Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear

Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear. How One Practice can Give You Peace.

How One Practice can Give You Peace in Turbulent Times


Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear, what a crazy title for a crazy time! In this article, I will reveal one practice that can give you peace in turbulent times. It is a practice that resilient people have used for centuries.

What a week! Whoever thought there would be short-term shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And could you ever imagined that we would be starting Shut Down 2020!

There are some explanations for these behaviors, as well as some solutions that I will be discussing in this post.

Who in their wildest imagination would ever dream that Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear would ever be a title for an article?

It has been weird to see friends posted things like “Toilet paper at Kroger! Or even better, “Don’t go to store Costco or Sam’s they have no TP.

So, why are people doing this!

The short answer is drunk people, and panicked people have one thing in common, they make Stupid Decisions!

In the past few days, there have been some exceptional articles on this process.

Multiple sources have quoted the consumer psychologist Paul Marsden demo raw University of Arts, London, who says the short answer can be found in the psychology of “retail therapy”-where we buy to manage our emotional state.[i]

It is all about the perception of “taking back control” in a world that a least for the moment seems to bye spinning out of control. These types of behaviors, accord ding to Marsden, are best understood as playing to our three basic psychological needs. The two, most basic being psychological needs like food, water, shelter, and rest. The second, according to Maslow, is the need for safety and security.

One reason for this reactivity is what we in the mental health field call fear contagion, a phenomenon decelerated by a 24-hour news cycle and airwaves fill with pundit input. When folks are stress their brain hunkers down, their reasoning becomes restricted, and crowd think sinks in and takes over. If others are stockpiling, it draws you into the same herd mentality kicks in. When you always hear stories of empty shelves and panic, you can get swept into the craziness.

According to Dimitrios Tsivrikos, who lectures in business psychology at the University College of London, toilet paper has become the “icon” of this mass panic.

When uncertainty is in the air, people slip into the panic zone; when that happens, it makes them irrational and completely neurotic.

When there is a natural disaster, like a hurricane, blizzard, most people can prepare because we have a pretty good idea of what we might need. Things like extra water, food, medication, and cash. However, when we have something like a relatively unknown virus, a deep primal fear slowly creeps into our minds, and we get a little crazy.

Truthfully, one reason for this is the result of some mixed messaging coming from our governmental leaders. One truth about crisis management, there is a lot of confusion in the early days, and I think, because of that and a 24-hour news cycle, incremental and sometimes incomplete information goes viral.

Two things drive the toilet paper frenzy, how we think and feel in the moment influence our behaviors.

When there is this deep type of fear, the need for self-affirmation, and independence, it can drive us to do some fairly bizarre things like buying six month’s worth of toilet paper.

So what do we need to do?

First, hit the pause button! You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Second, learn to live in the present.

I am reminded of the Scripture I learned as a boy. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and glad in it. Psalm 118:24 NLT

In modern culture, we hear things like: “

Don’t get caught up in overthinking about the past or the future.”

Be mindful in this moment. Resilient people realize they cannot always control their environment, but they can control their response to it.

Live for the day, Carpe Diem. Which originated with the Roman Poet Horace. In Latin, the phrase literally means to Pluck the day (as it is ripe). Enjoy and embrace the day.

So, from the ancient writing of scripture, early Roman poetry, ads, modern psychology, the message is to live in this present moment. Not dwelling in the past or fretting about the future, but being in the day, a task that can be tough in these modern times

With the rapid global expansion of the Coronavirus, not to mention the crazy pace of the twenty-first century, it is no easy task. We are constantly bombarded with little pop-ups of expectations, which like bugs spattering on your windshield, can be a distraction.

I believe it comes back to having a Carpe Diem type of day.

Living in the moment has been a piece sage-like wisdom for about as long as men and women have walked the earth.

Living in the present moment means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening in this moment, this day. It means that I am not distracted by my past or the future.

Being present in this moment in your life is the key to staying healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. It helps in fighting anxiety, worry, and ruminating over the “what if’s, and if only’s. 

Why It’s Tough to Live in the Present

Living in the day that the Lord has given us is tough because we are always encouraged to think about our past or worry about the future. After all, what will you do if you don’t have toilet paper? 

If you don’t believe me think about how many times your smartphone has interrupted you today, voicemail, breaking news, social media updates, so many different alert sand notices that for the most part, add no value to your day or life. Maybe we need to turn them off for a few hours a day. 

