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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pray. People of various faith groups use prayer as a way to cultivate gratitude and enhance personal peace.
- 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/