“8 Everyday Tasks, and What They Feel Like for a Person With Anxiety” was originally published on The Mighty.
By Sarah Schuster
Everyone’s lives are different, and not everyone has the same routine. But there are a few everyday tasks most of us do: wake up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep — just to name a few.
When you live with anxiety, even small everyday things can be tough. Tasks people take for granted, like going to a grocery store, may be the hardest thing you do all day. It’s easy to feel shameful when you have a hard time doing “normal” things, but there’s no shame in having challenges. There’s no shame in having anxiety. All you can do is the best you can, reach out for support and live life in a way that works for you.
We wanted to know how anxiety affected people in their everyday lives, so we consulted with our Mighty mental health community.
This is only a small snapshot of how people with anxiety can live. We want you to remember you’re not alone, and that anxiety doesn’t have to control you forever.
1. Getting Out of Bed
“Getting out of bed in the morning is like coming up to the top of that first incline of a roller coaster, and as you prepare for the drop, you notice a loose bolt on your cart’s wheel. You can’t reach it because you’re strapped in and starting forward. All you can do is sit there, on the fall, not knowing if it will stay put or jiggle free on the way down.” ― Amanda G.
“Five different alarms. Ten minutes apart. ’Get up. Get up now.′ ’Am I going to make it through this day? How am I going to make it through this day?′’You have to get up now. You can’t be late.′ Three alarms left. ’What excuse can I use to get out of work? Do I feel sick? What’s my temperature? I might be sick.′ One alarm left. ’If you get up now you can get there early and get extra work done and everyone will appreciate you. Or…am I sick? I may be sick.′ And I force myself to get out of bed and go through the motions of getting ready for my day.” ― Julia N.
“Getting out of bed in the morning is like coming up to the top of that first incline of a roller coaster, and as you prepare for the drop, you notice a loose bolt on your cart’s wheels.” ― Amanda G.
“Not knowing whether to take a shower or not. ’I just took a shower last night, so I should be OK. But what if I start to smell bad? Did I brush my teeth enough so my mouth smells OK? What about my hair? If I take a shower, should I wash my hair? If I don’t take a shower, will people be able to notice?′” ― Anna S.
“The first second is great, you forget about everything and just focus on getting up or going back to sleep. Then everything hits you like a freight train. All the responsibilities, all the worries, all the tasks you made a list for in your head last night, all the regrets you have that you constantly beat yourself up over. I wonder if it’s even worth getting out of bed. Most days I’m frozen.” ― Stacia H.
2. Getting Ready In The Morning
“It’s a battle with my brain. Anxiety wants me to get up and ‘be productive,’ but the depression makes me feel like doing nothing. I found a morning routine works to try to stay even. Tea, reading my tablet and taking care of the dog before I tackle chores or projects.” ― Phaedra M.
“It’s 10 plus outfit changes, and settling for the same dress that covers everything you hate about your body. It’s forcing down breakfast because you’re so anxious about what the day may bring, you feel sick to your stomach. It’s spending 20 minutes psyching yourself up for the day, convincing yourself it’s worth it to put your feet on the floor. It’s checking your schedule, the weather, your plans 50 times over to avoid any mistakes. It’s being exhausted from worry before you even make it out the door. Or sometimes it’s running on auto pilot so you simply don’t think, don’t worry and don’t feel.” ― Renée H.
“It’s being exhausted from worry before you even make it out the door.” ― Renée H.
“It takes forever because I’m so scatter-brained. I’ll walk around aimlessly until I figure out what I need to do next to get ready. I have to double and triple check that I have everything I need before leaving the house. What might take a ‘normal’ person 20 minutes takes me an hour.” ― Elizabeth B.
3. Commuting To Work
“I have to leave early. And if I think there is a slight chance I’m going to be late, I panic. I hate it so much. I’ll be panicking while driving which is hard to do and scares me more because then I’m hyperaware of everything and think I’m about to get into an accident. I’ll call work and tell them I might be late and they usually are OK with it (because I almost never am) and when I get there, I apologize over and over again. It distracts me for the rest of the day.” ― Kaitlyn L.
