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Make time for ‘self-gifting’ to help manage work stress, researchers say

Photo: bymuratdeniz/iStockphoto

Ithaca, NY — Even though a spa treatment or new purchase may be exactly what you need, feeling the pressure of excessive work demands can limit the desire to treat yourself, results of a recent study show.

Researchers at the Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business surveyed 488 adults about their previous week and asked them to view an advertisement for headphones. They presented three different marketing messages geared toward self-gifting – “carve out me-time,” “carve out a stress-free moment” and “carve out a relaxing moment” – as part of a variety of online and in-person behavioral experiments. 

Findings show that work stresses – along with tensions around home life, time and money – put a damper on the participants’ ability to savor a gift they purchased for themselves. During times of high work demands and other stresses, they bought fewer items for themselves and reported decreased interest in trying them out because they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the experience. 

“The unfortunate paradox though, is that this way of thinking is counterproductive to wellness,” lead study author Jacqueline Rifkin, an assistant business professor at Cornell, said in a press release. “It’s when we’re feeling the most crunched that individuals can actually benefit most from self-gifting.”

Rifkin said follow-up research showed that people who were feeling stressed were happier and more relaxed after self-gifting. “My hope is that understanding these findings can help people challenge some of their internal narratives about when is vs. isn’t a good time to do something for yourself.”

The study was published online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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