I know the heart jumping out of my chest feeling while my mind is clouded in panic. I understand how hard it can be to not let my nerves take over and prevent me from enjoying myself because of fear. However, it is rare that I have food allergy anxiety due to my multiple anaphylactic allergies.
It may sound crazy, but I actually look forward to being social, dining out, and traveling, especially to countries where the language and culture are so varied from anything that I have experienced. A large part of this is due to how I was raised, a curious nature, and my love for exploring the world.
Prior to the pandemic, I traveled frequently and ate out often. I live in Philadelphia, which has an incredible restaurant scene. I would excitedly anticipate trying a new restaurant with friends. Like anyone who lives with food allergies, I’ve certainly battled moments of anxiety.
Dealing with food allergy anxiety
Instead of working my life around food allergies, I’ve always worked food allergies around my life. It may not always be easy, however, food allergies never prevent me from doing what I want to do. I like challenges and puzzles, and that is how I think about food allergies; a puzzle piece I have to consider when putting together the overall plan. I recognize that this lack of anxiety is unusual in the food allergy community and I’m here to share the strategies that have helped me along the way.
Over my twelve plus years of blogging at MissAllergicReactor.com, I’ve received countless messages from people wondering how I deal with anxiety. I’m certainly not anxiety-free due to other challenging areas from my past, however food allergies have rarely caused me anxiety. I’ve only been more aware of my food allergies because of writing to empower others in the food allergy community.
Allie’s Food Allergy Anxiety Strategies
Below are some strategies that I’ve used over the years that have helped me when I feel anxious. I’ve found these strategies are something I do subconsciously because they are ingrained in my head since childhood. I hope that you will find these tips useful to combat your own food allergy fears.
Trust your gut
Something that has guided me when I’ve felt anxiety creeping in is my gut instinct.
If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t and as individuals with food allergies we are more aware than most about our own instincts.
Growing up, my mom taught me breathing techniques that I use to calm myself down when I feel anxious.
Learning a few breathing techniques will bring calm back when your heart is racing due to fear of the unknown. Re-centering yourself will help you to better determine if there really is a threat to your safety.
Focus on what you can control
Focusing on worry and danger is not helpful and only brings about more anxiety. I never really consider that I am in danger unless I feel like whatever I am doing could be truly compromising my safety.
Instead, focus on how prepared you are:
- Epinephrine auto-injectors are with you
- Wear a Medical Alert bracelet
- Emergency contacts are saved on your phone
- Eat what you trust is safe
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands before eating or touching your face
These are some things I focus on and precautions I take to put myself in the best possible position to be safe.
Be an independent thinker & decision-maker
I’ve made my own decisions throughout my life and many of them have not been the same as my friends.
When you are self-confident, worrying about fitting in isn’t an issue. This can be more challenging in middle and high school and even moments during college. However, my own safety was always what I put first and took priority over fitting in.
At the end of the day, your true friends will understand and if not then you should find more empathetic friends. As you get older, you realize how much better off you are to make decisions for yourself and not because of peer pressure or societal expectations. You do you.
Follow your own rules for dining out
If I feel uncomfortable for any reason, I’ll leave. There is no shame in leaving a restaurant if it doesn’t feel safe. I’ve walked into a restaurant after calling ahead and feeling like it would be okay with my allergies, to arriving and leaving because I could tell by the in-person interactions that it didn’t feel right.
A few tips to lessening food allergy anxiety when dining out:
- Use laminated chef cards
- Double-check everything
- Only eat when you feel you’ve been heard and all your questions have been answered in a respectful way
Final thoughts on living with food allergy anxiety
Everyone has their own ways of dealing with anxiety. There is no right or wrong way. Each person is different. Some strategies may or may not work for you. Most importantly, I hope you realize that food allergy anxiety does not have to take over your life. You are the leading lady, not your food allergies!
Inspired by Allie? Check her adventures in Iceland:
Allie is a true globetrotter of the online food allergy community. For over twelve years, she has been sharing wisdom on her blog, Miss Allergic Reactor. She manages multiple food allergies, asthma and environmental allergies.