Lockdown 5.0 or Unlock 1 in India can be a cause of concern since shopping malls, clothing, accessories and foot wear stores, jewellery shops etc. have opened and even strolls near the seaside, at public parks etc. are permitted. As per news reports, these places are being overcrowded. Although, the mortality rate of those succumbing to the virus is increasing, considering the economy should not suffer, the government is slowly moving towards completely lifting the lockdown under Mission Begin Again. This may be a cause of worry, anxiety and stress to navigate through these difficult times and how to move out to tread carefully when we move out from our homes. Jessica Gandhi, a Clinical Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach provides tips on how to remain calm as well as cautious when we venture out.
Too many thoughts can lead to anxiety
We may judge our fellow shoppers. Are they wearing masks? Are they maintaining a proper distance? Do I start walking down an aisle where there are other shoppers? How far should I stand from them? These thoughts may lead to anxiety and fear regarding what if we unknowingly get infected with Covid-19 by coming in touch with an asymptomatic person. Counter your worrying thoughts by asking if it’s realistic and make sense. Engaging and questioning your thoughts happens once you are in a calm state of mind.
Flight, Fight or Freeze
These days, our basic need for security and survival is being threatened, and we feel limited in our ability to protect ourselves. Thus, while stepping out for buying groceries, medicines or for shopping, we may feel unprotected which triggers our anxiety due to lack of control towards the situation. This fight-or-flight response spikes cortisol and puts our bodies on high alert, which can manifest into physical symptoms of stress including panic attacks. We may perceive that we are fighting for our lives, everytime we step outside our door, except this time our enemy is silent and invisible, which can often feel even more frightening. In turn, our nervous system releases stress hormones at the very thought of putting ourselves in harm’s way. When we are anxious, our “flight, fight or freeze system” is kicked into a high gear. Rather than clearly thinking through a particular situation and coming up with a solution, it causes us to be reactive. This reactivity needs to be tackled in order to alleviate anxiety. In the moment, when people are feeling panicky, stressed or anxious, they can use grounding techniques to stop the spiral of worried thoughts and physical sensations.
Recognise when you feel anxious. Fear, frustration, irritability, anger, imagining worst case scenarios, emotional reasoning coupled with physical sensations like increased heart rate, shallow and fast breathing, tension in your chest and neck muscles, feeling disconnected from your surroundings are common symptoms. Take slower breaths to trick the brain to calm down. When stressed, our breath can become quick and shallow and just mimicking normal. Slower breathing patterns can help to stay calm.
Be patient and empathetic towards other shoppers
Remain patient, even as you try to speed up errands. One of the most effective ways of reducing anxiety while shopping for home essentials, clothes, accessories etc. is to remember to be nice to others since most of us are anxious and concerned about our health. Understand people’s behaviors Going the wrong way down an aisle or people lunging into your six feet of social distancing are probably caused by their own fears and stress. We should have empathy towards them rather than getting upset or angry.
Address your fears
It’s one thing to control what you can and manage your thoughts while it’s a completely different thing to engage in avoidance. When you avoid the thing that is making you fearful, your fear grows stronger. That’s why it’s important to go out and shop. Every time you face your fears, it helps reduce anxiety.
Move slowly while shopping
Don’t waste time or just hang around but literally, move slowly at a store. Your anxiety feeds on you being in a rush and feeling pressured. When you move slowly, you are allowing your anxiety to slow down too.
Practice slow breathing to calm down
Practice deep breathing, or doing some art therapy before or after you shop. Practice box breathing, a technique to inhale over a four count, holding for a four count, exhaling and holding at the same pace. Repeat it several times. It can calm you down fairly quickly.
Psychologically prepare yourself before stepping out
Use grounding techniques and breathing before you step into a store to help prepare your mind and body for a potentially stressful situation ahead. Choose to go early in the morning to avoid overcrowding. Be mindful about where you want to shop, your social skills at the store, how you respond to your anxiety, where you park your car and how you pay for your groceries. Go shopping with a trusted friend or a family member, who knows about your anxiousness and can serve as a support system. Make less frequent and larger shopping trips and buy enough food to last for two to three weeks or stick to online grocery shopping.
Pay attention to tension in your body
Move your body in ways that will promote relaxation, move your brows up and down, move your jaw and relax your shoulders. Your body becomes very tense when you are in a flight, fight or freeze mode. So you can lower your shoulders and try to relax your shoulders and face.
Tips for hygiene
Touch as little as possible as you shop at the store. Carry your own wipes to wipe down the cart handles and use them to open freezer doors at a store. Limit contact with groups of people, wash your hands as soon as you get home and avoid touching your face and hair repeatedly. Trash the shopping list once you leave the store. Basic hygiene like change of clothes, washing hands, having a bath after going out, using hand sanitizer and masks should be followed. Wash your hands before you shop and immediately after you shop. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or preparing food. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. After unpacking your groceries, wash your hands again and wash kitchen surfaces, such as countertops or any handles or switches touched often.