For those of us who are forced to be at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, adjusting to our new reality has not been easy. The loss of control we feel over what is happening around us and to us can sometimes result in negative behaviors such as panic buying. This reaction is less about worrying that common household products will no longer be available in stores and much more about feeling that we are in control of something, no matter how small that is. This becomes even more important when the situation we are in feels like it has shifted from being complex to becoming chaotic.
FDR said the “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself“. It’s one thing if you have a fear of a transitory event such as fear of a spider. Once the threat is eliminated, adrenaline subsides and things return to normal. This pandemic will linger for weeks or even months and if we allow our fears to cause us to behave in irrational or obsessive ways, we very likely could do greater long term damage to ourselves.
Panic buying is just one of many possibly unwholesome outlets for these fears. Binge eating, drinking, watching TV or obsessively cleaning surfaces are other possibilities. Worse still, some people might resort to spending excessive amounts of time watching videos, listening to podcasts and following social media updates about the disease. While it is understandable for us to want to remain informed as to what’s going on, we need to remember that the Internet and popular media provide a distorted, imbalanced lens into what the world is really like. It can be easy for us to fall into the vicious cycle where the more negative updates we receive, the worse we feel and the worse we feel, the more we seek updates that reinforce our views about how bad things are.
Under normal conditions we establish daily routines to reduce decision-making effort. During these challenging times, whether we are working from home or are in the unfortunate situation of not being able to work, identifying and implementing healthy routines will help us feel that we have regained some control and can be something that we look forward to each day.
I’ve been a gym rat since my early twenties hence I took the closing of all public gyms in my area particularly hard. Spring hasn’t fully sprung yet, so there are limited opportunities for me to exercise outdoors. I also happen to have a sweet tooth so it would have been very easy for me to suffer the double whammy of not exercising and binge-eating desserts to deal with the frustration of not being able to exercise! While this might make me feel temporarily better, it would take me months to get back into my daily workout routine (and shape!) once things improve. I’ve adapted my daily routine by waking up early and exercising in my basement for at least a half hour each day. I’ve also reduced how much baking I’m doing in the hopes that easier access does not translate to greater consumption. And even though these daily workouts represent only a fraction of my waking hours, the comfort and regularity of this routine gives me the mental strength I need to get through the rest of my day.
Discover one or two positive activities that you can perform each and every day and stick with them.
Control your fears before they control you.