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5 Things You Can’t Do Without In a Pandemic

cute box turtle
Need a surrogate pet to carry out step #3 or #5? You can borrow one of mine!

Amidst recent news of a death toll in the thousands, it is all too easy to forget one simple fact: most people who contract COVID-19 (aka “the coronavirus”) do recover.

How many? More than 66,000 to date, according to recent news reports.

This is NOT to downplay a) the seriousness, b) the fatalities, c) our current worldwide pandemic status.

It is shockingly scary – the fear itself is another kind of contagion that has infected both healthy and sick, patient and caregiver.

I can’t help but think back to the past box office success of movies like “Contagion” and “Outbreak.” They were wildly successful. We viewed them as entertainment.

Personally, I’m not finding either nearly so entertaining now.

But I am also finding myself instinctively pushing back against what is starting to feel like mass pressure to panic. I’m already tired of hearing about, talking about, (and now writing about) coronavirus.

Plus, I know panic won’t help. And to be honest, I already beat one of the most deadly diseases known to humankind – anorexia. So if coronavirus gets me, at least I’ll go out swinging because I know I’ve got the chops now.

If COVID-19 gets anyone I love, well, that’s another story. Those germs better put up their dukes because I’ll be coming for them.

In the meantime, I’m finding myself surprisingly well prepared should a curfew or quarantine type situation arise – well prepared completely in spite of myself, I might add.

From this unique vantage point, I am able to take a step or few back to refocus on being a little more creative with what I do have and a little less anxious about what I don’t have.

(Because let’s be honest. When you really really really need it, you will never ever EVER have enough toilet paper to feel like you fully, truly, completely have enough.)

But here are some things I do have that I am now realizing many people don’t have that come in extremely handy in a pandemic (or anytime).

Even better, these are things that you can actually still easily buy on Amazon and other online places right now.

So what I’m suggesting here is: just take that restless, nervous, awful sinking scary feeling by the hand and take it shopping. Online.

Go buy these things for now….and for next time. Because, just like there was a last time, we all know there will be a next time, whether we particularly feel like admitting it right now or not.

Okay, here goes.

By the way, I don’t get any kickbacks or cash or anything like that from suggesting any of these things. Yet. (Companies with deep pockets, you know where to find me.)

So here they are – your five must-have pandemic purchases…..

1. LifeStraw water purifier.

Life Straw is a device my folks bought for me five years ago when my then-hatchling tortoise, Malti, first came home to stay.

She needed purified water for her humidifier and she needed a LOT of it.

So my mom went online and found this gizmo called LifeStraw that was developed for people in third world, extremely water-poor countries who can’t just go out and buy enormous crates of bottled water for their families to drink.

You can use this device to purify any kind of water. Like tap water. Or toilet water. Or water seeping out of that slimy, suspicious, smelly hole in the ground at the construction worksite around the corner.

You can get the individual one that looks kind of like a big thick straw or the family size which is more like a pouch. And there are lots of brands, by the way – LifeStraw is just the one I happen to have.

You should also get some kind of sturdy, sanitary container to put your water in – glass is best if you have it, but an empty plastic water bottle will do in a pinch.

Then after this pandemic ends you can take your fancy new water purifying gadget to go back country camping or make humidifier water for your tortoise so it is a super buy any way you slice it.

2. Snack bars.

They’re not really that tasty. They are often wrapped in planet-killing plastic. And, by and large, they do not offer whole and complete nutrition.

But they are non-perishable, portable, simple to prepare and consume, pair well with (purified) water and come in sufficient variety that no matter what kind of special diet you are on, you are likely to find one you can tolerate.

Most importantly, they are easy to order online and will ship right to you. I even saw one package just now on Amazon with 70 different kinds of bars in it. That should last you for awhile.

3. Pet stuff.

Obviously ignore this one if you don’t have any pets (or substitute kid stuff if you have kids).

And while I realize it is probably bad form to suggest getting yourself a pet in the middle of a pandemic, that pet will be grateful and it will give you something else pleasant and productive to focus on instead of panic.

(I just noticed this – is it a coincidence that the word “panic” is not very well hidden inside the word “pandemic?” I suspect not.)

But if you do happen to already have one or more pets like I do, you should make sure you have enough of their food and any other stuff they need, like medicine.

Side note: I have found myself talking to my pets, Pearl, Malti & Bruce, even more than usual these last several days. And guess what I find myself saying to them over and over and over again?

