As people around the world struggle with stress, fear and worry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing more and more of something called a Scarcity Mindset — a pattern of thinking that focuses on what you don’t have, and the underlying belief that you’re not ever going to have the things you want or need. From feeling the pressure to stock up on essentials, to coping by filling your schedule and trying to “make the most” of your time at home, we are seeing Scarcity Mindset play out among a wide range of ages, income levels and geographies.
On the other hand, having an Abundance Mindset means not feeling limited by the things that you don’t have, but instead, focusing on the opportunities you do have in order to gain what you want in life. Having an Abundance Mindset can help you increase your mental and emotional resilience during an extraordinarily difficult time like so many of us are in right now.
When a catastrophe — big or small, personal or widespread — hits, it can help to prepare for some things in life to remain somewhat normal and for other things to develop into what will be a “new” normal. If you’ve experienced a great loss, this concept may be familiar to you. As David Kessler, author and expert on healing and loss, stated in an interview with Harvard Business Review this week, “There is something powerful about naming this [experience] as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us….When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion.”
“Emotions need motion.” — David Kessler
Right now, one of the experiences of grief that many people are having is in anticipating that things won’t go back to the way they were. This fear is an example of Scarcity Mindset. I’m hearing from members how sad and frustrated they are that by staying inside, they are hitting pause on goals they had been working toward. Many are reporting they now won’t be able to find someone to date and fear being alone forever, or that this has interrupted the trajectory they were on at work. When we feel threatened or afraid, the brain naturally tries to anticipate negative consequences as a way to keep us safe. Yet, these anticipated negative outcomes aren’t reality. Life will go back to normal, it may be a new normal, but many of the things that we are missing right now will come back in some new ways and in some of the same ways that we’re missing now.
At the same time, this crisis is creating some real forms of scarcity, such as the scarcity faced by hospitals and care providers who need resources. While it is scary to think about this, instead of allowing scarcity to fuel fear, try to use this fact as a reminder of what we are in control of and what we can do to help. By staying safe at home, social distancing, following the health and safety guidelines of local authorities, and only stocking up on what we need without hoarding, we can have a real impact that will save lives. In these ways, we can actively reduce real scarcity.
Having an Abundance Mindset during a stressful period of time, like the present, doesn’t mean ignoring the real hardships that many are facing or conversely, always holding an optimistic perspective. Instead, it’s a way of recognizing what possibilities and opportunities are open to you. Notice how you are talking about your current status. Are you calling your situation “quarantine”, when you’re really social distancing? Do you say that you’re “stuck at home”, when you’re really “safe at home”? The way we talk and think about our circumstances plays a direct role in how we feel. The majority of people aren’t in quarantine, for example, they’re social distancing at home. This means that you do have the opportunity to get outside and go for a walk or a drive. Not doing so may be an unnecessary limit that you’re placing on yourself, adding to a sense of scarcity.
Connecting with others is an effective way to focus on abundance in both giving and receiving support. While we’re social distancing, there are some creative ways that we can still connect with one another. Examples of abundance that I’ve seen include people initiating group video calls with their friends and family and playing games or watching movies remotely. There are inspirational stories of communities organizing to “howl at the moon” from their homes or giving a synchronized round of applause in support of healthcare workers.
“Humor is a resource that we all have in abundance, use it liberally!”
And there are also small, day-to-day ways you can bring levity and humor to your community. Recently, while on a hike and practicing social distancing between myself and other hikers, I jumped farther away than I needed to in order to let a couple pass, exaggerating the distance between us. I waved and smiled from afar to make light of it and they laughed with me in return; this experience stayed with me and really lifted my spirits. Humor is a resource that we all have in abundance, use it liberally!
You may have noticed some different approaches in handling having more time at home. Some folks are trying to “make the most” of quarantining (aka #YOQO, You Only Quarantine Once), as seen through the many social media posts of people taking on cleaning, baking, reading, marathon training, or being the best homeschool teacher-parent-employee ever. This experience can stand in contrast to that of others, who may be struggling to find that energy, drive or momentum to take on new tasks, or who feel better by relaxing on the couch, which is understandable in the face of heightened stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. If you find that you’re comparing yourself to those who choose to fill their time with productivity, and are beating yourself up as a result, note how it makes you feel to do that, and see if those thoughts are hurting or helping you right now. See if you can be a bit more gentle with yourself, and lean into self-compassion as a source of protection and comfort.
So let’s take a collective deep breath, with a nice long, controlled exhale (which engages the parasympathetic nervous system and tells our brains and bodies we’re safe, we can calm down), and remember — this isn’t the only time you have to get things done, it’s okay to have a hard time, and it’s okay if you’re enjoying more time at home. Remember — there’s no “right” way to get through a pandemic. We all do the best we can with what we have, and focusing on that fact can help mitigate the sense of scarcity, whether real or perceived, and strengthen your sense of resilience and abundance.