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Weird pandemic coping mechanisms?

I have this new thing I do when I get nervous about the future and start to stress out about the pandemic: I buy boardgames.

This is totally random and irrational. I’ve only played like four of the new games I’ve bought in the past two months, but I have this thing where I’m like: “Crap, if it gets real bad I may not be able to buy this game I’ve been eyeing…. I should just pull the trigger now.”

I guess there are worse coping mechanisms I can think of, so even though it can get a little expensive it’s mostly harmless. Plus, boardgames don’t really get obsolete and can be enjoyed for decades, and they don’t require power or other critical infrastructure, so they’re sort of prepper-friendly.

A lot of my friends have gotten into bread baking. I have a yeast allergy, so that’s not an option for me.

Anyone else have any weird pandemic coping things they’ve picked up? As in, something that’s kind of quirky and doesn’t exactly make a ton of sense, but it’s just how you deal?

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    • 5

      While it’s not exactly “weird” – gardening.  The joke is that instead of spending time with friends, going to a bar, or seeing a show “gardening” is the new “going out” weekend event.

      Also – “retail therapy” is a thing.  I’m trying hard not to buy a new gaming PC, but the struggle is real (I don’t even “game” much or have a real need, I just want to buy stuff…).

      • 5

        Same with the retail therapy and even the new gaming PC. I actually tried to score a second Switch the other day… to have on hand just in case the first one breaks, of course… obviously it’s a critical prep ;-).

        But I don’t even have time to play the gaming systems I already have, so a new one would be really dumb. Still, the urge to sooth anxiety by shopping is strong right now.

    • 5

      My thing is buying more canned goods and other storable food. And organizing the pantry in the basement. It’s not really weird, but it’s definitely a stress response

      • 3

        I’ve definitely bought more canned soup than I normally would. The positive is that I learned that I like minestrone. I’ve been experimenting with adding a little hot sauce to some of them. Not bad!

    • 9

      Well, for me, honestly, it has been becoming a prepper! And the first step down this (in a good way) rabbit hole was that New York Times article that referred to this site. Okay, I admit, I had to overcome associating the word “prepper” with camo-wearing conspiracy theorist a bit, but the rationale for prepping had been building for a long time. One, I’ve lived in NYC for about 14 years and was here through Hurricane Sandy. I was lucky in that I live uptown and it didn’t affect me too much, but it sure could have been different. Secondly, I live in an old brownstone coop. In January of ’18, in the middle of an extreme cold spell, our boiler gave out, and it took a good three weeks to get a new one installed and up and running, so that was three weeks without heat or hot water. My mother was then alive and living with me. She was 91 and with advanced dementia. Luckily, she was then in a rehab facility for a few weeks after a short hospital stay. Had it happened while she was at home, it would have been truly awful. After hovering around space heaters and sleeping under a zillion blankets and showering at the gym for a week or so and nothing being resolved, I was able to take off for my sons’ place for a bit. It could have been worse.

      THEN, last summer, there was a gas leak, and our building was red-flagged by Con Edison, and the gas shut off. So now no hot water, heat, OR cooking. Months and months of permits, repairs, inspections, more repairs, and we finally got the hot water and heat back in October, just in time to not have to pull out the space heaters again. We STILL don’t have the cooking back. We were just about to get that done when COVID hit and shut us down. So I’ve been cooking on an electric hot plate and slow cooker and microwave. Until we got the hot water back, I was heating water on the hot plate and in the microwave, putting it in a plastic watering can with shower-type spout and a replenishment pot, sitting on a shower chair in the tub, and giving myself a “shower” (no way I was going to do cold showers).

      I mean, I think of myself as a very resilient problem-solving kind of person, but once COVID came it started occurring to me that problem-solving on the fly wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to be prepared! NYC was frankly behind the curve, and it took a while in the beginning for grocery stores to even do minimal capacity control, social distancing, and no one was wearing a mask. Since I’m 65, I wasn’t keen on going into the stores, but getting a delivery slot was really difficult. It has all gotten better, but it sure ain’t hard for my mind to start thinking — well, what if the food supply chain does get really messed up? And what if, say, the electricity goes out, and then I don’t have either gas or electric cooking, and the stuff in my fridge starts going bad. I’m screwed!

