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/

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

Resilient Leadership Wins, Part 1

“You must manage yourself before you can lead others.” Zig Ziglar

Your true leadership abilities or lack of them will reveal themselves in a crisis. 

At that moment when the crap hits the fan, you will either rise to the occasion or crash and burn. You will either be a resilient leader, or you will cower to the pressure.

I know this from personal experience as a Certified Corporate Response Specialist.

Over the past 12 years, I have responded to over 150 disruptive workplace events ranging from layoffs to mass shootings, and I have personally observed both exceptional and impotent leadership

In this article, I will give you some of the best researched and most up-to-date strategies for being ready for whatever crisis comes your way. You have both the joy and the responsibility to be a resilient leader to those you are responsible for. Why? Because resilient leaders make things happen in both their personal life and in the business world.

When you implement these principles, you will be able to be a compassionate, clear-headed leader, even on your worst day.

Preparing for “bad days” really means becoming more resilient both before, during, and after an adverse event, even natural human-made disasters. Being ready can be one of the most valuable things you can ever do, especially when facing potentially life-changing circumstances (Everly 2019).

In reviewing people and companies who have overcome adversity, there seem to be five core psychological/behavioral factors that leaders have to take their organization through tough times. Here they are:

  1. Active Optimism – the deep belief and conviction that life events will turn out well, primarily because one believes she/he can contribute and assist in making things turn out well. Active Optimism is much more than just a belief. It is a mandate for change. It is a gut reaction to move forward when others are retreating.
  2. Decisiveness – the ability to overcome the “paralysis by analysis and make difficult decisions. You must be decisive and act to move forward. You have to acquire the courage to make difficult decisions. Making these decisions is easier when you are rooted in your…
  3. Moral Compass – the ability to evaluate one’s actions against the gold standard of honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior. Once you make your decision/you will need to employ…
  4. Relentless Tenacity, Determination, and Grit. A key ingredient in being tenacious is knowing when to pursue a course of action, and when to quit. To discover hidden opportunities, build your resilience, and boost physical, spiritual, and psychological energy, you will need to rely on…
  5. Interpersonal Support – Who has your six o’clock, your back. While we are more connected than every before, research tells us that we are more lonely than any time in history. To be effective, you have to have to be connected to others.

Of these five, there are two that stood out as the most influential, and they were Active Optimism and Self Efficacy.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged Optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Paul’s reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active Optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, and the world is all rainbows and lollipops.”Dynamic Optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic Optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation. (Thurman 2017)

My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset. I do not believe it is a matter of faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my Optimism?

Part of developing active Optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. (Thurman 2017)

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they think they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking”patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration, you can make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history, and He has a vibrant, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.

From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset, here are four more ways to increase Active Optimism. (Thurman 2017)

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past achievements, no matter how small, are the building blocks for future achievements.

2. Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observe the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these years, she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression, and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their problems with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers, and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey confidence, which translates into proactive resilience.

So, what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.

I do provide private leadership coaching, if you ae interested in a free 30 minute consultation email me john@johnthurman.net. Type Free Consultation in the Subject Line.

Blessings.