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To My Dear Ones with Anxiety Going to the Grocery Store

Remember: You’ve Been Trained for This

Each time I go to the store now I feel TRIUMPHANT. I feel that I have accomplished


I dread it. I don’t want to go out. But each time I sit in my car, I turn on the radio and I remember: OOOH, I LIKE DRIVING! OOOH, I LIKE BLASTING THE RADIO! And by the end of the driveway I’m excited to cruise for a bit. Each trip out yields a new discovery. And I get to provide a report to the family in and out of the household the status of the world outside.

The first time I went to the store after we had been given the stay-at-home mission (mid/late March), it was still relatively “normal”. No one was wearing masks yet, no tape on the ground yet, no only-walk-one-way-down-the-aisle-yet, no voices over the loudspeaker telling us to stay away from people. But there were empty shelves. So much there still, but empty shelves where bread, pasta, paper goods, soap, soup and flour would “normally” be. I kept thinking “how is everyone dealing with this?” I could get by with the weird no-salt bread, but I found myself concerned for everyone in the store and the world.

About three quarters of the way through the store I just stood there amidst the shelves-where-bread-should-be and I started crying. No one was stressed or upset (visibly) around me. I usually look down on my nose at the consumerism of having 50 types of bread to choose from, but I still found myself thinking “This is not America!” So I cried. I had to catch my breath. I had to pull myself together and walk forward, pay for my things, and get back to the car.

Since then, it’s been more challenging but less upsetting. I know what to expect. I know how to handle it. I know I need to breathe as deep as possible through my mask. I know to laugh and go easy. I know that it’s okay to think it’s awful and just get it over with. I know to share a laugh and a smile with the eyes with the people I meet along the way. I know it’s also okay to not do that if I don’t feel up to it. It’s okay to just go and be there and get myself out.

I am someone who straight up hates doing the grocery shopping. Usually my mother does it (how lucky am I) and when I need to go, I like to bring my 13-year old son who will keep me laughing and (occassionally) sing in the aisles with me. I prefer Aldi’s because it’s smaller and less overwhelming, but I’ve learned how to deal with the larger stores. I share this to say that it’s sometimes hard for me to go to the store even under regular conditions. I have indeed had panic attacks in Wal-Mart. I’ve been that lady. So, I am passing on what I have learned to you.

How to Make the Grocery Store Trip EASIER

  1. Order anything possible online so that when you go out there’s fewer things to hunt for.

  2. Make a list on a piece of paper - not your phone - it’s easier to access in the store. Make the print big and easy to read.

  3. Know that you might not get everything on the list and it’s ok. First off, some things might not be there. Secondly, you might not be up for the exhaustive search required. I missed some fairly important items last time - we get to really let it slide. I had gotten through aisle 12 or so and all the sudden I was like…. NO …. Get me out. And I got out.

  4. Assess your energy level. Is this a 2-store run or a 1-store run? Is this a need-to-go-to-an Aldi’s with 4 aisles or a big-box store day? Pick something you feel reasonably-up-for.

  5. Give yourself time before to prepare. Set yourself up for success with the trip. For me, that includes doing my regular meditation and writing in the morning, making sure I ate and drank water before heading out, wearing clothes I am comfortable and feel powerful in, and putting on my lipstick (a red lip gives me strength).

  6. Give yourself time after to decompress. It is okay if going to the store is the only thing you did that day. I know this is not always possible, but know that if you are able to arrange that, it helps and is enough.

  7. LAUGH and breathe deep. THIS IS ALL COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. It’s necessary and ridiculous and we are all in this together.

Remember: You've Been Trained for This

You are a PRO at being terrified and doing things anyway. You are a PRO at fighting off panic attacks. You are a PRO at having panic attacks and surviving. You are a PRO at laughing things off, crying in public, and phoning a friend. You are a PRO at getting through. Those muggles are facing all this for the first time! You’ve been in training. You have a super power. You know you will get through. Covid-19 ain’t got nothing on you, sweetheart. You got this and I got you. We are all in this together.

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