      So with the help of this friendly rabbit hole, I started putting together something of a plan. I ordered a 2-week emergency food bucket (which I’m still waiting on because, duh, they’re incredibly backed up). In the meantime, I completely cleaned out and organized my pantry, taking stock of what I had and starting to stock up. I started dehyrating foods — cooked noodles, cooked beans, fruit, veggies, cooked rice. I got oxygen absorbers, desiccants, mylar bags. I already had a vacuum sealer. And I started scouring the web for backpacking type meals, as well as making meal kits with canned and dried foods. I found half a dozen enhanced ramen-based meals (ditch the “flavor” pack for some PB, soy sauce, rice vinegar, Srichacha, some freeze-dried veggies, and some chicken…). So now I have at least two weeks worth of more-or-less shelf-stable meals that pretty much only require boiling a cup or so of water. Oh, and I got a little folding sterno stove with sterno, which should be able to accomplish that, and I plan on getting a little backpacking stove and some propane (which I will only use by a cracked-open window) that I can put into my bugout bag. And I got my 15 gallons of stored water.

      I mean, I love to cook, so this has been mostly play time. It feels good. But, yeah, definitely my COVID stress reliever.  But I don’t think it’s weird!

      • 5

        Yeah, to cope I also became a prepper. I feel like I’m not so prepared where I get my own show on National Geographic, but I definitely now  have a prepper pantry and enough canned goods to last a month. And, er, 78 rolls of toilet paper.

        I started storing water last year after we had a massive water main break where we were under boil water for half a week.

      • 2

        I miss NYC!

        Back in the Midwest now and starting to prep in my apartment. I converted the coat closet near my entry door to a pantry. (Moved the coats, etc. to other closets.) A shelving unit holds food and cleaning/laundry supplies.

        Paper products go in my storage space, which is 50 feet down the hallway from my apartment.

        Summer tornados and winter blizzards/ice storms are seasonal occurrences that I consider in my planning.

    • 5

      I keep rereading William Gibson’s The Peripheral and wondering if we are in a shitty stub where this is just the beginning of the unpleasantness that future-folk have in store for us… Also, probably spending more time than I should flintknapping and making spears for my boys.

    • 4

      I’ve found myself using masking tape and a marker to date leftover meal containers and items put in the freezer. As I put away leftover meals (or put stuff in the freezer), I also rotate the stock (like how you do with canned foods and expiration dates, most recent to the back and oldest to the front). I’ve found that this really helps prevent food spoilage because my sense of time (like a lot of people) has gotten a little warped.

      • 3

        Yes! I do that too! Using the masking tape and marker to date leftovers – virtual high five! But I’m not that diligent in rotating them…

        However, I do log my food, quantity, and their expiration date in a spreadsheet 😅

    • 6

      Well.

      I began prepping as a coping mechanism.

      And like some of the other comments, I began a vegetable garden.

    • 7

      Not weird really, but I started running a lot more.  I was doing occasional runs along with other fitness prior to Covid.  But now I have a regular schedule averaging about 15-20miles a week. And when I’m running I will often reach a point where I give myself a pep talk–especially on longer runs.  Something about SIP lowers my self-consciousness, so someone nearby might hear “you can do it!  You got this!  Look how far you’ve gone already!.”  It makes a difference.

    • 6

      This isn’t weird and I’ve been doing it for years: I’m a cruciverbalist — I do crossword puzzles. They’re fun, a great distraction from everyday cares and pandemic-level anxiety, give you a sense of mastery upon completion, teach you random facts, etc. 

      They’re digital and hard copy. I subscribe to the N.Y. Times puzzle section ($40/year). A new puzzle every day at 10pm ET.  Monday is the easiest puzzle, and the difficulty increases each day. The Sunday puzzle is the biggest, but the level of difficulty is akin to a Thursday puzzle.

      First month is free.

      PLUS! ~ 24 years of archived puzzles = 8760!

      I often do one or more during the day when I need a break from reading the news. A crossword puzzle is the mental equivalent of sorbet.

      I’ve also printed out a lot of puzzles in case I lose power. I also keep puzzles, pens, and a few books and magazines in the car. 

      • 3

        Thank you for this background! I was just reviewing some puzzle books for sale and I was, well, puzzled as to why the NYT crossword books were divided up by day of the week.