A few weeks ago, I was training a work team made up of former military and law enforcement personnel. In the middle of my talk, I heard about 8 Fox News, Breaking News alerts. The group sheepishly smiled, and I said something like, “So how many of you really needed that news tip?

Before I dig deeper, let me say that living in the present is much like riding a bicycle, you are never perfectly balanced, but you are continually using large and small muscle groups to maintain balance.

With that in mind, how do we balance living in the present, with all of the distraction, from day to day living to manage our response to the Coronavirus?

As a Christ Follower, I am reminded of one particular, powerful, and practical verse, 2 Timothy 1:7 from the Amplified Bible.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”

God has given us the power, will, and ability to do what we need to do. But, we have to make an effort, put in the time, and discipline to manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotion.

Simply said, trust God, use wisdom, wash your hands, keep your distance, shop wisely.

Right now, I want you to stop reading and think.

Be still for just a moment, focus on getting four good, deep breaths. 

Now, focus on three things that you are grateful for. Take another sixty seconds and thank the Lord for something that you are thankful for.

Research from multiple sources has discovered, once again, that the ancient practices of meditation and gratitude lead to better mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.[ii] Resilient people practice gratitude.

So, here are some proven, practical things that you can do, as we move into Shut Down 2020.

  1. Write a handwritten note, thanking someone for the impact they have had on your life. It is one way of social distancing that is exceptionally personal and intimate. Oh, and you might even write one to yourself.
  2. Reflect and mentally thank someone. Just the positive thoughts of what others have done for you is a great way to relax and recalibrate in these stressful times.
  3. Begin a gratitude journal. In the words of a very old hymn, Count Your Blessings[iii]We are reminded that when we are thankful, we feel better. Keep a hand-written journal of things you are grateful for, I promise, it will lighten your load and soothe your mind.
  4. Pray. People of various faith groups use prayer as a way to cultivate gratitude and enhance personal peace.
  5. Meditate. Learn to focus on the moment, and as a Christ Follower, imagine the Lord is present with you at the moment.

Here are some additional things you can do to experience a sense of Carpe’ Diem by meditation.

  • Set aside a regular block of time, say five minutes, when you rise and when you are preparing to go to bed. A quiet time.
    • Get in a comfortable position-not too comfortable. Sitting up is the best way. NOTE: One of the best books I have recently read on this is titled  Two Chairs: The Secret that Changes Everything, by Mike Beaudine.
    • Focus on the sounds you hear, slow your brain down and repeat slowly something like, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” four times, slowly.
    • As you are sitting quietly and focusing on this truth, allow yourself to relax, focus on your bodily sensations, the pressure of the cushion, the feel of your clothing on your skin, the sounds and smells of your surrounding, as well as any other sensations that you might be feeling. The remember, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    • Turn your focus to the thoughts in your head; the things on your heart let them swirl around for a minute and then allow them to exit your mind, knowing that “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    • Finally, focus on your breathing, and for my fellow Christ Followers, remember that one-word picture for the Holy Spirit is the breath of God. So as you breathe out the fear, anxiety, and doubt, breathe in the power of God and biblical principles into your life.

These are unique times, to say the least. I’d love for you to leave a comment about the article, or even better share some things that you are doing to keep your sanity.


[i] Taylor, Taylor, 2020, March 11. Here’s why people are panic buy-in g and stockpiling toilet paper to cope with coronavirus fears. Retrieved March 13, 2020: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html

[ii] Healthbeat: Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Medical School; retrieved March 14, 2020; https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

[iii] Oatman, Johnson, Jr, (1897), Count Your Blessings; retrieved March 10, 2020; https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Count_Your_Blessings/

Resilience at Work

Image of resilience at work
Diagram of Resilience at Work

Have you experienced an increase in workplace stress? Does the notion of Work-Life balance make sense to you or just some weird sort of pipe dream? Do you feel like you can be a success in your chosen field? Or, do you like so many, spend time mining Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat looking for that magic idea that will help them make Six Figures?

So how can a person become successful in their chosen field or in any area? How can you be more resilient at work? The answer may surprise you!

Like so many of my generation and the generations that have followed we were told that that “secret to success” is being smart, talented, and going above and beyond the requirements of the job, taking additional tasks, and maybe even sacrifice your personal time for the good of the organization.

Sounds like the Sirens of the Odyssey, distractions from the digital wasteland beckon us to follow some types of “path to riches.” 

