I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
I suffer from an annoying little thing called social anxiety. There are a few places that I can go where I feel comfortable, and these are my comfort zones. If I step out of my comfort zones, though, things can get a bit sticky for me. My heart starts pounding, I start sweating, and I start blushing worse than a schoolgirl. Really—it’s not pretty.
But, where does this fit into a frugal living blog, you ask?
Well, part of frugal living involves actually going to the store. Where there are people. Sometimes lots of people. And said people will be looking at you and possibly *GASP* want to talk to you!
And that can be a bit challenging some days if you’re battling social anxiety.
On good days, I can get out of the house and take a little trip to the store with no major problems. I may even have a nice little chat with the cashier. Bad days, though? Not so much. Shopping with social anxiety on bad days is no treat—if I make it out of the house, that is.
I wouldn’t quite call my social anxiety debilitating, though. Since purchasing goods is a necessary part of life, I’ve had to push myself and teach myself to overcome it. These days, I have more good days than bad days, I’m happy to report. The trick is to take it slow and force yourself to step out of your comfort zones.
Since I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person battling the horrors of shopping with social anxiety, I’ve put together a list of some little tips that have helped me. Hopefully they’ll help someone else…
You don’t have to dress to the nines, but dressing up a little when you head to the store (or anywhere else, really) can give you a little confidence boost. Even a little confidence boost can help when you’re facing a shopping trip when social anxiety comes into play. Every little bit helps!
Start with one store.
Shopping with social anxiety can be terrifying, but you have to start somewhere. My advice is to start with one store. This is especially true if you’ll be using coupons, which can really amp up the anxiety levels! For me, this store was CVS, and it will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. I started with one shopping trip to CVS each week to take advantage of some of the easier and better deals. After a couple of months, I got to know the cashiers and I could even hold conversations with them without feeling like a blustering idiot! With that mission accomplished, I found it much easier to branch out to other stores in my area.
Think small and uncomplicated.
We all want to tackle those monster couponing trips where we do 10 different transactions and pay only 72¢ out of pocket for $379.64 worth of merchandise. If you’re facing shopping with social anxiety, though, you’ve probably already broken out in a cold sweat at the mere thought. When trying to overcome social anxiety, it’s best to smart small. That means small, uncomplicated shopping trips—at least at first. Once you get a handle on your social anxiety, you can then worry about tackling those more complicated trips. Over time, you may even be able to tackle multiple transactions and remain as cool as a cucumber!
Shop during downtimes.
When you’re shopping with social anxiety, shopping at the busiest times is usually not the best idea for obvious reasons. Fewer people means less anxiety. If your schedule allows it, try to hit the stores during the least busiest times of the day. That may be in the late morning or afternoon when most people are at work, or very late at night when most people are sleeping.
Head out of town.
Sometimes I refer to my social anxiety as “location based”. Not long ago, I discovered (by accident) that I was less nervous and anxious in stores located in a neighboring town. I’m pretty sure that the reason I was less nervous was because there was less of a chance that I would run into someone I knew. It may be a long shot, but it’s worth a shot.
Take a deep breath.
Deep breathing exercises can be very calming when dealing with any type of anxiety. When you’re out shopping and you start to get anxious, try taking three deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Don’t forget to smile! Even if you feel like melting into the floor or bursting out crying, smile. It’s difficult, but smiling even when you feel anxious can make you feel a little better. Plus, it makes you seem more approachable and less nervous.
Call attention to yourself.
You don’t have to announce over the loudspeaker that you suffer from social anxiety when shopping, but addressing your issue calmly can make it a little easier to deal with. Keep it lighthearted and say something like “Wow—all these people are making me a little anxious today!” or “Oh, now I’m blushing!” Confronting your problem instead of avoiding it is not only an important step to overcoming social anxiety, but it can also get a conversation going, which will take your mind off your anxiety.
Take a friend.
Having a little support when you’re trying to overcome social anxiety when shopping is important. Take along a trusted friend or family member when you head out shopping. They can help keep you focused on your task as well as give you a diversion from the rest of the people when needed.
Do you have any other tips for shopping with social anxiety? I’d love to hear them!