      • 2

        I’ve played thousands of games of Wordscapes during the pandemic! Similar to crossword puzzles.

      • 2

        I’ve had seasons of Wordscape addictions as well – for some reason not during the pandemic.  I might catch it from you now! 

      • 1

        Well, if we ever cross paths at a tourney, I’m “Poetica” and have a moon icon.

      • 2

        Oh, nice! Microsoft Ultimate Word Games over here. 😊😉

      • 1

        Haven’t seen that one…I’ll check it out!

    • 6

      I find I want to ‘control’ what I can in my world when the rest of it is so uncertain or off kilter.  In January, I started back on the prepping wagon as some projects had languished.   So early pandemic coping was building an overly engineered tall bench/shelf to hold 55gal drums of water outside.  This took several weekends with my husband as it involved concrete footers inside a 3 sided niche in the side of the house.  Somewhere in there I deep cleaned the entire house and treated rugs and closets for moths.   I’ve cleaned out the attic and discovered forgotten items from our move 15 years ago.  The garage also got attention.  And more recently, I’ve been even more obsessed with the prepping as I found this site and forum.  I’ve updated our get home bags and car kits for all the vehicles, updated first aid kits everywere.   I’ve spent so much time researching items for my BOB,  analyzing other’s kits  to see where I could shave off more weight or add versitility.  This has also been my retail therapy. Can one have too many freeze dried meals? 

      • 5

        You’re not alone in the deep cleaning department. I spent a few long weekends going through our stuff for the exact reason you mentioned. Control. I feel like the more familiar I am with what I have and what’s around me, the easier it will be to make choices. I like the feeling and it also keeps me active. Congratulations on the bench/shelf!

      • 3

        Thanks Dragoon – my ‘control’ sibling.  🙂

    • 6

      OK, this is totally crazy but I can’t stop eating American cheese. I might have had it a few dozen times over the course of my lifetime pre-pandemic, and I don’t recall finding it especially enjoyable. Now I eat like 5-6 slices of American cheese per day. It seems unlikely that American cheese has gotten significantly better, over the past few months, so it’s pretty mystifying. 

      • 4

        I wonder why? My first thought was that it’s a kind of comfort food for you, but you said you didn’t eat it all that much before.

        Maybe it’s the color or something unrelated to the cheese itself? I’m fascinated.

      • 3

        Honestly, I was really hoping someone would just say that American cheese has actually gotten a lot better. Although tbh the cheese thing probably doesn’t even crack my top 5 whacky behavior list.

      • 3

        Ok, you win the weird category! 🥇 But hey, cheese is high in protein so who can blame you? 😀 

      • 3

        Thanks! If there’s a podium I’m pretty sure I’d sweep all three. Probably a really bad sign when stuff weirds people out on a prepper forum! 

      • 4

        Haha, no weird is good lol

        Edit to add: I eat popcorn for breakfast, in case it would make you feel good. And not only during the pandemic 😉

      • 7

        I, too, have a cheese-related lockdown prepping thing going on:

      • 3

        I don’t consider copius amounts of cheese weird.  When I take a certain friend to Costco, we alway bet on the cheese percentage by cost.  Typically in the 30% range.  The really weird thing was that I had gone to Costco during this pandemic and had 0% cheese in the cart.  Whaaaa???  That’s weird.  You can tell your wife that Parmesean is an investment….  🙂 

      • 2

        Yes! The pandemic also made me realise that I definitely need that Parmesan wheel 😀

      • 2

        Hilarious! So bizarre about the permit thing though.

      • 2

        I’ve been eyeing those huge haunches of dry-cured ham for the same reason! 🐗

      • 2

        They are totally legitimate for prepping! 😉

      • 1

        Wellll…you lose the longevity the minute you slice into it, which means that for a two-person household it’s not practical. Those haunches weigh 10-16 pounds, which would need to get eaten fairly quickly…so…

    • 7

      I have been buying small gifts for all my friends. Just random things, like candles or a useful tool or something, sent to their house since I can’t go to their house.  They seem to really appreciate it and in a way it makes me feel like I’ve “visited”!

      • 3

        Aww, that’s really thoughtful!

      • 6

        I’m also doing more with gifts, where I see something I think my loved ones could use or would like.

