One day entire cruise ships are under quarantine, another day there is a 30-day travel ban from Europe, and March 11 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the CoronaVirus COVID-19 is a pandemic. State-wide schools are closed, the NBA suspended the rest of its season, most all gatherings and events are canceled. People are running to the grocery store and buying up all of the hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
How do we keep ourselves calm so we can lead our flock by example?
It is easy to get swept up in the frenzied energy of it all no matter if you are hearing the updates through the news at work/home or you are stopping by the store to pick up a few things at the store only to find the most all the shelves pretty bare - the meat department, paper products, any type of cleaning products were almost gone when I stopped by the store this morning on my way to work. I knew I was in trouble when I had to drive around the parking lot looking for a parking spot in the back. While standing in line, I overheard people sharing DIY hand sanitizer recipes which, if effective, wouldn’t be that scary. But, when I hear people talking about using vodka in their DIY hand sanitizer because everywhere is out of isopropyl alcohol and, “what else could they substitute as the main ingredient in their DIY hand sanitizer?” I am shaken. How did panic buying set in?
Pandemic. What does that really mean? What do we know? The current pandemics are HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 but others in history include the bubonic plague, smallpox, as well as other flu including the Spanish Flu from the early 1900s. So, we know there is a very real threat from the Coronavirus. At the same time, we are being told that there is no ‘cure’ which leaves us feeling uncertain, helpless in the face of ambiguity, as if we have no control over our situation. Essentially, there are two things we can address: reduce the uncertainty or increase our sense of control.
If we try to reduce uncertainty, how do we do that? First, we need to understand that it is normal for people to panic when faced with uncertainty. However, when people in a consumer culture are faced with uncertainty, it makes sense that so many of us resort to panic buying because that is the answer to many of our concerns. Thirsty? Buy something to drink. Injured? Buy some medical supplies or medical services. Sick? Buy medication. The problem with Coronavirus is that there is no “cure” and we as a consumer society, don’t know how to accept that.
“When we feel uncertain of something, we resort to things that increase our sense of control." One way to both reduce uncertainty and increase our sense of control is to increase our knowledge and understanding of the problem. Actively doing something that changes our circumstances increases our sense of control because we are able to change our environment. Buying qualifies as doing something. Thankfully, however, there are other things we can do that will empower us to feel more in control of our destinies: