Understanding some of the anxieties that we are wittnessing during this pandamic. By Mairead Ashcroft

I have been in a very unique position to take part in my own little study about the uncharacteristic behaviours that we have all been seeing and hearing about since the Coronavirus first entered our vernacular. If you have been living in a void for the past two months, I am talking about the hording of large quantities of household products and food items, and the physical altercations, verbal abuse and aggression displayed by some over wanting to purchase the last item on the shelf.

I am a trauma counsellor who lives in an apartment above a supermarket. I have been curious about why many in my little community have decided to clear the shelves, denying others the ability to purchase basic needs. I know many of these people. They are wonderful, caring members of the community. 
What might be going on?


Many of us may be feeling as if our lives are out of our control. We might be placing all of our focus and self talk on how we might regain our perception of control by finding something to grasp onto that gives us a sense of security. It would seem that the symbol of that security during the coronavirus pandemic is to own toilet paper. We may be witnessing a mass outward expression of inward anxieties. Being with others who are venting frustrations, not just about the lack of grocery items, but unconsciously about past trauma, present unhappy relationships, and future uncertainties, may offer us the permission, or freedom to vent and release pent up pressures that we have felt unable to communicate. It is now socially acceptable to express that we are unsure, worried, or experiencing some distress, because we feel that we are no different to anyone else. 
We are all individuals from many different cultures, different backgrounds, from a wide variety of ages, social status, states of wellness, and so many other colourful and exceptional differences. For example, some people live in house holds with large families, while other people live on their own. Each of these demographics will have their own challenges and benefits and each will have their own biases. For this reason, it is very important to be open in considering other possible perspectives regarding domestic needs other than your own.

  • We each have unique life experiences. These experiences may have imprinted high survival needs within us, heightening our flight, fight freeze response. This may create difficulty or anxiety during social engagement.   
  • We may not have had a supportive person to rely on during our early life. We might have developed an aversion to relying on others or asking for help. Under these circumstances, if we feel that we are a solo dweller amongst the masses, we may choose to take care of Number-one, ourselves, at all costs. Number-one may can also extend to immediate family members or community.
  • When we have experience trauma, we may notice our body telling us to, (FREEZE) keep ourselves out of perceived harms way by avoiding the supermarket, (FLIGHT) see the crowd, turn around and go home empty handed, or (FIGHT) make sure that we get that last loaf of bread, for example, at all costs. 
  • Human being’s have an innate instinct for survival. Being attached to our family may be pushed into a fight response when we feel that others are taking from our children. Some people may even unconsciously feel that the attachment to their family is being threatened, taking away their ability to be a good enough parent and therefore not worthy of love. 
  • We may care for an elderly, infirmed or disabled person in our home and find it very difficult to get out of the home due to carer commitments and lack of other supports. The combination of moving from one stressful situation to another and having strict time constraints or mobility issues may push our anxieties beyond our window of tolerance.
  • Personal disability, chronic pain and mental health issues, may make basic life tasks challenging at the best of times. When we enter an environment where others are blind to everything but their own needs, the risk of being overlooked, pushed aside and injured can be raised. This may create hypervigilant behaviours for those of us who struggle in crowds, creating situations where one person’s anxiety will clash with another’s anxiety on a regular basis.
  • With the threat of quarantine looming for some, there is much more than two weeks off work with the kids with no pay at stake. Domestic violence is real danger for many. The thought of no escape might be terrifying reality for some. Please call police if you are experiencing domestic violence to ask for help in your local area or call 000 or equivalent emergency number in your country if you wish to report crime now. 
  • Blatant greed can unfortunately be witnessed amongst humanity as well. This is a sad state of affairs' which exists within our society.
  • Coronavirus has become a frightening prospect for the vulnerable in our community as are all communicable illnesses. Our government has taken the best information at hand to create policies to protect our community. Sadly, I believe that many of us are caught up in  inventing rich people’s problems to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, using the virus to vent built up fears and anxieties.

The Crowd, written by Gustave Le Bon In his studies on crowd psychology, talks about the different ways that people behave when they are in a crowd compared to when they act as an individual. 150 years later, and our behavior is still the same. Due to the Herd Mentality, it would only have taken one person to influence another or group to buy extra toilet paper. Pretty soon, much of the herd might stamped to the supermarket for fear of missing out. Safety in numbers, no matter how illogical the outcome, can create mass hysteria, warfare and as we see today, mass anxiety. Large companies rely on the psychology of the crowd to boost their sales year after year, without fail.


I have come up with a few suggestions to assist us in calmly manage every day tasks.

  • Be kind to one another. We don’t know another person’s story so never assume.
  • Practice Mindfulness to lower anxiety levels. Keeping our mind on the present moment, focusing on what we are doing now and stopping our mind from wondering into the unknown world of “What ifs?” may help lower our anxiety levels.
  • Practice gratefulness. We live in a society that throws out tons of food every year and can choose from scented to non-scented, one, two or three ply toilet paper and luxuries that we don’t need. Let us compare that to others, who don’t have clean drinking water, and are living in areas where sanitation is non-existent. We are privileged and lucky to have what we have. 
  • Breathe. We may not even become infected. By practicing viral hygiene guidelines , we may avoid contamination from the Coronavirus. If we are unfortunate and become infected, know the quarantineguidelines and follow updated guidelines.
  •  We can maintain our individual minds by questioning the feelings that arise within us. Are they from a source that has been projected onto us by others that we have chosen to allow to stick. E.g. you need this thing, because if you don't have it, people will judge you.   
Catastrophizing thoughts will get us nowhere. In fact, the stress caused by catastrophizing may lower our immune systems, making us more prone to catching any of the viruses and bugs that are out there at the moment.

Have some fun, do some art, listen to music, play with your kids, be kind to someone, take the dog for a walk, go out into nature, Listen to nature, have a conversation, Kick your shoes off, eat well, drink plenty of water, love your loved ones, do what brings you joy and stay safe.

Live your Bliss.