        Since the pandemic, I’ve been trying to send birthday cards to all of my friends and family (where I would have only tried to do my more immediate family and maybe closest friends in normal times). I figure this year is hard and with normal celebrations not able to happen safely, the least I can do is to remind my people that someone cares.

        This is a prepper forum, so the pile of beans and rice I need to get processed into buckets doesn’t count as abnormal, right?

      • 3

        This is a prepper forum, so the pile of beans and rice I need to get processed into buckets doesn’t count as abnormal, right?

        Nope, you good 😉

    • 7

      I’ve been buying tons of books…to the point that it left me a little broke… But I’ve also been reading more, so at least it’s been worth it 😅

      • 3

        That’s pretty cool and probably worth a bit of financial pain. Do you tend to read particular genres more during the pandemic? 

      • 3

        I’ve been indulging in my interest in sci-fi and the paranormal. If anyone here is a sci-fi fan I’d 1000% reccomend The Three-Body Problem trilogy https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20518872-the-three-body-problem 😁

        Do you like reading? If yes, what’s your favorite genre?

      • 3

        Interesting! I’ve gotten away from sci-fi, but I can definitely see the appeal! 

        I like reading, but haven’t made much time to read since March. Just started this, and the first 14 pages are good 🙂

      • 3

        Oh, really interesting, thanks for the link! I love history. Although I don’t know that much about the Early Modern period, the few times I came across the EIC, it was always super interesting.

      • 3

        Yeah, well I know so little about it that I didn’t even know it was called that. Still not far along, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the EIC aren’t going to end up being the good guys.

      • 4

        I just became a homeschooler and discovered BookOutlet.com – the trouble is real, y’all. 😂

      • 3

        Ohhh, shoot 💸💸💸

    • 6

      In the last month: penpals. I’ve started writing paper letters and postcards in a surprisingly large chunk of my leisure time. I am not especially extroverted but going so long without much in the way of even casual human contact outside my immediate family is really wearing. Writing about everyday things in a way that is hopefully interesting to read has been a little bit of a creative outlet, and I’ve bought more stamps in the last 4 weeks than I have in the last 4 years, so I guess I’m finally pulling my weight to try to fund USPS, too.

      Some of the mail has been sent to family or friends who live far away and who I haven’t seen (and won’t see) for quite some time. Some has been sent to totally random people. I first signed up for the penpal exchange Rachel Syme is running on Twitter using the Elfster site, and then I enjoyed it so much I asked her to give me a couple more “bonus” names. Those are mostly people in the US (by my request, because postage is cheaper). Those are fun because you wind up exchanging more than one letter with people and develop a little bit of a relationship. Then a friend suggested Postcrossing.com, where it’s more like a one-time thing, not ongoing correspondence, and mostly postcards rather than letters. My matches through that site have been mostly international, and even when the pictures or messages on the postcards aren’t all that fascinating (there’s only so much you can write on the back of a postcard!) it’s fun to look at the globe with my kids and see all the places our letters are going to and from.

      I’ve also asked our church and a local nursing home if they know of people who would especially like to connect with a penpal, so we will see if I get any takers there.

      • 3

        This is so cool! Thanks for sharing!

    • 7

      Posting an update to the original post, because my boardgame thing has evolved a bit. I’m having a hard time getting people to play with me, which I mainly attribute to the fact that it’s still warm out and there’s plenty of sunlight, so kids go in the pool and do outside stuff in the afternoons and evenings.

      So I’m counting on cooler weather and more time indoors to actually be able to play through more of the collection I’ve amassed. In the meantime, what is the point of adding any new boardgames to the pile? Better to just roll with what I’ve got and play those when I can. But that doesn’t scratch the itch of escaping the way shopping for boardgames did.

      I’m currently trying to switch to learning a new programming language, Golang. So we’ll see how that goes. It’s a bit of an escape — not quite as good as boardgaming, but it does give me something else to run my brain on.

      • 3

        Jon,

        I saw that you had said your father had Covid in the aftermath of Laura. How is he? Has he been hospitalized? I have prayed for his recovery.

    • 6

      This prepper joined a Facebook group on prepping that is a non-firearm climate change international group, back in 2018, after I had moved back into my house when Hurricane Irma flooded it. So when Sars-CoV-2 showed up I had to change plans from moving to a new area.  

