How To Deal With "Kitchen Anxiety" If You Have Roommates

Forgot ketchup? Oh well!

TikTokers are connecting over their kitchen anxiety.
Getty Images/The Good Brigade

If you’ve ever waited for your housemates to go to bed before venturing out of your room to make dinner at an unreasonable hour, congrats — you’ve experienced kitchen anxiety. And judging by the fact “kitchen anxiety” has over 30 billion views on TikTok, so have a lot of other people.

Kitchen anxiety can set in when you live in an apartment or house with a shared kitchen. It’s basically the fear of running into a roommate — and being perceived or engaging in small talk, shudder — while you make coffee, fry an egg, or prepare dinner. It doesn’t necessarily mean you dislike your roommate or that there’s anything truly wrong. It’s just that you prefer not to have an audience while you cook, eat, or unpack groceries.

Other symptoms of kitchen anxiety might include mild shaking while you wash dishes, extensive Google searches for mini fridges meant to store private snacks, and the indescribable urge to get out of the kitchen and back to your room as quickly as possible. Forgot ketchup? Oh well! When you have kitchen anxiety, there’s no turning back. (I mean, what if your roommate’s in there?)

If all of this hits too close to home, keep reading for expert intel on how you can combat kitchen anxiety, once and for all.

How To Deal With Kitchen Anxiety

Kitchen anxiety can run the gamut from slight discomfort — like when your roommate is also trying to make dinner and you’re worried about getting in their way — to full-on sweaty palm panic when you think about going into common areas when anyone else is in there.

According to psychotherapist Samantha Nusom, LCSW, the latter is more likely to happen if there’s some tension among your roomies, if you’re generally self-conscious or anxious, or if you’ve been in stressful living situations in the past. Kitchen anxiety can make it tough to cook, tough to relax, and even tougher to enjoy your home.

If you have a mild case, it’s totally OK to wait until the coast is clear before you schlepp into the kitchen. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a moment of peace while you wait for your toast to pop. But if you catch yourself hiding away in your room and living off a stash of granola bars, Nusom suggests chatting with your roommates about how you feel. (Do it via text, if you like.)

When you let your roommates know what’s up, you create a moment of understanding, Nusom says. Who knows — you might even find out that they also have kitchen anxiety. If that’s the case, you can work together to come up with a few house rules to ease the stress, possibly by establishing kitchen hours so everyone gets their own chance to cook in sweet, sweet silence.

If you can’t (or don’t want) to talk it out, Nusom says it might help to take a quick, pre-kitchen deep breath in order to ground yourself and let go of jitters. Stand at your bedroom door, breathe in, envision the tacos that are waiting for you in the fridge, then boldly step out into the hallway. While it might not make your anxiety go away, it’ll let your mind know that it’s possible to survive your trip to the kitchen.