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2021 FAAW Tips from the Food Allergy Counselor

Shopping basket being pulled in grocery store

Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) 2021 may be over, but the education and advocacy efforts won't stop! Together, we will continue to educate the general public and work to make a difference in the lives of those managing food allergies and allergic conditions.

As part of this community, here is my ongoing commitment to this effort:

  • I will continue to think outside of the box to offer new allergy-related psychosocial guidance and tips; 

  • I will continue to create practical resources beneficial for those managing allergies and for allergy clinics to share with their patients; 

  • I will continue to actively be involved in efforts to emphasize the need for multidisciplinary allergy care; 

  • I will continue to educate licensed behavioral healthcare providers about food allergies and the support needs of the food allergy community;

  • I will continue to help grow the food allergy counseling niche to increase the number of allergy-informed licensed behavioral healthcare providers available to support this community

I commit to continuing to be a change maker regarding food allergy mental health - having conversations, building relationships, identifying the gaps, and then helping to fill them!

In the meantime, if you've missed any of the 2021 FAAW tips offered this week, you can review them all below, including the additional guidance offered for each one. 

DAY 1 - Sunday, May 9th, 2021: 

In honor of all of you amazing allergy moms, and the first day of Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW), here are the results from the 1st question on the "2020 Food Allergy Mom Experience Survey". What do you think of these results? Why do you think 57% of moms surveyed felt allergy moms don't speak up about their experiences enough? (Full anonymous survey answers will be shared in an upcoming blog post). Check out Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast episode 15 for full results from the moms' survey. Find it on the Podcast page or on any podcast app - Apple Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, etc

DAY 2 - Monday, May 10th, 2021:

Today's FAAW tip is focused on reframing anxious allergy thoughts. Let's start with some helpful reminders about anxiety:

  • Anxiety is a useful emotion that helps us assess for safety and prepares and motivates us toward action

  • Just because we feel physical sensations of anxiety or experience anxious thoughts, doesn't mean things are bad or will go wrong

  • It may not be realistic (or useful) to aim to completely get rid of anxiety; it's more realistic to learn how to manage it or create a new relationship with it

One helpful strategy for managing anxious allergy thoughts is to reframe them. To help your mind develop more workable responses to them. Even the tiniest of mindset shifts can result in unhooking from the worry enough so you can focus on ways to move forward rather than stay stuck.

You can find the following worksheets (and more) to help manage allergy anxiety and worry in The FAC's Shop:

  • Managing Food Allergy Worries & What Ifs Worksheet

  • Food Allergy Thinking Traps Worksheet

  • Food Allergy Mindset Matters Worksheet

  • Oral Food Challenge anxiety-specific worksheets

DAY 3 - Tuesday, May 11th, 2021:

Today's FAAW tip is all about the urge to control when we feel overwhelmed, anxious, or fearful of allergies. This is usually triggered by the unpredictability and uncertainty that comes along with food allergy life. Wouldn't it be ideal if we could always control every risk possible? Unfortunately, that's not a realistic goal, nor is it helpful! While trying to control things may decrease the discomfort you feel from the worry, it's a temporary relief that usually leads to increased and growing anxiety over time. More and more energy goes into trying to stay ahead of everything, and when that gets too hard, avoiding people, places and things will start happening. Trying to control also robs you of opportunities to learn and grow - to focus on figuring out what you need to confidently get through tough situations (or thoughts/feelings). Rather than aiming to control, think about having influence or impact on situations, especially daunting ones.

COMMUNITY CHALLENGE: The image below is just an example to help you process your own list for yourself, or if you're a parent, for your child. Grab a sheet of paper, draw the image below, and have fun exploring just how much impact you have on your ability to decrease anxiety and increase confidence!

DAY 4 - Wednesday, May 12th, 2021:

Wednesday's FAAW tip focuses on your food allergy mindset because it matters!

Ask yourself these questions to help assess your allergy mindset:

  • Do you think you/your child's life can't be normal?

  • How do you feel about managing a reaction?

  • How does your child feel about managing their food allergy?

These questions relate to your mindset, or whether you believe the qualities you possess make you capable of handling situations. People can have a "fixed" or "growth" mindset. Think of these as the type of glasses you're wearing - the lenses with which you see things.