“I have to go out early. I have already gone through several scenarios of obstacles in my head and made a plan for each of them. I can’t be late, the thought makes my stomach fuzzy and my heart beat faster. I plan for everything even though my mind knows that each of my irrational thoughts are extremely unlikely. I need a plan for a plan in case the other one fails.” ― Angela D.
“I cannot drive on the freeway. Just thinking about it gets me anxious and people don’t understand. I always have to take side streets to get anywhere. It’s a struggle specially, if I wake up late or have to travel far.” ― Tania A.
“The commute is usually what I call ‘the freak-out break.’ The road to work is ingrained in my mind and on bad days I usually drive on automatic pilot while my brain’s in overdrive thinking about every possible scenario for the day.” ― Alina C.
“When I moved from a small town to an urban area about five years ago, I immediately decided to take public transportation to work rather than driving in rush hour every day. Having such a predictable routine and schedule where my brain can rest for a bit each morning is such a help in quelling my anxiety.” ― Ian K.
“My anxiety makes me wonder if some of my co-workers actually like me or just tolerate me. It also makes me hesitant to ask about trying certain things.” ― Amanda B.
“I haven’t been able to hold down a job since 2005 due to anxiety. I tried a couple more times but never lasted more than a few weeks before the anxiety was overwhelming and I had to quit. Most people think I don’t work because I’m physically disabled, but it’s really my mental illness.” ― Chisa P.
“I’m a support worker who works with mental/physical illness. My work is one thing I’m confident in, and keeps my mind off my own thoughts. Working with the individuals made me understand my own mental illness more, also having a mental illness made me understand the individuals more.” ― Samantha L.
“I used to always be worried that any little thing would get me fired; that one negative complaint from a customer would get me written up. I work at a very compassionate and understanding company who tries to work with me and my anxiety/depression as much as possible. I’m happy that whenever they want to talk to me, they tell me I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not in trouble.” ― Carolyn M.
“It’s constantly second-guessing everything you just said to your co-workers. It’s second guessing how quickly and efficiently you’re getting your work done. It’s wondering if you’re boss gave you someone to help with your work load because you’re not doing a good enough job. It’s wondering if you should get fired because you’re not good enough to do these simple tasks. It’s literally second-guessing yourself every minute of every shift. It doesn’t even end after you clock out, it follows you home and you stay up at night thinking over every simple mistake that was made. It’s (causing) panic attacks in the restroom and then shoving a huge smile on your face and laughing and joking with everyone. It’s ‘high-functioning’ anxiety that no one knows about.” ― Tabatha P.
5. Grocery Shopping
“I have a task-trained service dog and hands down the worst errand I have to do is groceries. Not only is there a feeling of being stared at, sensory overload, adrenaline rush, erratic heart beat, dizziness and shortness of breath, I am regularly approached by people who think my medical equipment is there for their entertainment. I often feel closed in, and I have to stay alert to hazards such as blinking lights that can cause flashbacks in addition to the constant bombardment of the senses.” ― Urania C.
“I feel like all eyes are on me. I feel like I can’t walk right, I can’t breathe right, and everyone knows. I’m counting my steps and making sure they are even. I’m making sure to not be in anyone’s way while internally screaming how bothersome I’m being for making people go around me because I can’t get any closer to the shelves so people can go around me. I spend more time pretending to look at things I’m not actually shopping for while I wait for people to move so I can get what I need without saying, ‘Excuse me.’” ― Stacia H.
“Parking in the furthest space from the shop so there’s no one around you. Having to have a full face of makeup on in case people judge me. Going to the self-checkout to avoid human interaction, then being mortified when something won’t scan and I need assistance anyway.” ― Hannah S.
“Oh my word. Grocery shopping is the absolute worst. It feels like a million elephants are sitting on my chest. My heart races as I struggle to breathe, and it feels like I’m stuck in molasses, making it difficult to move. It takes all I have and more to make it through.” ― Meredith S.
6. Making Dinner
“I find it impossible to make decisions when it comes to food, especially dinner. Anxiety destroys my appetite, and it can be a struggle to find a meal that gives nutritional value when nothing appeals to me. I end up wasting a lot of time trying to order food, rummaging through the fridge or wandering around the store to pick something out.” ― Clara S.
