Anxious at Costco

The other day I got so anxious at Costco, I almost needed a paper lunch sack to breathe into. I went in, the day before Thanksgiving, to get two pumpkin pies.  I had already dealt with my perfectionist self earlier in the week about how it was OK to buy the pies instead of making them from scratch this year.  And I had carefully calculated that I had this 20-minute window of time to go to Costco as soon as the doors opened, get my pies, drop them off at home, and get to work.

So I went early and waited in the parking lot for Costco to open.  I'm sitting there in the parking lot, watching the door, starting to feel anxious about the pies and getting to work on time, when--shazam!--they roll the doors open fifteen minutes early.

So I get my giant cart, and I'm whizzing around grabbing my pies when I realize that I am in the middle of a really nasty adrenaline rush.  My stomach hurts, my heart is racing, I'm more anxious than I've been in years.  In fact, I'm on the verge of hyperventilating.

Ironically, I have been working with several kids lately about their anxiety issues.  So, since I had been so carefully helping them through their problems, I decided I'd better therapize myself right there in the middle of Costco.  I can't ask my clients to do things unless I'm willing to do the same things when I need to.

So first I did a little relaxation breathing.  I tend to forget about breathing when I get anxious, but I tell my clients to do it, and they tell me it helps, so I remembered to try it this time.  I learned that you can do relaxation breathing while whizzing around with a giant shopping cart.  And it actually helped.

Then I tried to listen to what I was saying to myself that might be causing the anxiety.  And I heard all kinds of crazy things echoing around up there.  There was stuff about pie shortages and long lines and being late to work.  It was just silly.  None of it was based in any kind of reality.  And the great thing about therapizing myself is that I could say, "This is ridiculous.  None of this is true.  Stop it right now."  (I'm the only client I get to speak to that way.)

The next thing I had to do was challenge my crazy-brain.  I had to tell some truth to myself, like:  "There is nothing wrong. There's plenty of pie.  There's nobody in the store to get in line ahead of me.  I have so much extra time, I'll probably get to work early."

The whole process only took a couple of minutes, but it really helped me calm down and get back in touch with reality.

I wanted to write about this because I suspect I am not the only person who might find themselves feeling a bit anxious during the holiday season.   And there are simple things we can do, right in the moment, to help ourselves ride the wave rather than get plowed under.  Here's to a calm and quiet season, even at Costco.

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