When I was a little girl I would count the cans of food in the pantry. I remember doing this when I felt scared or insecure. Counting the cans of Green Giant vegetables somehow made me feel in control. Knowing that there was enough food in the house for my family was reasurring and comforting. I can’t tell you what worried me or caused me anxiety at that time. It wasn’t even something I remembered doing until I got older.
I had just moved into my first apartment and was worried about making enough money to take care of myself and seven-year-old brother. I was making dinner one night and he opened up the cabinet and said, “Wow, we have a lot of food. Look at all those cans!” That’s when I realized that subconsciously I bought way more cans of food than I needed. I did this when I was under a lot of stress. Today, what I think is funny, is noticing my husband will stock up on rice for no apparent reason. I guess every culture has its own idea of necessary food staples.
I bring this up because I think we are all trying to understand our sudden need to have as many rolls of toilet paper that we can get our hands on. This mass hysteria is happening all over the world as we all try to deal with this dangerous Coronavirus. Schools and businesses are shutting down. We are told that we should all try to stay at home as much as we can. We are all feeling powerless and unsure about the future.
Buying products that we know are not going to go to waste or deteriorate gives us some sense of control. Behavioral researchers Liam Smith and Celine Klemm explain it this way:
“We psychologically respond to scarcity. We hate missing out so when things are rare, particularly things we need, we chase them. Emotions can play a powerful role here. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve missed out on something we thought we should buy, and felt remorse. In behavioral sciences, this is known as anticipated regret and, if you can get people to feel it, it’s a powerful motivator. By making the purchase, in some small way we protect ourselves from this feeling of regret.”
As a society, we take cues from each other in emergency situations. We look to see what everyone else is doing and follow suit. The media is telling us to prepare by having enough supplies on hand for at least two weeks. When we see pictures and videos of empty store shelves it drives us to panic buy that much more.
When there is reassurance that supplies will continue to come in I think most of the panic will subside. It’s the unknown that is hard to anticipate and control in some way. Buying supplies is at least a sense of doing something that is proactive. We have to remember that everyone needs to be able to have access to goods as well. Try not to be selfish.
If you are staying home take advantage of some positive things you can do for yourself. This is a great time to try meditation and practicing mindfulness. It will help keep your stress level down which will help your immune system stay strong. If the weather is nice go for a walk in the park. Fresh air and exercise is important. At least right now we can go out as long as we can keep a safe distance from each other. Organize your closet. Call friends that you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Bake cookies!!! If you did buy lots of canned foods, (I know I did) find some great recipes to try.
This health crisis needs to be taken seriously and we can work together to get through it. Let’s look out for each other and do our best to stay calm. It’s hard not to feel in control but we can check in on our neighbors, take the necessary precautions and follow the guidelines by our health organizations. For more information go to the CDC Website
Stay healthy, my friends.