Life with “Healthy” Anxiety

As a family who lives with life-threatening food allergies and a child with a compromised immune system, we have experience with what many of you are facing in light of the Coronavirus. The constant hand washing, wiping everything that you or kid may touch, and warning about putting their hands in their mouth way past toddlerhood is our norm. So is anxiety. I work with family’s like mine to build what I call “healthy anxiety,” which means to be aware but not scared of your surroundings and take reasonable precautions.

For food allergy families, this means reading food labels, educating family, friends, and restaurant staff about what they can and can not eat, and much more. The public as a whole is now fearful of catching a virus with many unknowns, which can cause anxiety and fear. Food allergy families can tell you they live with anxiety and fear almost daily.

My first bit of advice as schools is closed for weeks and store shelves look like we are all about to be hit by a blizzard or hurricane is don’t panic. I know this is easier said than done, especially if you have a limited diet or other extenuating circumstances. But when we panic, our thinking and behavior become wild and irrational. Which is not going to help anyone, especially those you are trying to help.

If you are on a restricted diet and need to have special foods, remember, frozen, and canned may be an option you will have to go to for a bit. Also, as I write this on March 13th, stores are getting regular deliveries of food. The shortages are from people panicking if you are in a situation where you can not leave your home Instacart, and other similar services are a great option. If you know someone with a compromised immune system, offer to go out for them.

Here are a few tips as you adjust to our new normal for at least the next few weeks and develop more of a healthy anxiety:

  • Practice forgiveness and grace.
  • Learning to work remotely, with kids in the background and spouses home is going to be new for all of us.
  • If a system is not working, simply let it go and try something else.
  • Practice kindness. As you encounter different people who are managing the risk differently than you don’t judge, remember you have no idea what else is happening in their world and with their health.
  • Now is the time to get creative. Take advantage of online learning and communication tools you have never had the time to use before. Many educational companies are granting free access. Check out this list.
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The Food Allergy Institute