When wearing "fixed mindset" glasses, you're more likely to believe that you're not able to deal with whatever you're being faced with. With "growth mindset" glasses on, you're better able to envision yourself getting through roadblocks that are standing in your way. Our mindset may change depending on situations we're in or experiences we've previously had. You may feel confident navigating some parts of life with food allergies while feeling incapable of managing the aspects that you're most fearful of. But by subscribing to a growth mindset, you're allowing yourself the ability to grow confidence, manage anxiety, and essentially handle even the hardest of situations.

Community Challenge: Pick one allergy-related thought to try and reframe it into a growth mindset-focused thought. If you're a parent, help your child use growth-mindset language - "I'm not comfortable with this, YET!" or "I'm still learning by practicing with my epi!"

To help practice this concept, you can download the "FA Mindset Matters" worksheet from The FAC's Shop. To read more about growth mindset, look up Carol Dweck and her books.

DAY 5 - Thursday, May 13th, 2021: 

Thursday's FAAW tip offers a problem-solving method that's helpful when the fear and anxiety feel overwhelming. When you need to make a decision but your emotions are taking over, having a problem-solving tool to help navigate the scenario can be beneficial. That's where the I.D.E.A.L. Method comes in! This technique helps define the main problem in a situation and guides you through creating and evaluating solutions. Essentially, it helps you look at things more objectively.

Benefits of the I.D.E.A.L. Method:

  • It's an easy-to-use tool that you can use yourself, teach to your child/teen, or even use as a family when there's a decision needs to be made

  • It aids in balancing the emotions and the facts - essentially helping you become "unstuck"

  • By using this tool, it helps decrease the power of the fearful emotions and increase the focus on where you DO have control or impact in a situation

Community Challenge: Choose something you feel stuck navigating lately and use the I.D.E.A.L Method steps to help you feel less stuck and better able to consider potential solutions. The "I.D.E.A.L. Method " worksheet can be found in The FAC's Shop.

DAY 6 - Friday, May 14th, 2021: 

Friday's FAAW tip has to do with processing the emotions associated with your or your child's food allergy diagnosis. 

Avoiding allergens is helpful, but avoiding emotions isn't!

Of course, you can recall the feelings you felt the day you learned about the food allergy, but have you connected with the stories that came out of it? When we experience something as emotional as a life-changing diagnosis, there's often a narrative that our mind attaches to - sometimes so quickly that we don't even notice it. It just sort of sneaks in and we don't take time to acknowledge it, let alone process it. In the case of food allergies, we immediately jump into action - doing, learning, avoiding, protecting. We may process the surface thoughts and feelings, but the deeper emotions and stories likely stay put because there's no time or energy for that work.

But what happens when we don't make the time to process them? They find ways to come back up, especially when we feel vulnerable, such as after another reaction or during a life transition that leads to increased emotions again. And those stories we told ourselves about our early experiences with food allergies have the ability to impact our allergy mindset - changing how we manage it all in the future. Yes, it's uncomfortable to revisit that time in our minds, but it can help unhook you from unhelpful narratives that may keep you from moving forward in the way you want to on this allergy journey, especially if those narratives are focused on blame, guilt, and self-judgment. This image shows some of the emotions and diagnosis narratives that may be experienced. This isn't an exhaustive list, so use it as a starting point to help you identify your own. Use self-compassion and kindness with yourself as you process these, just as you'd offer a friend. Notice if you're still holding onto anything internally that's keeping you stuck, pushing you around, or derailing you from being the allergic person or parent you want to be.

If you feel you need the support of processing this with a licensed therapist, you can find an allergy-informed one via the Food Allergy Counselor Directory. [May 2024 update: the directory can now be found at]

DAY 7 - Saturday, May 15th, 2021: 

Saturday's FAAW tip offers a post-reaction compass to help rebuild confidence and decrease anxiety after anaphylaxis through the T.R.A.C.E. approach.

It's very common to feel like a reaction, anaphylactic or not, has set you back emotionally and decreased your willingness to live fully due to fear of another reaction. This is a normal response to a traumatic situation, so allowing yourself to honor those thoughts and feelings is a part of the healing process. But once the initial overwhelm from the reaction settles a bit, it's important to create your game plan to build your confidence again. Without this step, you risk staying stuck, hooked by fear and catastrophizing thoughts that keep you unable to truly move forward in a way that benefits yourself and/or your child.

T.R.A.C.E. is an easy way to remember the key components of this rebuilding process. It takes time to rebuild trust, get back to a routine, review with your allergist, practice tons of compassion, educate yourself on anxiety, and fill the knowledge gaps.

You can find a free downloadable PDF version of T.R.A.C.E. in The FAC's Shop.


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