      This really made me mad!  I am living alone, and was about to retire so I could move!  Staying with my intention to move i started trying experiments to practice some of the prepping skills that were discussed in the prepper group. 

      I set up a aquaponics mini farm using the stuff that I had.  Only thing I lacked was the LED lights which I got at the pet store aquarium section.  We were on shutdown, but pet stores were considered essential.  It was not perfect but my 20 gallon guppy tank gravity fed into 3 tubs using 5/8″ tubing and filters that passed through 16oz sized yogurt containers stuffed with aquarium floss. The last bed had a pump that returned the filtered water back into the guppy tank.  That I was able to get at hydroponics store when things opened up a few weeks later.  I did not wait for the pump and planted my beds with lettuce, basil and arugula.  It was still cold out so this was in my livingroom!  The cool thing is it is completely portable!  I can break it down if I have to and reassemble it in another room, or basement, or garage!

      At a time when feeling powerless, cheated of my goal intent to move, this was what gave me solace.  Seeing my sprouts come up and noticing daily progress of SOMETHING! At last!  Last week i built a solar oven.  Meantime I learn as much as I can from wherever I can!

      • 3

        That is super cool! And your solar oven–what design did you use?

    • 5

      Organizing things around the house while listening to podcasts!

      • 3

        Which podcasts are you checking out? Could use a few new ones.

      • 3

        I’m addicted to “Cowboy Crossroads”.  Seriously.  Listen to the first two episodes – episode one starts slow but it’s worth the wait to get to the good stuff – and then tell me you’re not addicted, too. 

      • 5

        Thank you for this tip!  I had never heard that one. I’ve been really depressed since RBG passed and can’t bear to listen to anything remotely political (I usually NPR Politics podcast or some others).  I listened to the first two while I had lunch and it made me feel good.

      • 3

        Glad it helped! Yes, I have banned myself from any political podcasts and  I never check news on the weekends. Gotta give that brain a break sometimes. Another off-the-beaten-path podcast that get me out of my funk is “Aria Code” (weird! I mean – OPERA. But give it a try. Zero politics) And if you’re just a podcast junkie and love good audio, “S Town” is an absolute masterpiece. But overall “Cowboy Crossroads” is my go-to chill out podcast and when he reads those poems all is right with the world again. 

      • 5

        Jumping in here. 

        I give myself twice a week news breaks where I don’t check in on the news all day, and am thinking of even just quitting it altogether as we get closer to the election.

        As it happens, one of those days was on Friday and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t checking the news because twelve people texted me with the news! 

        Anyways, may I highly recommend the BBC Shipping forecast? It sounds super strange but it’s the same thing every night in a british accent and really soothing. LOL. It’s what I fall asleep to nowadays! 

        Also Opera at the Met on Saturdays at 1. 

      • 3

        1. Floodlines, a podcast from The Atlantic Monthly, a fascinating and holistic overview of what it was really like to experience Hurricane Katrina firsthand.

        2. I just started The Big One which is about earthquakes past and future in California and their historical and potential ramifications. It’s from Southern California Public Radio and is pretty sobering.

    • 3

      I am a little obsessed with food preservation.  Learning to use my new dehydrator and pressure canner.  I have reorganized my pantry and closets for storage.  My husband thinks I need counseling but the rows of food make me feel secure.

      • 3

        Love this (not that I think you need counseling lol 🙂 What brands of dehydrator and pressure canner did you get? Both things are in my to-do/learn list but haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

      • 3

        Having rows of food doesn’t mean you need counseling. Having rows of food means you get to eat in times of food insecurity.

        Now, if you’ve got rows of pickled mice you’re calling ‘food’…? Maybe… Even then, it really depends on the context, now doesn’t it? 😉🤣🤔

        Whenever my ball-n-chain starts in with the Ummm, isn’t this going a little far? -kind of tone, I just respond, “New normal!” and that more or less ends that conversation. LOL

    • 4

      I bought four gorgeous puzzles and have never even broken the cellophane wrap! So yeah…I can relate. 🤣

      • 3

        The puzzles are back out at Dollar Tree – they have some really pretty-looking 350-piece round ones or 100ish-piece rectangular ones. I won’t tell you how many I bought for my kids and all the kids I know… 😊 Book Outlet also has some really nice ones.

      • 3

        I’m a 1000-piece addict…