Shopping with Anxiety
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Today we are going to look a little more into the experience of face-to-face shopping. Some people love going shopping and are looking forward to going to the high street after this lockdown; however, this is not the case for everyone. For some people, particularly those with anxiety, shopping can be a stressful and even painful experience. Whilst there is no miracle cure for this, there are many ways to make the experience a little more manageable, and today I will be looking at just a few of these. But first, it's important to remember that different techniques work for different people. Of course, trying new things can be a daunting prospect so if any of these suggestions don't quite work, stop, reward yourself for trying and try again or try something else when you feel ready.
Tip One: Removing the Pressure
When I was preparing to write this post, I talked to a few of my friends who have anxiety about what they do to make shopping less stressful. Knowing that quite a lot of people like structure and recommend planning in other scenarios, I was expecting at least one person to say something such as "write a list." Instead, many of my friends suggested that you shouldn't pick time slots or have precise plans as doing this can give you less room for change and less time, leaving you feeling more anxious about things not going a set way. If you do find it hard to make decisions without plans, maybe be a little less specific on your plans by not constraining yourself on time and not trying to do tons at once.
For example, instead of thinking "I must go to Tesco at 4:00pm to buy this specific list of ingredients for dinner," perhaps try and think "At some point today, I will try to go to the local supermarket to look for dinner options." That way, you can go wherever and whenever it is best, for as long or as short a time as you want and you can pick whatever things take your fancy - there is no way of "failing" or "messing up" with this plan. Also, by thinking of it as "trying to get ideas" rather than "having to get things", it means that there is no problem if you are unable to get out and unable to buy anything that day as you can always order something in if going out feels like too much pressure.
Tip Two: Background Knowledge
Whilst people didn't recommend planning, one did suggest getting a little background information about the shop or area you plan on going to. For example, it can be good to look on a map and make sure you know your route as this can reduce fears of getting lost or being unable to get to the right place. Also, I particularly recommend looking at a shop on Google as this gives you opening hours (though with some shops being shut or running differently because of COVID, this is not always accurate) as well as contact details, links to shop websites and photos of the shops (though it is important to note that some photos of shops online are a few years old and shop layout may have changed since then). For some shops, you can even get 360 degree photos inside or outside, which is both helpful and fun to explore! Another thing you can find out when searching larger shops is their busier and quieter times, which can be very valuable if you have social anxiety or you struggle with loud noises. But as a general rule of thumb, the least busy times to go in a shop are early in the morning or late at night on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Tip Three: Go With a Friend
One thing that nearly all of the people I talked to suggested was going shopping with a friend who you trust. This person can be there just for moral support, be a distraction from the stressful aspects of shopping or can help you doing things that you find harder, such as asking for directions or paying at the till. At the moment this can be harder as you do have to socially distance from friends outside of your household or bubble, and some shops (including us when we open) only have space for one household at a time. However, it is possible for you to go in whilst your friend stands by the door to give you moral support, or for your friend to go in and pay whilst you make sure they have got the right thing. Also, if you or your friend live alone or one of you is a single parent, you are able to form a bubble with each other as long as neither of you are in bubbles already. This means the two of you can meet both indoors and outside without social distancing, which can help if you need support with shopping. However, I would recommend that you check the Government website before doing this to make sure that you are being legal and safe.
Tip Four: Have Personal Items to Help You Relax
This is less about social anxiety and more to do with other types of anxiety and hypersensitivity, though it can work for people with social anxiety too. If you find shopping hard because of the bright lights, strong smells, loud noises or uncomfortable textures of some items, you may want to try wearing sunglasses, ear defenders and gloves, or using perfumes in preferred scents that can block out overwhelming smells. Also, I really recommend having something to fidget with in your pocket, such as a small knitted toy, a fidget cube or a fidget spinner as these can be really useful and healthy ways of reducing negative energy and adrenaline caused by anxiety.
Tip Five: Shop Online
Whilst I do think shopping face-to-face is good, I think that it is more important to do what works for you. If it is going to be too daunting to go out shopping that day, you can always buy online. Just because you don't feel able to go out on a certain day (or week, or month, or however long!), it does not mean that you are weak; in fact, doing what you need to do to cope and listening to yourself is a sign of great strength!
Tip Six: Remember that You Are Not Alone
One of the ironic things about anxiety is that it is one of the most common health conditions in the world, yet when you have it, it is hard to believe that anyone understands what you are going through. When you next go into a shop, remember that many of the customers or even the staff around you either are going through or have been through something similar to what you are going through. For example, I get very anxious when on the phone to people and find it really hard to know what to say in certain situations, so I was very proud of myself when I processed a telephone order of wool this week! If you do feel comfortable telling the person serving you how you are feeling, that can really help, but if not, do not worry as staff members will usually treat all of their customers with patience and work hard to give you the best help possible.
So, those are all of my tips for making shopping less stressful - don't plan too much; try and get a little background knowledge before shopping; go with a friend; have some items that can keep you relaxed; shop online if you need to and remember that you are not alone. I hope that these suggestions help. However, please do not use these instead of professional advice. I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk about how you feel and seek help if you need.
So until next time, happy crafting and happy shopping (if that's your thing!),
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..