Do you have a massive fear of leaving the house?
If you didn’t before 2020, it’s possible you do now.
For me personally, I’ve never suffered from agoraphobia, but in this current pandemic, the thought of going to any public place makes me a bit (or a LOT) hesitant.
I’ve been to Walgreens a few times, and to necessary doctor’s appointments, but other than that, I’m making the choice to stay put as much as possible.
If that sounds like you, it’s perfectly normal to feel worried, with the current state of the world. Our sense of normal in general has needed a major adjustment the last few months. 2019 seems like a distant memory of freedom that we’ll never feel again.
In this post, I am going to share several tips for avoiding germs if you do need to go somewhere, and ways you can manage your fear and find some relief from anxiety. Keep reading to find out my best strategies!
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
How to avoid catching germs in public places
Like I said, sometimes you just have to go places! We’ve been using grocery delivery as much as possible. But it doesn’t make sense to pay the tip and the delivery fees when you just need one item quickly. There have been a few times I’ve needed to go to the drug store.
With two little ones at home, it makes me so paranoid to think of bringing germs back to them. I also have two parents that fall into the at risk category for the pandemic. We have been seeing them a bit (though not as frequently as before) and I’d never forgive myself for getting a loved one sick.
Luckily, there are several strategies you can use to keep germs at bay. If you feel nervous about leaving the house, use these every time to make yourself feel a little safer.
Wear your mask
I know. You’re sick of wearing your mask. But let’s drop a little truth bomb.
Wearing masks keeps people safe. You could possibly be carrying the disease and be asymptomatic, and not know it.
Picture 84 year old Beulah who lives next door. Picture your aging parents. And your pregnant sister in law. And your friend with asthma.
If you ever want to travel freely again, and have the freedom to have a house full of people doing keg stands, just wear the damn mask. It won’t last forever, and it helps keep you (and people at risk) safe.
Stay 6 feet apart
A lot of stores and pick-up dining places have markers on the ground to indicate a 6 foot distance from the person in front of you in line. It is really important to observe these guidelines.
If your store does not have markers in place, picture standing sideways with your arms spread wide open to measure distance. The average height adult needs to add roughly 4-6 inches to that to measure a 6 foot distance from the nearest person.
Use hand sanitizer
Although washing your hands with soap and water is best, many stores have pumps of hand sanitizer at the counter or by the exits. As long as it has 60% alcohol or more, it is a good substitute until you can get home to wash your hands.
The main reason I wouldn’t go overboard with conventional hand sanitizers is because many of them contain triclosan, an ingredient linked to many harmful side effects. Here is a list of a few brands that do NOT contain triclosan:
Wash hands frequently
Washing hands frequently is really one of the best ways to stop the spread of this disease, along with social distancing. If you have a fear of leaving the house, this is an easy way to put your mind at rest. Here are some instances in which it is a good idea to wash your hands:
- Before you interact with someone in a physical way (and after!)
- After you get back from a public place
- After you check the mail or bring in packages
- When you go to the bathroom (duh!)
- Before you prepare food (another duh)
Again (see the link in the previous section), soap and water is the best way to cleanse your hands to stop the spread of germs.
Use immunity boosting techniques daily
There are plenty of simple things you can do to boost your immunity on a regular basis so that you are less likely to get sick when you leave the house. Here are just a few:
- Don’t smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress.
Use delivery services
These have been a life saver for us over the past few months! We can get almost everything we need delivered right to our door without having to leave the house.
The main services we have been using are Amazon Prime (most non grocery needs), Doordash (food from restaurants), and Instacart (grocery delivery).
The only cons I can think of are:
- Obviously you have to tip the delivery person for the last two, and pay a small free. (Shipping with Amazon Prime is free.) But the delivery people work hard, so they deserve it!
- There are still random people touching your things. If you are worried, you can spray seal food items/non-food items with a disinfectant and leave things on the front step for as long as you feel comfortable.
A few things I like to do after I run errands are: leave my shoes in the garage, change clothes and put them in the washing machine, and wash my hands (in that order). You could even take a shower before you change, if you are super worried.
How to manage your fear of leaving the house during a pandemic
Now that we’ve talked about ways to protect yourself physically, let’s talk about ways to protect your emotional health.
I understand the fear of leaving the house right now, I really do. I’m not saying I DON’T feel it. However, I’ve found a lot of helpful strategies that I wanted to share, because they really do work!
Grounding exercises are one of my favorite anxiety busters. They just take a couple minutes, and better yet, they’re free! One of the simplest ones you can do is the 5-4-3-2-1 method.
When you feel anxious, think of the following:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can feel
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 think you can taste
This helps ground you back in reality and distract you from the things making you anxiety.
Journal about your anxiety
You can download the free journal template above and write your feelings down. Journaling is really great for mental health in general.
If you aren’t sure what to write about or where to start, try some of the following ideas:
- Why am I afraid to leave the house?
- What is the worst that could happen?
- What is the best that could happen instead?
- A list of positive affirmations to help you through your anxiety
Click the image above to get started on your journaling adventure!
Speak to a therapist
Going back to therapy has been one of the best decisions I ever made. I started back about a year ago, and I now see her (well, currently via Zoom call) at least once a month.
There can be a stigma about going to therapy so I want to address some concerns you might have. First of all, talking about your emotions is completely normal. If you were raised to believe differently, I’m sorry. I’m your mom now, and I’m telling you it’s okay.
Second of all, there is nothing to be ashamed of. According to the American Psychological Association:
Indeed, 48 percent of those polled (1,000 people) reported a visit to a mental health professional by someone in their household this year, and more than nine out of 10– 91 percent– said they would likely consult or recommend a mental health professional if they or a family member were experiencing a problem.“Survey says: “More Americans are seeking mental health treatment”
So, if you decide you need to see a therapist, you are definitely not alone!
Use baby steps
It is perfectly acceptable to use baby steps if you have a fear of leaving the house. Take it as slow as you need to. You can start by putting on your shoes and socks. Then, step out of your house and sit on your porch.
After that, you can take a drive around the block. Then go to a drive thru restaurant. And so on and so forth. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s the same for treating fear and trauma.
Practice positive affirmations
Training your brain to think more positively is an incredibly helpful practice. Let’s clear up some misconceptions though first.
First of all, doing positive affirmations is not some kind of denial that you have a mental health issue. Nor does it claim to erase your illness. People who do positive affirmations aren’t in denial and there is no cure for depression and anxiety that exists. (Sadly.)
Also, it does not mean that the person practicing them is ashamed of their identity as a person with mental illness. They just recognize the elasticity of their own brain, and know that it is possible to train it to think differently.
Now that we’ve got out of the way, give positive affirmations a try! As with a lot of my other suggestions, they are free and do not take a lot of time. Just tell yourself something positive in place of something negative. For example, “Nothing bad will happen to me if I leave the house.”
You are not going to feel better right away more than likely. Affirmations are meant to be practiced daily so that your brain can learn to adapt over time.
Leaving the house during a pandemic is sometimes unavoidable
Unfortunately, at some point you have to leave the house. I know that it feels a lot better to picture yourself staying in your cozy little cocoon of safety. But there is a big wide world out there and it’s not going to stay closed forever.
Eventually you have to just take a deep breath, put those sneakers on, and take the first step out of the front door. I promise you can do it.
Do you have a fear of leaving the house? Let me know in the comments, and make sure to share this post on social media if you found it helpful using the buttons at the top of the page!