There is no doubt that there is a rapid increase in work-related stress. I know, because I have worked as an Employee Assistance Consultant for several years. A big part of that job is helping both employees and employers find ways to increase productivity and positive outcomes while at the same time, minimizing the effects of stress. This is one reason that the workplace is seeing the rapid growth of Work-Life presentations and training.

Just think about the past 10 years, the workplace has been impacted with furloughs, downsizing, massive technological advances along with monumental shift is the way business is done. The “Amazonification” of the retail work has shaken many traditional business models. Globalization has had an impact on all manner of business from small mom and pop shops, governmental agencies, as well as such well older, established nationally branded companies. On an even deeper level, the rapidly escalating field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be taking us places that we have never imagined.

Whew! That last paragraph made me feel some stress!

With all of these changes, you must learn how to increase your capacity to manage stress and become more resilient.

Resilience is a word that has been thrown around for years but began to become more prominent after 911.

Resilience is the ability to face adversity and work-related challenges and not only bounce back, but to experience personal growth.

The workplace, whether in a manufacturing plant or the corner office or a high-rise offers a broad range of stressors to people. 

From meeting production quotas to dealing with the ever-changing landscape of various service-related business to the work of big business and governmental agencies, we are seeing a dramatic increase in stress-related issues.

So, what does resilience in the workplace look like? Why is it important? Is it possible for a person to become more resilient?

Here is some promising news!

Resilience is both a mindset and a skill that can be strengthened. As with any life skill, resilience can be enhanced with practice.

Resilience is an active, fluid, and dynamic process.

So, what sets a resilient employee apart from everybody else?

Resilient employees have made healthy connections and have a variety of relationships, both on and off the job. The trademark of these supportive relationships is that there is a history of excellent, two-way communication.

Resilient workers will do what they can do to help others, they are consistent team players.

Another quality of resilient workers that they understand the importance of social support at work, home, and in the community.

They understand the benefits of developing both personal and professional networks, which can be a significant source of guidance, support, and accountability at all times, whether gold or bad.

Some additional qualities of resilient workers are that they habitually demonstrate the ability to build trust with others. One of the unique findings in the research was that resilient team members don’t take work too seriously. They generally tend to be “playful” at times[i], which increases the overall sense of positivity in the workplace.

The modern workplace is stressful. Technology, the rapid & immense shifts in the way we do business, can be a constant source of stress. Rare is the individual who starts a career in one place and stays there until they are retirement eligible unless they are government workers or military.

Employees who are resilient have an ability to managing stress effectively and to keep pressure from becoming detrimental and overwhelming. They are more likely to focus on self-care, after a stressful event. In other words, they take kinetic and focused measures to avoid compassion fatigue and, worse, burnout.

A final characteristic of a resilient employee is they are authentic and strive to behave in a way that is consistent with their core values. They practice what they preach.

They have grit!

Have you ever wondered what grit is? It goes hand in hand with be resilient.

According to the research of psychologist Susan Kobasa, three elements appear to be essential when we look at grit to exist: challenge, personal control, and commitment. Kobasa called these the three ‘Cs.’[ii]

Commitment.  They have a sense of purpose in their life.  They are committed to their dreams and tackle challenges head-on. Part of the reason hardy people can stay in the game and persist in their coping efforts is that as a group, they are committed to an active, engaged stance towards life. They feel that their life has a purpose (whatever shape that may be). That purpose motivates them to actively attempt to influence their surroundings and to persevere even when their attempts to influence their surroundings don’t appear to be working out. A person who has no purpose in life –no motivation and no commitment –will not be able to lead a resilient life. On the other hand, resilient people find meaning in their activities even when faced with significant adversity precisely because they are committed to taking an active, problem-solving approach to life.

Challenge. Individuals with grit have a sense of purpose in life see problems as challenges, and they devote time, effort and energy into solving them

They are connected to their dreams and their mission. They tackle things head-on.  People with grit remain involved in an endeavor despite stressful circumstances such as changes in the marketplace, business systems, and the economy. People lacking grit tend to pull back from their dream or opportunity and drift into isolation or alienation.  People with grit view stress as a challenge that they can potentially overcome when they can understand it correctly. Their habit of looking at problems to be overcome motivates them to address the causes of their stress in positive ways.

I remember one of my early mentors who used to continually say things like, “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities to grow, excel, and learn.

This active approach to life challenges may be contrasted with the more common approach, where stress and problems are viewed as an unfortunate, overwhelming, or even paralyzing force that overwhelms rather than motivates.

