Trader Joe’s: a cure to my anxiety and woes

By ALIZAY JALISI | March 29, 2018

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Jalisi enjoys going to Trader Joes to recharge.


I carry my planner with me at all times. It’s like my blankie. You might ask, “What’s so special about 50 spiral bound pages?” To be honest, I’m not so attached to the physical planner itself as much as I am to the planning. Planning, organizing and sticking to a routine helps me navigate my everyday life with generalized anxiety disorder.

But regardless of the fact that I try to have everyday planned down to the hour, life isn’t always predictable. Inevitably, something might occur that I hadn’t expected, and that something might trigger an anxiety attack. The symptoms of my anxiety attacks typically include sweating, clammy palms, nausea, attaching an extreme amount of value to something that is commonplace or even trivial, along with an impending sense of doom. 

Let me share an example with you. On an otherwise unnoteworthy day in January, my planner told me that I was to receive an admissions decision from a dream school. As soon as I saw an email from this school pop up in my inbox, my heart started beating fast. The email read, “Dear Ms. Jalisi, your application status has been updated with an admissions decision. Please log in to your portal to view your status.” With shaking hands, I typed out my username, then password and finally clicked “submit.” Seconds, minutes, then hours passed by. The page was still loading. My palms were clammy, I gagged at the taste of bile in my throat. 

The page was still loading. The sense of dread crawled under my skin. I scratched myself furiously and wondered, “What do I do if they reject me? Maybe I should just drop out of the admissions process all together. What will my parents and my friends think if I drop out? And then what do I do with myself?” The page had loaded. I tried to take a deep breath and read what it said, but my eyes began to water. I saw the words on the page but couldn’t understand them. I tried again to read them, and it wasn’t until several minutes later that I processed that I had been waitlisted. There was still hope. I let out a huge sigh of relief and realized that I felt tired. 

After such an anxiety attack, there are a variety of things I like to do to recharge, such as removing myself from the triggering situation, discussing the trigger with my therapist or hiding my planner and doing something fun and spontaneous to take my mind off of it all together. My favorite distraction, though, is a trip to Trader Joe’s.

As soon as I step through the store’s automatic glass doors, I enter a world free of worries. I am greeted by the friendly aroma of the fruit section — melons, apples, pineapples, pears, oranges and bananas galore. As I pick up a few bananas, my gaze falls upon the mural painted on the wall behind the fruit. Even though I must have seen it a thousand times already in previous trips, I am caught unawares by the images of ravens, crabs, Camden Yards, other local landmarks and the colorful script which reads “Trader Joe’s.” 

As an eternally hungry college student, one of the most comforting things about Trader Joe’s is that I can find a glorious selection there of inexpensive yet high quality produce, cheeses, meat, frozen foods, beauty products — you name it. Trader Joe’s also makes and sells its own unique twists on snack-time favorites. There’s Joe-Joe’s, a creamier, sweeter version of Oreos with no artificial ingredients. But my personal favorite is the Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter cream cheese, which is a holiday season item. For me, there’s nothing quite as soothing as biting into a warm bagel coated with a layer of this smooth spread, with a cinnamon-like flavor reminiscent of another holiday favorite — gingerbread. 

Apart from their special foodstuffs, another thing I love about Trader Joe’s is that they employ people who appear markedly different from folks at other chain supermarkets at which I have shopped. Every time I head to the cashier counter, it’s clear to me that Trader Joe’s employment policies specifically embrace inclusivity. Seeing staff comfortably expressing themselves through exposed tattoos, body piercings, dreadlocks or pride flags makes me feel empowered, happy and free. 

By the time I exit through the same automatic glass doors, I’m a new woman. With my arms full of grocery bags, I head back into the scary world of emails, admissions decisions, slow computers and anxiety attacks, and I’m ready to munch through it all (at least as long as the groceries last).

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