Managing Shelter-in-Place with Maslow as Your Guide

Updated: Apr 21



I was 14 or 15 years old when I was first introduced to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I will never know if it was part of the designated curriculum, or not. Maybe that particular teacher wanted to make sure all of his students received at least a basic awareness and introduction to the concepts, not knowing where all of our lives would lead us. I guess, at this point, it doesn’t matter why it was taught when it was, I’m just grateful my exposure to this theory was early in my education.



Fast forward many decades later and Maslow is mentioned at least weekly in our home. By the adults anyways. I’m sure you are thinking we are a bit on the dorky side…but it works for us. Better to pin it on Maslow when someone needs more sleep, needs a shower, needs to trim long nails, or should take care of some other basic physiological needs, instead of the parents just nagging all of the time. And as the kids get older, I hope we will have discussions more focused on each level of the hierarchy itself.


Many of us in the United States are many weeks into shelter-in-place orders. Depending on your geographic location, your occupation, or your general awareness of what was coming from world events, you could be well into your third month of following guidelines for social distancing.

Kids home from school.

Business travel canceled.

Client meetings canceled or postponed.

Zoom now a household name.

Life as we know it has changed – seismically.


For many of us, what we are experiencing is drastically different from any life we’ve ever known.


Glenn Geher Ph.D. writes, “the coronavirus situation, a worldwide pandemic, has knocked many of us, regardless of where we may have been 'on the pyramid' just a few weeks ago, to the bottom of the pyramid." His article clearly and directly explains Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and might resonate with many of us - especially in the context of our current situation.


And, so here we are in a new paradigm, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is making its rounds on social media. Have you seen it in your feed? Some individuals are re-writing and adjusting the levels to fit our current lives amid this global pandemic. Some are calling out that basic self-care is paramount right now. Some are grasping at anything at all that they can use to right themselves and feel some sense of normal.


Compassion & Empathy Must Abound


Business is not operating as usual. So why are so many of us pretending that it is?


Yesterday, I came across this incredibly well-timed article about video chats and why they are wearing us out. I'm now referencing the concept as Zoom-fatigue. I wonder what Abraham Maslow would say about 9 and 10 hours of video calls each day?!


Are you fine, or aren't you? Are you pushing yourself to be self-aware? To know if you are just getting by, managing okay, doing better than expected, or maybe perhaps even flourishing under these new conditions? Are extroverts and introverts responding differently to the shelter-in-place requirements?


Maybe you aren't fine, and are willing to communicate with others that you aren't - physically, emotionally, or psychologically. Maybe the Hierarchy of Needs can help you articulate what you are thinking or feeling? Maybe basic needs are being met, but beyond that, you are bewildered that you are just making it through each day?


What if you are just fine, and have easily adjusted to this new normal? Have you also considered all of those around you who might need your compassion, understanding and empathy? How are your close connections fairing right now? Should you check in on them?


  • your immediate and extended family members

  • your colleagues and peers

  • your trusted network

  • your clients

  • your prospective clients


Actionable Ways to Move Forward


Consider taking just one idea each day, or even each week, to push yourself forward - no matter if you think you are doing just fine...or you aren't so sure.


  • Allow yourself some self-care - what a new buzz word, right?! But seriously, maybe it's sleeping when you used to be commuting, or eating a breakfast or brunch if you used to skip this important meal, or asking the entire family to go on a walk without you so you can have some restorative quiet time in your day

  • Call, email or text 5 - 10 people you already know to connect and simply ask how are you doing?

  • Make a list of questions to ask each family member and document them somewhere (anywhere!) so many years from now, you'll have a written account of what people in your own household were thinking and feeling during this pandemic

  • Learn one new feature on a video conferencing tool - for work or to connect to friends or family members

  • Read! Fiction, non-fiction, current events - anything to spark intellectual curiosity and creativity


I have often joked that I’m going to commission a painting or drawing of Abraham Maslow to hang in our home. Maybe someday.

For now, I’m just going to continue to read, study and correlate Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to what we are experiencing in these unprecedented times. And hope you will do the same.

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