I am saying things like, “It’s okay, Pearl; you are all right. Don’t worry, Malti – mommy’s got you. You’re such a brave brave boy, Bruce.”

Every time I say these things, my pets seem to feel better and I definitely feel better.

When you say affirmations to your pets you are really saying them to yourself (the same holds true for your partner, your kids, your houseplants, random strangers and the planet). Try it and see – you will probably start feeling more positive right away even if you are just talking out loud to yourself.

p.s. If you don’t have a pet and can’t get one right now, in a pinch, you can always visit my pets’ blog, Love & Feathers & Shells, and talk to them or send them email. Animals are very sensitive up close and long distance – they will get your good vibes and thoughts, I promise.

4. Your own stuff.

While we’re on the topic of essential stuff, it is very very smart to make sure you get any pending medical or health prescriptions filled if you have any.

If you are in that grey area when your supply is getting low but your refill isn’t due yet, call your doctor and ask if they can send the refill order through anyway, just in case.

The same holds true for any special dietary or supplement needs your doctor has recommended. And for your basic first aid supplies overall, including of course hand sanitizer, soap, batteries and power packs and anything else recommended by the powers that be.

Just make sure you have enough for the next couple of weeks at least. Longer is always better of course.

5. Funny stuff.

So at this point we’ve covered water, emergency food, your pet’s needs and your medical essentials.

What is left?

A pandemic usually isn’t the same as a natural disaster like a hurricane where you might get flooded out of your house (Hurricane Harvey springs to mind here) and have to live in makeshift accommodations for several months (like my parents did after their house flooded during Harvey).

But then again, what do I know. This is my first pandemic.

My point is, you will probably be staying in your own casa until things get safer. So you will have your own stuff around you and a familiar environment to panic in.

Or you could decide to stay light-hearted and positive while you are staying inside your familiar and cozy home. And if you choose to go this route, I have found the best method to keep my chin up is to find funny things to laugh at.

Pets are really great for this, of course (see #3 here for more on this).

Also, I keep re-reading some funny cartoons I printed out and stuck to my frig that are still funny even though I’ve read them about 500 or 5,000 times now.

Overall, try to aim for a varied selection of funny things, and preferably some that don’t need power or batteries….just in case. What is your favorite cartoon strip? Go online and find a dirt-cheap used copy of a book full of cartoons from that strip and order it for yourself.

And as long as we’ve still got power and WiFi, go make yourself a YouTube playlist of the funniest videos you can find. You can go watch mine for ideas of what to put in yours if you want.)

BONUS 6. Give back.

This is a weird one when you may be reading this while under curfew or quarantined in your community or in your house or stranded in some place that you don’t want to be stranded in or infected and under observation.

Yet how we move through these terrifying times we didn’t ask for and don’t want is still up to us.

It is sometimes hard for me to remember this but I always try. To help myself, sometimes I think of the Dalai Lama who had to flee from his homeland at age 23 and trek through the snow in the dark over mountains for months just to stay alive.

And he still finds a way to smile and shake hands with and talk to officials from the same government who did that to him.

So I think it is still possible to be brave and give back, no matter how weird or awkward or uncomfortable or unpleasant or unwelcome our situation or circumstances may be.

We can give back in big ways, like donating gobs of money or volunteering on the front lines.

We can give back in small ways, like sharing our secret stash of toilet paper or our smile or our favorite joke with someone else, whether known or unknown.

We can give back in ways no one else will ever know about, like by offering prayers for everyone’s wellbeing and safety and visualizing a pandemic-free planet.

We can give back by reaching out online to our dearest ones and forming a prayer circle, or good vibes circle, or positive intentions circle, or giving back circle, or whatever feels right to call it.

These are all nice, totally doable ways to give even when it feels like we have so little and need so much in every way.

By setting the intention to give back, to be brave, to remember that as long as we have a little now we have enough for today, we refocus our energy on the one commodity we all need more of, for now and forever…..


My thoughts and prayers are with you. We may be getting encouragement to maintain “social distance” (bleh) on the outside right now.

But on the inside we can be very close. We don’t have to distance ourselves at all. We can stay so close and loving and loved.

In my heart, you are very, very close to me right now and I am sending you all my good vibes for our collective virus-free, pandemic-free, panic-free world.

With great respect and love,


p.s. Did I miss anything you can’t live without? Feel free to add to the list in the comments! And thanks! 🙂

5 Things You Can’t Do Without In a Pandemic

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). 5 Things You Can’t Do Without In a Pandemic. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Mar 2020
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