Small Victories: Exposing Myself to a Freezing-Cold Grocery Store
I mean, it’s not like I’ve hunkered down in aisle 9 next to the instant oatmeal. I’m in the “Alcove” section of Wegmans, a cafeteria-like dining and WiFi area in the corner of the store, and I have a fantastic view of the streetlamp-lit parking lot from the window next to my table.
Anyway, there’s a point to my decision to blog here: exposure. For several months now, I’ve had a tough time handling routine grocery store trips without having a panic attack. And so, if I frequently expose myself to grocery store environments, they should eventually downgrade from panic trigger into boring place where I can buy food.
I should also mention this: the outside temperature is about 75 degrees tonight. And the temperature inside Wegmans feels like an invigorating 55 degrees.
My hands are cold. My nose is freezing. I’ve taken off my shoes and I’ve resorted to a pseudo-lotus position to keep my feet warm inside my…my kneepits? (Is that a real word?)
Anxiety-wise, I’ve never done too well with cold temperatures. Ever since I had my very first panic attack, my body seems to have re-programmed itself to only find comfort at a very specific room temperature. If the room temperature is too cold, my hands, feet, and nose will feel like they’re frozen. And because I’ve had several panic attacks during which my extremities start to tingle, sitting in a too-cold room (that elicits similar physical sensations) can actually make me panic.
Same with the trembling. When you get cold, you shake. Your teeth chatter. And this is perfectly normal and natural. It’s your body’s way of trying to maintain a healthy 98.6-degree temperature.
But when I start to panic, I also tremble. My teeth chatter, too, even if I’m not cold. And it’s a very uncomfortable sensation.
So, when I experience the sensation of trembling (due to cold temperature), it reminds me of the trembling that precedes a panic attack. And, in many cases, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy: trembling from the cold can trigger a panic attack.
Tonight’s little exposure session here at Wegmans now serves a dual purpose: to desensitize myself to both grocery stores and to cold room temperatures. And I’m happy to report that I haven’t yet had a single fight-or-flight impulse during my brief time sitting here in the Alcove!
It’s all about the small victories sometimes, you know? Baby steps.
For those of you in the same panicky boat as myself, what are you currently trying to expose yourself to? How’s that process going? And, if you’ve ever successfully overcome a phobia via repeated exposure, please share your story below to inspire others!
Beretsky, S. (2011). Small Victories: Exposing Myself to a Freezing-Cold Grocery Store. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2017, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2011/09/small-victories-exposing-myself-to-a-freezing-cold-grocery-store/