I am suffering from shopping anxiety due to COVID. Just entering the grocery store raises my alarm. My mind has decided that the longer I’m in an enclosed space, the higher the risks. And, of course, with shortages, the process is more difficult. If your go-to brand is gone, you are forced you to spend time considering an alternative. That means scanning the available products, reading labels, and choosing. Do you realize most grocery stores have 40,000 items in stock?

 When looking for yeast, for example, it took me forever to determine it was sold out because there was only a minuscule tag labeled “yeast.” That discovery took precious minutes. Thank goodness my safety glasses have readers in them.   

 Also, I’m trying to limit my grocery store trips to once every two weeks, requiring me to purchase more than I normally would. Then, there’s the checkout line. Dealing with a checker or struggling to self-check a full grocery cart is mind-boggling. And touching the screens to pay? Eek! Can I resist touching my face until I can use my hand sanitizer?   

 Our stores have not yet taken to one-way lanes, and I feel a spurt of fear when someone passes in close proximity.  Trying to talk myself down, reasoning that I am taking all possible precautions is not working well. Upon returning, I find myself ranting about experiences of incompetence, which have left me in establishments longer than intended.  And, I realize, I’ve only been focusing on my own discomfort rather than considering others might be feeling the same.

 But it’s not just me. After some research, I found many people had shopping anxiety before COVID.  According to experts, it stems from an inability to control the experience. Clinical psychologist Kevin Chapman explained that the essence of anxiety is thoughts of uncontrollability and unpredictability of a future event. And currently, none of us feel in control of anything.  

 What can we do? Perhaps repeating the Serenity Prayer will help comfort us and assist in dealing with the unknown.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

 After all, we can’t control everything in our lives. Unless you live off the grid in the middle of nowhere and have a two-year supply of food and water, you’ll have to deal with uncertainty. However, the uncontrollable can still occur even to those who have managed to build a cocoon. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and droughts will continue to be with us.  You can become ill or injured, requiring more than first aid.

 Additionally, we need to work harder to be nicer to people. The defense mechanism of displacement is alive and well.  When we are frustrated, we tend to find safe, less threatening people and vent our frustrations on them. You know the drill:  The boss yells at the husband, the husband then yells at the wife, and the frustrated wife yells at the store clerk.  

 Unfortunately, scapegoating–blaming another person or group for what is going on–is rampant. Worrying about blame and seeking revenge won’t help the situation. Thoughtful teamwork and listening to medical experts are better alternatives.

 Join me as I look deep inside myself to assure I’m doing everything possible to be compassionate to myself and others.