music in the mall itself. My strategy is to find the quietest time, like a Monday morning or a Saturday evening; I park so I can enter the mall close to store's location. Malls are so bright. Ugh:( Always sunglasses! I've finally learned to request that the music be quieter. And I should learn to wear ear plugs. But mostly, I just avoid malls. Feel free to call me Scrooge:)
    There you have it: my strategy, in & out, fast as I can.

  2. I can't handle shopping at malls because of the fibro and arthritis unless someone is with me to help me put my scooter together. It is just too much walking and it hurts so much. I have gotten to the point that I make gifts or gift certificates from stores that are not in the mall. Shopping is not any fun anymore with all those triggers! I am glad you have plans to rest and recover afterward, I have to too.


    1. I've also started doing more of that over the years. Good call :)