Updated May 1, 2020
1. Added a video to the end of the post where Mike elaborates on some of the points in the article.
2. We’re extending our Free Factory Seconds Toolcard offer through May or until supplies run out. Read below for details.
I know you’re sick of hearing about the Coronavirus. There’s an overload of information about the disease itself, steps we should be taking, the effects on society and the economy, and the reactions by our institutions. Lost in the shuffle, is a discussion about the effects on our emotional state as individuals and families in a time of crisis.
Why would someone that makes everyday carry gear be talking about emotional well-being? Well, for one, it’s important. But also because a good deal of our emotional response can be managed through preparation and taking positive action: two qualities found in the EDC community and at the core of Lever Gear’s mission. I believe those of us in the EDC community can set an example and lead others through difficult times. If we can channel our emotions towards better outcomes in this crisis, we will be in a position to help others do the same.
Late February marked the beginning of the group event cancellations, and restaurant and school closures in many places. Coupled with the collapsing stock market, these events provided the initial shock. For many people, that is when the reality set in about the seriousness of this disease. (For others it seems not to have set in yet.) As people watch their retirement savings evaporate, their jobs disappear or their small businesses suffer, feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, uncertainty and countless other emotions are only natural.
It’s becoming more and more evident that the Covid-19 disease could be with us for a while and the economic consequences could last even longer. The longer it goes on, the more tensions will rise, resources (and patience) will be exhausted, and unrest will set in. I believe that the most important thing we can all be doing right now is preparing ourselves mentally for a difficult transition and a different future. The steps you take now can mean the difference between barely surviving and thriving in the new normal.
Below are some random thoughts, perspectives and resource links that may help you do just that. Some may seem obvious. Others you may not have considered. In any case, it’s always good to reinforce these practices.
First and foremost, we need empathy and kindness now more than ever. Everyone has their unique circumstances and many will be affected by this crisis in devastating ways. They may lose their job, their business, their home, their life savings or even a loved one. Everyone will need to make sacrifices and they may seem unfair or impossible to overcome. People may lash out, get angry, act mean, act like idiots in your view, or try to take advantage of the situation. If a dispute arises, it’s important to stick up for what you feel is right, but do it in a kind way and listen to the feelings of the other person. Even if they’re being a jerk, take the high road. They may feel like they’re fighting for their lives.
Differentiate the things you can control from the things you can’t.
It’s important to acknowledge the things that are out of your control, but dwelling on them only adds to your stress and anxiety. You can’t control what the stock market does, but you can position yourself to minimize risks. You can’t control how others beyond your sphere of influence behave, but you can talk to your friends and family about the importance of social distancing or other small sacrifices you believe are important for the greater good. You can’t control what the government does, but you can take action in your own life to keep your family safe. Focusing on the things you can control helps you move toward actions that will improve your life.
Take a pause and breathe.
In a crisis, everything can seem like an emergency that needs immediate attention. The rent is due tomorrow and there’s not enough in the bank. You’re down to your last roll of toilet paper or you need to get food before the grocery store gets cleared out. Maybe you’re scrambling to figure out how to keep the kids occupied while you work from home. This is when it’s time to slow down and prioritize what’s really important and urgent and what just seems like it is. Take a step back. Identify and prioritize the challenges you’re dealing with and work on a solution. If things need to be postponed, have a conversation with those who are affected and let them know you’re doing your best and will get to it in time.
Prepare for the long haul.
If the section above rings true for you it means you weren’t prepared, at least not for this. That’s not a judgement, just a fact. The best time to prepare is before a crisis. The next best time to prepare is right now. This could be a long haul and there’s still time to get essential preparations in place.
Our modern economy is very efficient at reducing costs with just-in-time inventory and single source supply chains. The problem is that it creates a fragile system where supply chain disruptions can cause ripple effects and shortages for essential supplies. It’s not unthinkable that we could have disruptions to our food supply, prescription drugs, water supply, and heaven forbid, toilet paper. What if there’s a power outage? Or a banking system collapse.? A whole range of outcomes that seemed inconceivable a couple months ago are now in the realm of possibility.
It’s up to you to prepare your environment and your mind for a range of outcomes to keep your family safe. Even if you end up not needing all the supplies and equipment, the peace of mind you get from being prepared gives you the confidence to face new challenges. If you’ve been living beyond your means or paycheck to paycheck it’s time to STOP. Hunker down and save until you have the basics covered.
- Cash – for at least a few weeks.
- Safe, liquid assets – for at least a few months.
