By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of fear and panic around the world. As coronavirus cases rise in the U.S.. This has caused several people to stock up on food, water and toilet paper in abundance causing a shortage of supplies at the stores. Then, as many cities and states across the country have ordered people to shelter-in-place or stay at home, the shortages have continued for necessities.
Anyone who has been shopping lately might have noticed the empty aisles throughout several stores as supermarkets are running out of toilet paper and food – leaving many other families without these daily necessities, as well as hand sanitizer and FDA approved masks. Many stores have now put a limit on the number of items that people buy.
The question is how does one prepare for a national crisis or emergency and avoid stock piling unneccesary or too many items?
“In regards to hoarding, we need to recognize that this is a collection of items. Going to the grocery store and having to buy everything we see is in response to a panic, not hoarding,” offered Bonnie Cook, executive director of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas. “We are trying to control the situation and this is not a situation that we can control. But if we feel like we have enough toilet paper, have enough food, that is our brain’s way of saying ‘Ok, I can get through this. I can manage this because I have all this stuff.’”
Collecting too many items at one time can cause a financial burden, especially for households who have lost income due to the need of the shelter-in-place order. It may also take up needed space in a house that may suddenly seem crowded if everyone in the family is home all day.
Krystal Smith, regional communications and marketing director for the American Red Cross North Texas Region, offered pointers on how to prepare for any kind of disaster or emergency situation.
“Make sure you have an emergency kit,” Smith said. “This is going to be something that you want both for a vehicle as well as in your home, so that you are prepared no matter what emergency arrives.
Next, she advised making a plan.
“You want to make a plan so you know what your community resources are; how your family will meet up, receive communication, and you also want to stay informed both to weather situations, to local authorities,” she said, adding that people should stay informed about the situation and environment around them.
Smith recommended the following items in times of a national emergency such as the public health crisis that COVID-19 has created.
“At home, you should try to keep a two-week supply of essential items; for example, a gallon of water per person per day is what you want to have in your household, same with food and flashlights and any medications that anyone must need.” Smith said. “This is going to help when there are severe weather alerts, because you already have essentials in your home. But you also want to have three days supply in a vehicle of similar items to make sure you can survive off those items that you have. And prepare in advance whenever the need arises.”
“When you go to make your plans for any type of emergency situation, you want to see what kinds of situations you are planning for.”
In general, Smith said, making a plan and sticking to a list would help families meet their immediate needs, which could help alleviate stock piling.
When making a list, Cook suggested taking inventory of the family’s daily needs.
“What you can do to prepare is logically think what you might need in a given week and to think about and not let your emotions get in the way,” Cook said. “Food for example, in a given week, ask yourself, ‘What does my family normally need in a week’s time to eat?’ We don’t need to turn around and add a million things to that list.
“We need to try to think about our thoughts and emotions in looking at this as, ‘Is this really a thought I am having or is it a feeling I am having?’ If this is a feeling that I am having, how can I deal with that feeling in a healthy way? For example, if you are so concerned about having Coca-Cola and it’s not at the store and is not on Amazon and it’s not here, could you substitute something like Pepsi? Could you have a different type of meat if it’s not chicken? Part of it is the way we adapt and part of it is going to see what I can control and what I can’t control. We need to let go and let God work best through that.”
For some, stock piling is a way of life known as hoarding and can become exacebated by an emergency situation such as a pandemic.
“What we noticed is more of an increase of ‘I told you so,’ as an excuse for someone that is a hoarder,” Cook said. “So if someone is a hoarder and they have accumulated items after years and years of hoarding, they now turn around and said, ‘Look what I did. It was the right thing to do.’ Instead, it is really not the right thing to do. They continue to keep things that have no worth, have no value and continue to put their lives in danger by their continued hoarding.”
There are many causes of why people feel the need to hoard, according to hoarding specialist Beatriz Velasquez, with The Hoarding Task Force of Greater Dallas.
“It can be trauma, loss of a loved one, death, divorce, or it can be learned as well or generational,” Velasquez said. “It is not necessarily a house problem, more like trying to figure out why you do it. The abundance of department stores, thrift stores, yard sales, we just have so much that if you don’t keep it in check you ask the question do I really need this? How many do I already have? Will I be using it in a reasonable time frame. A lot of people with hoarding problems don’t stop to think about how many items do I already have or how many items do I really need. We try to instill in each person what are the questions that are going to work for you that are going to make you think.”
To avoid hoarding food, water and toilet paper, Velasquez recommends trusting in God.
“Trust … whatever your faith is, if you believe in God, God is aware of what we are going through and it will be there,” she said. “People who hoard food can tell you by the time they are going to use this canned food it expired back in 2014. We eat out a lot as with what is going on with the restaurants now, a lot of times the intention is good that you are going to prepare your meals at home but you get busy with work and other activities that you store up the food and it never gets used.
“You have to have a plan and it’s pretty simple but you have to execute that plan. Come up with what your regular menus are. Most people eat the same foods weekly so you buy those foods and not more. Trust that it will be there. People are still producing the food for us that are in that business – we just have to be careful with human contact before we find a solution for it. Change your mind, change your thought and think it through.”
Velasquez facilitates a Hoarding and Cluttering support group at the Dallas Central Library and works with people who have hoarding problems that want to overcome this issue. Anyone experiencing issues with hoarding or knows someone who might exibit signs of hoarding, can find help through http://www.mhadallas.org.