“It’s (un)organized chaos. Most of the time I can’t choose what to eat, so I go without more times than not. I can’t think straight in a messy kitchen, so I am cooking while cleaning up after myself. I can’t hold conversations because if I lose track of the order I have things in my head, I’ll get too overwhelmed and leave the kitchen altogether.” ―Alyssa K.
“Cooking is in nonstop struggle for me. I feel like I’ve done really well if I start my day with cereal and then make a sandwich at some point.” ― Kristofer K.
“Honestly cooking for myself is easy. It’s when I have to cook for other people that the anxiety sets in, and I’m scared any meat I cook is gonna be raw and everything is going to taste disgusting.” ― Kaydoe K.
“Sometimes I can make a multi-course feast for myself and others. Main courses, sides, dessert, fun display. Sometimes I can’t get myself to consider cooking or even just opening a bag of snacks to eat. Sometimes I eat a handful of chocolate chips and call it a day. I am thankful to have my boyfriend and family of friends who check up on me about eating regularly. I get panicked by indecision and thinking through the process of, ‘What’s for dinner?’” ― Heidi J.
7. Getting Ready For Bed
“Everything has to be perfect for the morning. Dishes have to be done. Coffee maker done. Lunches made. Leave sticky notes for myself for reminders of the morning. Because I know in the morning it will take an hour to convince myself to get out of bed, so it’s easier to get all that stuff done before bed.” ― Ashley N.
“Walk around the house three times checking everything out, go outside and sometimes walk aimlessly for a few blocks, come back, lie down and fall asleep if I can sleep.” ― Andrew F.
“I take my anxiety meds and hope for the best. I hope I will fall asleep quickly. I hope I won’t be up half the night with a racing mind. I hope I won’t wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding from a nightmare. I just hope to get through the night the best I can, and come out on the other side ready to face another day battling my own mind.” ― Kara N.
“Bedtime is a process. I have to have everything in place for the next morning.” ― Meredith S.
“Tidy up. Everything back to right angles… clean the bathroom. Pretend I’m still cleaning it while looking at my scars. Takes a good 45 minutes.” ― Suzanne B.
“Bedtime is a process. I have to have everything in place for the next morning. This means the toaster is out for morning waffles, the coffee pot is filled and ready to go, clothes are set out neatly on the dresser for everyone in the family, etc.” ― Meredith S.
8. Trying To Fall Asleep
“It’s the deciding to go to bed because you’re absolutely exhausted, but the second you hit the bed, you’re wide awake. Your mind won’t shut off, thoughts of the past, present and future ring through your head. I constantly wake up and cannot fall back asleep, or I sit and stress over a dream I had, wondering if it was true or real.” ― Nadya C.
“For me, it’s the physical symptoms of anxiety that keep me up at night. Chest pain? Nope, not a heart attack, ignore it, it’s the anxiety. Tingling feet? Kick them around, it’s anxiety. Finally drift off but jump up because you felt like you were going to die? Sleep on your side instead.” ― Amy H.
“Wouldn’t want to be late for work. But what would happen if I was late for work? Would I get fired? What would I do? Better set four more alarms for one minute after each.” ― Nic S.
“Lots of tossing and turning, unnecessary/unwanted thoughts from scenarios that happened years ago, a bunch of what ifs, and suddenly it’s an hour later, and I’m still not asleep.” ― Gwendolyn R.
“It’s getting up five times to make sure that all the doors are locked and the lights are off. Did I close my garage door? Did I turn off all my taps? What if I left one on and my house floods over night? It’s setting your alarms and picking your phone up and checking them five times before rolling over … Only to roll over one more time to make sure the alarms are on … Wouldn’t want to be late for work. But what would happen if I was late for work? Would I get fired? What would I do? Better set four more alarms for one minute after each.” ― Nic S.
“The whole day’s events go through my head. Did I make anyone mad? Do they like me? Why can’t I learn things faster? I’m probably going to be fired. What bills do I need to pay? Can I pay them? How am I going to afford college for my kid? Toss and turn, get up, eat things I shouldn’t, go back to bed, and start worrying about the next day … If I fall asleep now, I will get ‘X’ amount of sleep. What if I wake up late? Will my kid make it in time for breakfast? What do I need to do for work? Can I do it? Then I fall into a weird, half-conscious sleep and dream of things that make me even more anxious. I wake up feeling tired.” ― Amie A.