Why Do We Hoard Toilet Rolls?

Did you do any panic buying at the start of the Corona crisis? I didn’t hoard toilet paper for the first 2 weeks of the Corona pandemic… but then I did. Well, “hoard” might be an uncomfortable word but as a one person and a cat household I have  enough to last at least a month.  In the first weeks I felt self righteous about NOT hoarding but as the shelves emptied my fear and angst grew and I’d do a few early morning raids, obeying the restrictions but buying more than I need of nearly everything. Why? Apart from the criminals who bought 25,000 packs of toilet paper hoping to profit on the black market, why do everyday people like myself panic buy?

One of the wonderful things about this sheltering from the storm  period is that I can explore new podcasts and resources. A friend pointed  me in the direction of a podcast series called The Happiness Lab with Dr Laurie Santos. In these podcasts she interviews different specialists about topics related to understanding human behaviour specifically happiness. The series is excellent because it has a sound scientific research base and very credible presenters. You can find it on Spotify or Apple.

Shopping Centre in a Corona Virus World

One episode is called Checking in with Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical school who answers the questions about why we hoard at times of crisis.

Here’s a summary of what she says…….

At this time of crisis is normal for people to feel panic, sadness, grief and powerlessness. How do we cope with these overwhelming feelings? We seek social immunity and look around at what others are doing. We copy the behaviour  and emotions of others around us because it’s a way of taking action and self protecting. It’s called Social Contagion. The virus is front and centre of our experience at the moment and we work hard to avoid the things that make us fearful. But remember fear and panic are there to serve a purpose- to help us survive. This is great on an individual level.

In a social context though, our values about sharing, equal access, and fairness come in to play. So we create the narrative that will moderate our individualistic behaviour….There has to be enough for everyone. Don’t be greedy….

Susan David then outlines the steps we can take to protect us from social contagion, from the self protective mechanisms like hoarding.

  1. Notice your feelings– be compassionate with yourself. Notice what level of fear/ grief/ anger you are feeling that day. Its just a feeling. It’s not a fact. It can and will change. Notice it. Name it. Walk forward with it. Expect the feeling to change.
  2. Ground yourself in the present– the here and now. What will I achieve today? I was telling a friend on one of my virtual coffee chats that I felt great because I had finally cleaned my hob today and even polished its brass knobs!
  3. Plan for the future- You will travel again in the future. You will celebrate your birthday with others. You will create new projects. What has this experience of Corona Virus times taught you? How will you live moving forward. Start saving and planning now for the next trip or the next project.

and a post script from my own toolkit.

4.  There is humour and creativity exploding around us at times like these. Look for it. Write it down and revisit it when you feel flat. Example last Easter weekend on Facebook someone wrote

” Jesus Christ was fined $1000 after police deem the Resurrection a non- essential outing.”

Then there’s the antimicrobial hand tool currently selling. This is the designer brand brass version. it helps you press buttons, open doors etc without using your hands!!!. Aren’t human beings inventive and a little odd…! I guess you’ll have to sanitise the hand tool and your keys and your hands now!



17 April 2020 | Living Well


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