Understanding what is going on with your mind during a crisis is the only way to control your behavior and produce the best outcomes for yourself and others. See how to do it.
Tools For Navigating Crisis
A crisis of any kind triggers our primitive mind, our fight, flight, or freeze reaction. This is the part of our brain that we share with almost all living creatures. It is a natural reaction. For example, we hear an unexpected noise, and we jump or freeze. We don’t think about it. It just happens.
Fear causes people to hoard goods to buy unnecessary things like guns. They are reacting to the fear and allowing it to filter all their decisions. They are not navigating crisis effectively. The crisis is controlling them. These are the people who go to the grocery store when it is supposed to be reserved for senior citizens. They steal things they want from the shopping carts of others. It feels like we are living in a disaster movie.
Crisis and pandemic situations trigger this primitive instinct. It is easy to become locked into this survival mentality in a crisis, which engages the primitive mind. When our primitive instincts take control, it distorts our higher thinking processes. It makes some people self-centered, narcissistic, even violent.
What makes us different from other creatures is the frontal cortex of our brain. This tool enables us to analyze what’s going on before we overreact. If we jump when we are close to a cliff, we die because we overreact. Learning to handle a crisis is helpful not only for your survival but also for the group and community.
What to Do In Crisis And Pandemic Situations
Regaining emotional equilibrium is the only way to ensure you are making accurate decisions. When we decide based on fear or anger, it has negative consequences. Here are the steps that will help you regain control of your mind.
1. Acknowledge the Fear
The first thing you need to do is admit you are afraid. Once you do this, then you can think about how to handle it. This will help you from acting out of fear. That’s because fear easily turns into anger.
Yes, a crisis is scary; but I refuse to act in a selfish, self-serving way. I will preserve and protect the interests of myself and everyone in my circle of influence. Navigating crisis requires acknowledging but resisting fear.
2. Be Aware and Act Prudently
Don’t deny or ignore what is going on. Hiding from your fears or concerns doesn’t make them go away. Also, please don’t engage in activities that flaunt the danger. In a pandemic, people who refute the opinions of the epidemiologists and scientists make things worse. Watch for people who prefer the advice of political or religious pundits. Don’t get caught up in conspiracy theories; these will only exacerbate your fear.
Learn to think before you act. Guard your words and actions. Learn to be aware of your surroundings and the larger community, but don’t let your emotions get caught up in negative thinking. During a crisis, people will tend to act out of fear or anger.
3. Follow Qualified Experts
Follow the advice of health experts (1). If you see others providing conflicting advice, don’t follow them. Situations in a crisis change rapidly. Be prudent in your actions. Resist fear.
Stories of those who survived past crises tell us that those who stay calm and think about the long-term implications do better in the long run. Remember, the little old lady you met at the grocery store and took the eggs out of her cart? Well, she will remember you, and so will everyone else who observed you. In fact, your actions may be preserved on surveillance video.
4. Help Others
Be the person who helps those who can’t help themselves. This is the time to assist others. You may need help someday yourself, so sow some seeds to help others when you can.
Crisis and pandemic situations can also bring out the best parts of humanity. Be a conduit of kindness and compassion instead of fear. Others will see your example, and they will remember you were the one who gave up your eggs when your neighbor took them out of her cart.
5. Speak up
If you observe injustice, speak up to the right resource. This includes voting and being involved with positive social change. Allow karma to do its work. Again, guard your words and actions. Keep yourself safe but don’t shut down. It’s a delicate balance between speaking out against injustice and putting yourself in harm’s way.
6. Manage the Stress
It’s important to remember that fear causes stress. Stress causes several health issues, so use techniques to cope and manage your stress throughout the crisis. Your overall health and well depend upon your ability to think clearly and make the right choices. One of the best ways to control stress is mindfulness meditation. It only takes a few minutes to pause the allow yourself to regain emotional equilibrium.
Navigating crisis and pandemic situations is an important skill for everyone to learn. It puts things in perspective. We are one people on one planet. We need to learn to care for each other and the environment. Otherwise, we will suffer the consequences.
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(1) World Health Organization, who.int, and Centers for Disease Control, cdc.org
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia