It is a strange time in our world due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Going to the supermarket may spark some severe anxiety for people, seeing customers wearing masks and gloves to buy food; nothing feels “normal” right now. As if that wasn’t enough to drive someone with anxiety to not wanting to leave their house for any essential errands, supermarkets are “potential hotspots” for the virus to spread. Nobody should feel silly about those worries of going into public grocery stores and supermarkets during a pandemic. Your fears are valid.
You cannot control what goes on outside of your body, but you can control what goes on inside of your body. Try thinking of it as “going to the supermarket/grocery store is a manageable risk.” Use the new measures at the grocery store or supermarket like following the tape on the ground and queuing at the checkout to make the trip as positive as possible. They are there to keep you and others safe. Remind yourself of the process you will take after your visit, such as washing your hands for 20 seconds. Remembering times when you have felt relaxed and in control at the supermarket/grocery store can be helpful as well. It can help prevent negative thoughts from spiraling out of control. Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist, suggested to “do a mental rehearsal of going to the supermarket/grocery store and imagine yourself feeling calm, grounded, and self-assured as you do your shopping. Imagine this with all your senses: see yourself looking relaxed, fee it in your body, notice your body posture, the sounds and smells – and imagine it going well.”
If you start to feel the panic start to rise as you approach the store she also suggests using positive affirmations like “I can’t control what happens outside of me, but I can control how I respond” or “I choose to hold on to my determined calm, all is well, I’ve got this.” Practicing controlled breathing can help reduce stress hormones from being released at the perceived threat. Stand still, fill your lungs fully by breathing through your mouth. Count to three while holding air in your lungs and breathe out while counting to four. Repeat the exercise for a few minutes until you feel calmer. You can also try counting to 60 while you are walking through aisles to help maintain your sense of calm, but try not to get too side-tracked from your shopping list.
If you get panic attacks concerning weekly shopping, you are not alone. Social media is full of others sharing their experiences as well. Panic attacks are scary, but it may help remind yourself they aren’t dangerous. Writing in a journal every day to nurture resilience may reduce the frequency of attacks, according to psychologist Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell. It is a way to declutter your negative and anxious thoughts and feelings that, in turn, can help you be less likely to be triggered. You should always journal positive experiences in your day to show gratitude and keep those at the forefront of your mind.
Keep in mind that these tips were designed by professionals to make panic and anxiety more manageable, but feeling nervous is almost inevitable. Do not judge yourself for it. Reassuring yourself and staying positive can make all the difference in taking control of your anxiety in order to moderate and process it.
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