- Pay down credit card and consumer debt.
- Non-perishable food in the pantry for at least a couple months. (Cheetos don’t count.)
- Drinking water for each member of the house for at least a few days.
- Medications and other supplies you know you will need.
Beyond that, there are many resources on the internet about crisis preparedness. One resource I’ve found particularly valuable has been PeakProsperity.com. I’ve been following Chris Martenson since he created his Crash Course over 10 years ago. (As an aside, I would highly recommend watching or reading the Crash Course and his new book Prosper.) Their mission is to help individuals and communities become more resilient as the interconnected and exponential systems of the economy, energy and the environment bump up against the realities of a finite planet. As such, they have a lot of good info on preparedness.
Chris began covering the Coronavirus outbreak in late January as things were just heating up in China. It just so happens he has a PHD and post-doc in biological science focusing on neurotoxicology. His analysis has consistently been 3-4 weeks ahead of official story from the WHO, CDC and other agencies. Unlike those government agencies, he doesn’t have the triple mandate to manage public reaction, try to keep the economy going, and prevent the spread of the disease. He just wants to inform individuals on the disease and he’s been remarkably prescient and accurate on the trajectory of the disease.
Get in tune with your emotions.
Our emotions will be amplified during this crazy time. It’s important to stop and listen to what they’re telling you. We’ve all experienced emotional spirals, both up and down. Positive and negative emotions can feed on themselves and take us to euphoric or dark places. In this time of social distancing and isolation we need to be vigilant about spiraling down as we’re less in touch with others who can pull us out of the doldrums. This article in Forbes cites a study finding that the Coronavirus lockdown is already taking a toll on mental health and the trend is not good.
Conversely, if we focus our energy on a renewed sense of purpose and take proactive steps in the areas of our lives we can control, we can create a virtuous spiral that will fortify our emotions through this crisis.
Communicate more with your family, friends and neighbors.
Understanding your emotions is the first step and then sharing them with your loved ones follows soon after. Their emotions are heightened as well. Their lives have been upended or at least changed as well. You may find you have more disagreements now that the stakes are higher. Good communication can diffuse these disagreements before they become a big deal.
Being stuck in close proximity or being forced apart can strain our relationships. Now more than ever, it’s important to communicate your thoughts and feelings and listen to theirs. And remember point one — be kind.
Keep a family journal.
One great idea that my wife had was to keep a family journal during the crisis. You can see how she’s doing it at InwordandUpward.com. This pandemic is a once a century type event and recording what you did, how you felt, and what was going on in society will be interesting and valuable to look back on in the coming years and decades. The journal also serves as a good framework to process and share your feelings. In our journal, the kids activities are recorded in the front and the adult context is recorded in the back. As our kids become adults, it will be interesting for them to look at the journal and see what was really going on behind the scenes during the crisis.
Use this time to look at the big picture and work towards a better you.
The silver lining of this crisis may be that it gives us all a chance to step back and look at the big picture. What’s important in your life? What are you passionate about? What are you really meant to be doing? Are your relationships the way you want them to be? Are your habits hurting you or moving you forward?
Now is the perfect time to adjust your course and move forward with renewed purpose. Many of us have extra time now that we’re mainly stuck at home. How you choose to use it will matter more as time goes on. Sure a little extra Netflix and wine for a while is fine, but if you use this time to work on yourself, a protracted social distancing won’t seem so protracted and you’ll come out a better person on the other side.
After you’ve examined your “big picture”, it’s time to make a list of the habits routines and processes that will move you toward your goals. Then take action. Online learning about any topic you can dream of has never been easier and diet and exercise has never been more important.
One framework I like was suggested by permaculture expert, Ethan Roland, who has identified 8 forms of capital. Even if you are stuck at home with no job and no prospects there are still ways you can grow your alternative capital such as intellectual, spiritual and social capital.
Reassess your finances.
When was the last time you really examined your spending habits, your job security, your alternative sources of income, your debt, your investments? Everyone’s situation is different and I’m not a financial adviser so I shouldn’t really give advice other than to say it’s time to pay attention. The stock market is gyrating 5% a day. Bonds are collapsing and soaring. The government is creating new trillion dollar programs every week.
Do you know what’s in those bond funds in your retirement account? How would you feel if the stock market went down another 20%? How about 60%? What’s your time horizon? Do you have the liquidity and diversity to weather the storm? Are all your assets in dollars? Do you have the dry powder to capitalize on opportunities when the time comes? Do you have a will?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you adjust your finances so you can sleep well at night. And while you’re at it…
Learn about the business cycle and monetary system.