Personal Control.  Gritty people believe they are in charge of and responsible for their lives and that they have the power to change it. They understand that they cannot control what happens to them. They can only control their response to it. If they don’t have the skill sets to do something, they will go out of their way to get them.

As a group, people with grit people, people who are resilient tend to accept challenges and to work to overcome and master them. Even when true mastery of a challenge is not possible (e.g., when a situation is not possible to control), gritty people work to find what possibilities do exist for mastery and pursue them. When faced with the loss of employment, a hardy, or resilient person would seize upon opportunities for exploring new employment options rather than become depressed and demoralized.

How about you? Do you consider yourself a person with grit, are you someone who exemplifies hardiness? In your work and personal life, are you resilient?

In my next post, I will share the seven secrets to building resilience in your day to day life.



[i] Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardinessJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1 [http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1980-21134-001]

Coronavirus & Telework

Coronavirus and telework

Preparing for Telework

Some proven practices from resilient teleworkers.

The Coronavirus news is penetrating every aspect of our culture from the ancient liturgical customs of the common cup of communion to avoiding crowds. I tend to agree with the medical professionals who are realistic but calm. To be resilient citizens and workers, we need to do the things we can to control the spread of this virus. As a life-saving measure, your company or agency may choose to allow teleworking.

So with the numbers increasing every day, there is a reasonably good chance, at least in some parts of the country that businesses and governmental agencies will move to more teleworking, at least for some time.

With that in mind, I took some time to do some research on good teleworking habits. My goal is to help you become a more resilient worker and manager.

These are from multiple sources as well as from my own work as a Worklife Consultant with numerous governmental agencies.

This article will focus on both employees and managers.

12 TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE TELEWORKING

  1. Dress for work. This helps you get prepared for your regular business hours physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Set normal business hours. Be clear with family and friends that you have certain periods during the day that you cannot be disturbed. One friend actually has a home office in an open space in her home has a homemade sign that says, “DO NOT DISTURB!’ And on the other side, “COME ON IN!” This helps her be able to focus and get work tasks done.
  3. Try “Chunking!” Our human brain works best when we break up a task or day by chunking. Chunking is a process where you take 25 minutes and drill in and focus on your task or project and then walkway for five minutes. This system helps you lower your distraction and really dig into the task at hand, and it has a built-in break of 5 minutes every half an hour. Now you may be tempted to go for fifty minutes and take a ten-minute break. Still, many time management experts feel that the break every thirty minutes actually makes you more productive and increases your personal sense of accomplishment. 
  4. Zone In and focus on the tasks at hand. For me, that sometimes means turning off my iPhone and turning off any notifications for messages and emails. It is amazing, when I do this, I can get tasks done quickly and usually ahead of schedule.
  5. Maximize your use of technology. If this is an area that needs improvement, teleworking is a great way to enhance your skills and use of technology. Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and other virtual meeting places can keep you and your coworkers both connected and on task.
  6. Stay out of the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom. Work in your home office, or designated space. Who knows, you can do chores if you finish early.
  7. Purchase some inexpensive noise-canceling headphones, if you are easily distracted by noise.
  8. Manage your workload. Many times, we can complete tasks in a more timely manner when we telework because of fewer work-related distractions.
  9. Be intentional about staying in touch with your manager/supervisor and coworkers.
  10. Avoid going to non-work appointments during working hours. 
  11. This one is a little weird, but I have been told it works. Take the time that it usually takes you to get to work, and use that time to help you prepare for your teleworking. For example, if you leave the house at 7:30 and arrive at work at 8:00, use that time to prepare yourself for work. Try not to use if for chores.
  12. Move around when you take your breaks.

5 Tips for Leaders and Managers

  1. Use NATO for a way of leading team meetings. Nature, Agenda, Time, and Outcomes. This helps you stay on time, keep your focus, and helps all participants feel that the meeting was timely and productive.
  2. When holding team meetings, rotate facilitators. This not only maintains individual and group accountability but gives everybody’s voice a chance to be heard and is an excellent way for emerging leaders to develop.
  3. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings, This is a great way to have direct, personal contact with your team members.
  4. Be creative in finding ways for team members to connect, while teleworking. If feasible and practical, try to have some gathering while teleworking. That is if it is safe and appropriate.
  5. Don’t forget the importance of appropriate praise and recognition for the team. Whether texting, messaging, or on team calls, make sure you acknowledge the work of your organization. This is an excellent way towards building morale and can go a long way in keeping the team connected and concerned for each other.

For the latest CDC Reports on Coronavirus