Grocery Store Anxiety 

Grocery store anxiety has reared its ugly head with increased intensity. As someone with OCD, a trip to the grocery store before Covid-19 was something I didn’t enjoy.  Now that the pandemic has made its stage presence known, I despise going grocery shopping (or shopping in any form). Forget retail therapy. For me, shopping has become an exercise in getting in and getting out as fast as humanly possible – my sneakers leave a smoke trail when I shop.

Grocery Store Anxiety:
Caution: Zombie Crossing ...

So you made it into the store without being taken out by any of the parking lot drivers going 45 mph. – Congratulations! On to level 2: shopping among the shoppers. 

Prepare yourself for the gauntlet.

Of course, there are those who seem to minimize the power of Covid-19, walking among us (unmasked) with a cavalier chip on their shoulders.  I see them spitting on sidewalks and licking their fingers to get a better grip on the produce bag that will hold the “picked through” fruits and vegetables.  My personal favorite is when someone wears a mask and they leave their nose uncovered.  These are real occurrences that the rest of us (anxiety prone or not) have been putting up with.  My safe word is “Get Me The Hell Out Of Here.”

Grocery Store Anxiety:

Add to this the lack of planning on behalf of retail store executives.  I’d like to know which genius in upper management made the decision to have employees stock the shelves during the day. 

Shoppers are already having a difficult time maneuvering around the aisles - “let’s add extra employees and pallets to the mix!”

Forget Pac-Man.  I’m in a real life version of Neurotic Panic Attack Man. I’m trying desperately not to come into contact with oblivious shoppers: self-absorbed zombies who don’t think twice about going in the wrong direction down an aisle, knuckle draggers who won’t hesitate to pull up three feet beside me to get their items. My neck hurts from being in a constant state of hypervigilance – looking for threats.

This sucks on many fronts because it verifies (once again) that those of us with half a brain (I am humble) must foot the bill for the ignorant – they always seem to get a pass.

Grocery Store Anxiety:
Here's The Plan:

But moving on … grocery store anxiety can be managed.  What to do?  We must cope and regulate ourselves in order to maintain our precious and waning sanity. I’ve developed a plan for my outings.  It’s about efficiency.

·        Draw A Store Diagram.  Unless these stores start posting online floor plans, make a sketch or take photos of the store’s layout.  Once you know where things are located beforehand, you will save time searching among the other lost shoppers.

·        Make A List.  Before you go, write down everything you need to purchase, grouping them in categories such as dairy, produce, meats, etc.  Group these items in sequence according to the store’s layout so that you don’t have to double back and waste time.

·        For Starters, Go During Off-Peak Hours.  Your brain may be saying: The fewer the number of people, the better. However, it’s important to be realistic. If you want to beat grocery store anxiety, you need to be among people – while maintaining a safe distance.

·        Breathe.   Inhale for 5 seconds, hold it briefly and exhale for 7 seconds.  Focus on your breath.

·        Loosen Up.   When your knuckles are turning white and you’re developing callouses from gripping the cart, it’s time to loosen up. Try as best as you can to slow down – for the sake of your heart rate.

·        No One Is Perfect.  We are all trying to get through this.  Everyone has their own way of dealing with this new environment. Some people are in denial while others are exhibiting anger. Try not to engage others – it’s not worth an altercation.

·        Consider Self-Scan Checkout.  Take advantage of people’s proclivity for laziness. Why wait in line for a cashier when you can scan and go?

·        Grocery Delivery Services.  If you are not ready to enter a grocery store, go online and see if you can have them delivered.

Note: managing anxiety requires facing the anxiety. Unless you are elderly and/or have a physical disability, I encourage you to face this and get your own groceries!

Once you have your items bagged and in the cart, you are in your merry way … if you can get past the shoppers checking their receipts and  blocking the exit!

To our sanity,

-      Ted Stefanski

For grocery store anxiety relief, be gentle with yourself and care about yourself. Expect to feel better. It is absolutely possible, but you have to be willing to do something to change your brain's programming

Grocery Store Anxiety and Other Healthy Tips