This may seem like a weird section for an article on preparing emotionally for a crisis. Nonetheless, I include it because I think navigating extreme bouts of deflation and inflation will be the key to preserving and growing your life savings at this critical juncture. And keeping your life savings may play a small role in your emotional well being. Things are moving fast and you need to be ready.
Remember that class in college about the monetary system and how it really works? No? Neither do I because they don’t teach money, credit, debt or the business cycle in school. (Unless you’re an economist and then they teach it wrong 😉 )
For better or worse, the government just signed a deal to spend $2.2 Trillion to save the economy. And before the ink is even dry they’re working on the next $1-2 trillion stimulus package. Where did they get the money?
The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet just increased by $1.5T. That’s nearly half of the money creation from QE1, 2 and 3 combined… in THREE WEEKS. What does that even mean? What do zero interest rates mean?
Any way you slice it, there has been a major disruption in our economy and an unprecedented response by the government and central banks. When you understand how the monetary system really works you can understand why they are doing these extraordinary actions and even predict what they are going to do.
All of the experts in power are terrified of the deflationary credit contraction that is going on right now. But none of these experts is publicly discussing what would happen if an overreaction caused people and nations to lose faith in the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Are you prepared for the possibility of very high or even hyper inflation?
Here are a few links to get you started down this rabbit hole.
How the Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio. – This 30 minute video is a succinct introduction to the business cycle. I think he’s a little sanguine that our politicians and central bankers can manage a “beautiful deleveraging” but then again he is a billionaire who manages the world’s largest hedge fund and I am some guy on the internet.
Hidden Secrets of Money Series by GoldSilver.com – A mini-series of 30 minute episodes about the history and mechanism of money and credit.
The Real Crash book by Peter Schiff. He predicted the housing crash and financial crisis with stunning detail and accuracy. This book explains how the government and central bank “solutions” of more money printing and debt created an even bigger bubble which can’t be saved when it pops. And the Coronavirus was the pin. He’s a polarizing figure. Love him or hate him but listen to what he has to say.
Ok, I lied before, I’m gonna give some advice. I can’t help myself. Buy some freaking silver (bullion or PSLV). Or just heed the words of Ray Dalio, “If you don’t own gold, you know neither history nor economics.”
If you are in a position to help, step up.
Everyone’s situation is different and while this time will be a struggle for many people, you may find yourself in a unique position to help. This not only helps others, but helps you by building goodwill and giving you a purpose to work towards.
For inspiration, l didn’t have to look far. My work neighbor, Neil, runs the design firm Discommon. A few weeks ago, he got a shipment of parts from his manufacturer in China and they included a bunch of surgical masks. When he called them to ask why they sent them, they replied that their sister factory makes hospital safety equipment and they knew the virus was coming to the U.S. He leapt into action and ordered a few thousand masks that he planned to donate to our local hospital. As word got out in hospital circles that he had an inside track on surgical masks, Neil began getting calls from hospitals all over the country asking for help. Before he knew it, he was working eighteen-hour days sourcing masks for hospitals around the country and even chartered an airplane on his credit card. Through his efforts, he will deliver over two million masks to hospitals in need. And while he can no longer afford to completely donate them, he’s only charging a few cent markup to cover his expenses and risk. He could obviously be charging a boatload for these masks, but his focus is on helping the hospitals and people in need.
That’s an extreme example, but even small gestures can have a big impact. Our neighbor, Dave, called my wife the other day from the grocery store to see if we needed anything. With her being home with two young kids, it’s difficult to get groceries and supplies while still being safe. His call made her day easier and strengthened our friendship.
At Lever Gear, we asked ourselves what we could do to help people during the crisis. As a young company, we’re not in a position to spend money on initiatives for Covid-19. But we do have a stock of factory seconds Toolcards that could help people with their daily tasks. We’ve decided to give away free factory seconds Toolcards for the months of April and May while supplies last. Perhaps you’re trying to increase your self reliance and you could use a handy tool. Or perhaps your finances are tight, but you still want to give a nice gift. This free offer is our small gesture to help you out. The only stipulations are one per customer and you pay the shipping. Feel free to share with your friends if you think it would help them out.
Add a factory second Toolcard to your cart at levergear.com and use code: GETSTUFFDONE.
Things are moving fast, so don’t get caught flat footed. Prepare yourself for what may come and use this time as an opportunity to reconnect with what matters. Keep your wits about you and jump into action. And, of course, stay safe.