All humans have the same basic needs. Three of our basic needs are for food, safety, and belonging.

Having a food allergy may put the fulfillment of these needs in conflict, and the conflict generates stress and anxiety.

Basic Needs and Food Allergy

Each of us is motivated to fulfill our needs – or the needs of our children – for food, safety, and belonging so we can thrive and enjoy life:

  • A variety of nutrient rich foods will energize and sustain us.
  • A safe environment allows us to survive, explore our world, and grow.
  • Love and belonging are necessary for good mental and emotional health.

These basic needs are of equal importance to our well being. So, when one is emphasized over the others it creates conflict—much like a sibling rivalry is created if one child gets more attention than the others.

Understandably, many people dealing with food allergies make a point of putting safety needs first. Although this may diminish worries about survival, any unmet needs related to nutrition and belonging will make themselves heard as physical or mental stress.

Minimizing Anxiety

Adults dealing with a food allergy understand this conflict. The need for survival is imperative—there is no getting around it. Yet, the needs for complete nutrition and social interaction are just as necessary for overall well-being.

The solution is a never-ending effort to keep the needs for food, safety, and belonging in balance—to meet all of them maybe imperfectly, but adequately. While accomplishing this, it may help to keep three things about anxiety in mind:

  1. Consider high anxiety a call to action. Though it can be difficult to move when anxiety is intense nothing relieves it better than action, such as creating or practicing an allergy emergency plan, carving out time to enjoy personal interests, learning to read food labels, or planning a family outing.
  2. Having some anxiety is not only inevitable, it serves a purpose. A moderate amount of anxiety makes us observant, questioning, diligent, and more likely to follow safety precautions. These attributes generate confidence to engage with the world.
  3. We each need to discover ways to reduce tension that work for us, and that we are willing to do. Breath work, yoga, gardening, tinkering with engines, baking, reading, bike riding, or Tai chi – anything that soothes the heart and mind – are activities we need to enjoy regularly.

If your anxiety becomes difficult to manage and interferes with everyday functioning, consider finding a local or online support group, or getting the help of a professional counselor.

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