A common experience for brain injury survivors attempting to get on with their everyday lives is an increased difficulty with shopping. Everything from the harsh lighting, trying to navigate the aisles to find the items of their shopping list, to the sheer number of promotional signs competing for their attention can be daunting and draining. But since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic surely this only adds to their anxiety, or does it?
In 7 Executive Dysfunction Challenges After Brain Injury, I explained in my down to earth way (all be it a little sarcastic) about why supermarket shopping became a pet hate of mine. And the response I got to it where so many people said that's exactly how they feel about it too, was amazing. For me, it all adds up to feeling under pressure from other people even when it's not intentional, and becoming flustered in what can be an overwhelming environment.
The social distancing rules inside the supermarket make me a lot more comfortable.
One of my biggest issues was always feeling like people were being haphazard with how they drove and parked their trolleys. I would constantly worry they might knock me over as I was already pretty unsteady on my feet. Trying to dodge them made me feel like I was running the gauntlet where they could come at me from any direction. Plus, wherever I stood, I seemed to be in someone's way as they would be leaning past me to reach a product off the shelf. Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with this behaviour, but when you are plagued with social anxiety, it can be awkward and unpleasant. So, knowing that now people have to follow the rules and wait for me to move before they can approach, suits me right down to the ground.
I've said for years that I wish driving regulations applied to shoppers
Having driven in a number of different countries over the years, I have come to appreciate how well the Highway Code is understood and mostly adhered to in the UK. The craziest country I ever tried to drive in was Mexico, where traffic lights were treated as nothing more than decorations! Honestly, it felt like I was driving with a country of overconfident learner drivers compared to being at home. As a society, we have adapted very well to reasonable driving etiquette, but the moment we are moving from the power of our own feet, that all that goes flying out of the window. The amount of time my limited attention span was used on just trying to sidestep other shoppers was exhausting. However, with the imposed one-way system in many supermarkets, the issue has surely ceased.
The new rules allow shoppers to focus better on what they came to do
These changes mean there are slightly fewer distractions. Yes, there are still too many signs, and the layout is a maze, but it gives your brain more capacity to concentrate on what you're trying to achieve. I'm only sorry that it took the outbreak of such an awful virus and the loss of so many lives for these changes to come.
Naturally, I, like many others, am still concerned about COVID-19; the moment you walk outside your front door, you know you could be opening up the chances of being its next victim. That alone is anxiety-inducing! Especially if you are struggling with symptoms from your brain injury, I can completely understand how hell might have to freeze over before you ditch the online ordering and venture back into your local supermarket. And I'll level with you, I'm still in self-isolation with my partner James, so I haven't actually been in a supermarket since this started. I just hope that once this pandemic winds up, we can keep some of these changes long enough for me to at least experience them properly. If it's how I imagine it is, and these changes feel like improvements for us brain injury survivors, I hope we can keep them for a lot longer too.