When the pandemic first took off we saw people panic buying toilet paper, and what followed was a slew of armchair quarterbacking about the absurdity of panic buying toilet paper. We later learned that the quarantine had disrupted the supply chain of toilet paper as people were spending all their time at home now instead of in schools, offices, and restaurants. Toilet paper isn’t the only thing people have been panic buying, and in fact, the most commonly bought item since social distancing measures were enacted has been baking yeast. But why are people buying so many things they probably don’t really need? The answer lies in the deep recesses of our psyches.
In times of great stress, rationality is one of the first casualties. Our brains are wired to keep us safe from danger above all else, so when we are in danger our amygdalas take control and give us those fight-or-flight responses that can help keep us out of danger. Even if we aren’t fighting a shark for our lives, we still have to make rational decisions in the toilet paper aisle. While we might try to talk ourselves into only buying what we need, our amygdalas will convince us that we are better safe than sorry.
These processes are affecting more than just our buying habits, too. Over time we become completely overwhelmed with the access to information that we suddenly have to process and we might stop believing the danger is real. Humans tend to think linearly, and the danger from COVID-19 is that it grows exponentially and we can’t really comprehend the growing levels of danger we face over time. We’re also exposed to too much bad news and eventually, we just can’t process any more bad news. Add that to the fact that we are feeling isolated and it’s a perfect storm of psychological distress.
Fortunately, there are a lot of healthy hobbies we can take up to keep our minds off of the danger we are in. In addition to self-care, there are lots of teletherapy options available if you need someone to talk to about isolation fatigue.
Learn more about isolation fatigue from the infographic below.