Mind Matters with Kyle MacDonald: Hoarding for pandemic lockdowns and feeling stressed

Why do people hoard toilet paper and flour when we go into “lockdown”?

As a Covid-19 level change was announced on Sunday and Auckland went into level 3 “lockdown”, queues formed at supermarkets and petrol stations despite the fact that all those essential services would be open the next day.Photos of shelves emptied of flour and the inevitable panic about toilet paper may seem silly – but the feelings are very real.

We all react to the ongoing shifts in levels now part of our “new normal” in different ways, but some degree of anxiety is completely normal.Being at the mercy of things we cannot control is what fuels anxiety – having to follow lockdown orders, not being in charge of what we can do – and when – is deeply unsettling.

So, we control what we can and for some this means finding calm through feeling prepared.It doesn’t have to be rational, it only has to work by reducing anxiety through action and control.

There are a couple of other factors.In part there’s a contagion effect – not with the virus but the hoarding – as we see others rushing out to buy flour, we worry it will run out and our anxiety fuels a mass snowball effect of panic shopping.

I also think that a little magical thinking around the contagion of the virus is at play – that some people think – again irrationally – that heading out before the lockdown period is somehow safer than once the lockdown has officially begun.

But regardless of whether you’re a panic shopper or not, there’s a lesson here for all of us.

Anxiety is quelled by feeling in control.And, while the pandemic may have thrown us all outside our comfort zone, slowly and mindfully controlling what we can in our own little worlds is what we all need to feel safe.

My 8-year-old was refusing to engage in distance learning when we went to level 3, how do I get them to engage with online schooling if we lock down again?

One of the biggest challenges for parents during this pandemic is the sudden need to not only be working from home and managing a household in challenging circumstances butalso having to somehow be teachers to our children.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not throwing shade at teachers or the need to lock down – I am deeply grateful for the engagement our school has had through Auckland’s lockdowns – but it is an additional pressure.

However, a few days – or weeks – of interrupted study is not going to ruin your child’s future.Nor will lazing around the house in front of a screen destroy their brain.

We’re living through an exceptional global event – it’s okay to just get through the day.Give your kids some choice over what they do and help them tick off the basics: food, physical activity and sleep.

And most importantly make sure they feel safe, heard and stay connected with their friends.

The recent level changes have really knocked me. Why do I feel exhausted all the time?

It’s become a well-known feature of the global pandemic: the emotional impact.It’s been called, by various experts, “societal pandemic burnout” or simply “emotional exhaustion.”

So you’re certainly not alone.

And even though it’s possible to make all sorts of international comparisons and tell ourselves we “shouldn’t” feel this way, it doesn’t help.

Much of our day-to-day routines happen on relative auto-pilot – we get up, go to work, come home – we fall into patterns we don’t have to think too much about.

Having to change – and change suddenly as we have this week – is exhausting and requires deliberate effort, more thought and, as a result, more energy.

So go easy on yourself and don’t expect too much.And as far as possible, try and settle into a new routine, giving yourself a day or two to adjust as the levels change: it’s normal and okay to need that.

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