Reality is often stranger than fiction. The timeline of current events is like living in a disaster film? What is the intelligent thing to do?
It’s All About Overcoming Our Fears
Every disaster film starts with leadership denying and ignoring the warnings of scientists. A disaster flick always has an evil villain. The villain is a crazy con-man who wants to rule the world. He inherits but squanders a family fortune, so he looks for a way to use his con-man skills to regain his riches.
As the story continues, the sociopath takes control of the government through a series of underhanded and illegal means. He has a group of powerful, brainwashed acolytes. They want him in power because they think he will make them rich. Sound familiar?
Are You Living in a Disaster Movie?
Once in power, the villain and his band of thieves close government programs and siphon off funds. Of course, one program he closes is the safety net that would have avoided the crisis. However, people’s lives don’t matter.
All that matters to unhealthy people is money and power. So, the villain fans the flames of the hate groups to provide distraction using outlandish and unfounded conspiracies to further distract people from catching onto his schemes. He makes ridiculous promises that resonate with their “own” racist fears and economic plight.
As the crisis progresses, the villain and his cronies continue to deny scientists’ warnings. It doesn’t matter why? It could be out of ignorance, negligence, or just spite. It worsens the crisis, but they push on with their plan to steal as much cash as possible.
All of this sets the stage for a worldwide calamity, but a superhero intervenes. As a result, the villain loses his influential leadership role. So, the con-man wants to cause as much chaos and confusion as possible so he and his cronies can escape prosecution.
If the above scenario seems familiar, you are like many who think we are living in a disaster movie. Reality mirrors fiction. Those who survive in the movies have two things in common. First, understand how to handle fear, keep them from following the herd. Second, they model the fundamental lessons of childhood. Are you with me so far?
We’ll talk about how to manage fear in a moment, but what are the lessons of childhood?
Here they are just in case you need a reminder: 1) Don’t be selfish, learn to be kind and share with others and they will share with you. 2) Don’t throw temper tantrums when you don’t get what you want. You’ll need friends to help you, so be compassionate with others and yourself when mistakes happen. Last but not least, 3) learn to take care of what you have.
You probably know some adults who didn’t learn these basic lessons, they are the greedy, selfish people. In a disaster movie, they are the ones who hoard essential items and treat people badly. We are glad when they are one of the first to have a bad experience.
Overcoming our fears is essential to navigating the challenges of any disaster. Not an easy thing to do when there are so many things happening. The extended the stressful situation persists, the more the stress mounts.
So, let’s look at what’s going on in the mind when we are facing stressful situations that push us to the limit physically or mentally. Then discuss some practical strategies to handle these kinds of problems.
Strategies to Control Fear
Understanding our fears is the key to overcoming our fears and starts with observing our self-talk. We know fear and anxiety distort rational thinking, so it’s helpful to have a plan in place before you begin overreacting. Overacting makes us like lemmings running over a cliff. That’s why people hoard toilet paper. That’s why people pick a scapegoat to project their anger about the situation.
A crisis of any kind triggers our primitive mind, the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. It’s the part of our brain that we share with almost all living creatures. We don’t think about it. It is a natural reaction. For example, we hear an unexpected noise and jump or freeze. But, again, we don’t think about it. It just happens.
So, the key is to learn about your fears and confront them before you are under stress and lose emotional equilibrium. A proactive approach is always best. But people put off this kind of inner work because it isn’t easy.
So, here’s a strategy to help you find, face, and conquer your fears. The process of overcoming our fears is worth the effort. Otherwise, you’ll need to face them at the next crisis. You don’t want to wait until you are experiencing a crisis to deal with this emotional baggage. Here’s how to do it. Here is are proven common-sense steps.
1. Acknowledge Your Fear
Denial is an unhealthy coping strategy, it locks us into a mindset that refuses to see the facts. Instead, we need to is acknowledge your fears. Once you acknowledge fear, you can handle it. Instead of acting out of fear, you can make better, healthier choices.
Fear triggers your fight, flight, or freeze reaction. The Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system automatically takes charge when in danger. It’s the default setting of the nervous system, our primitive monkey brain. The SN system increases blood flow to muscles by shutting down blood flow to the skin and intestines.
The brain responds to the increased adrenalin and a host of other powerful enzymes by shutting off the brain’s higher thinking centers. That’s the problem. With the SN in control, you might be stronger and able to move quickly, but it’s reactionary. You lose your ability to use the higher thinking center.
So acknowledge the fear, but don’t give into it. Yes, it is scary, but resolve not to act in a fearful, selfish, self-serving way. When you are frightened, say to yourself, I will not give in to fear. Instead, I will follow common-sense advice. I will engage my social instincts to help protect the interests of the weakest. Surviving in a disaster requires a balance of social and self-preservation instincts. We need to maintain our emotional equilibrium to make the best decisions.
2. Don’t Get Sidetracked
Don’t get sidetracked by popular right-wing religious or political leaders who reject science and common sense. When you follow the advice of people who are not qualified to provide an informed argument, you put yourself and others at risk. Don’t put yourself at risk and ask others to do the same, it puts everyone at risk. Those who survive living in a disaster movie are those who make informed decisions.
Stay clear of people who refute the epidemiologists and scientists. Watch out for people who prefer political or religious pundits’ advice. Don’t get caught up in conspiracy theories. Follow only legitimate sources of information. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked.
Conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated allegations keep us from overcoming our fears. Don’t get caught up repeating lies. These are often tactics used to create division and attack those trying to take back control from the power-crazed lunatics. Misinformation is a tactic to suppress legitimate people and concerns.
3. Follow Qualified Experts
Follow the advice of health experts (1). Don’t follow those who provide conflicting advice. Situations in a crisis can change rapidly. Be prudent in your actions. Resist fear. Do what the experts recommend, like wearing a mask, practicing safe distancing, and getting vaccinated when it’s your turn.
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 everyone else who observed you will remember you too. You may find your action is on surveillance video.
Model Basic Childhood Lessons
There are three great lessons we hope you learned as a child. First, learn to share. Learn to be kind to yourself, everyone, and everything. Second, if something terrible happens, speak up. Third, take the right action when you know the right thing to do. Are you committed to doing these things? If so, you stand a good chance of being a survivor.
We see what happens when people don’t learn these lessons; they become selfish and greedy.
1. Share, Help, and Be Kind
Be the person who helps those who can’t help themselves. It’s 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 an example of compassion and kindness 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.
It’s important to remember that fear causes stress, which causes several health issues. So, use techniques to cope and manage your anxiety throughout the crisis. Your overall health depends on your ability to think clearly and make the right choices.
Practice self-care. Learn to manage your stress. Don’t allow yourself to live in a state of continual fear. One of the best ways to control pressure is mindfulness meditation. It only takes a few minutes to pause and regain emotional equilibrium. There are several other self-care ideas that you can use. The point is, take a proactive approach to manage stress.
2. Speak Up, Do What is Right
When you see inequity and injustice, speak up, doing something about it. Silence only empowers injustice. Voting and being involved with positive social change are ways to speak up. Give people a chance to do the right things, but don’t sit back. Help karma to do its work. Don’t be like those who allowed a dictator like Hitler to take and maintain power because they didn’t want to offend others by speaking up.
A hero living in a disaster movie always confronts others about their inaction. A hero always and stands up against injustice. Take action when and where it is safe. Remember, those still following the deranged leader are often prone to violence.
To survive a crisis, you must learn to manage your stress. Follow the prudent path. Listen to the scientists. Any life-threatening emergency puts things in perspective. We should realize that 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. We need to speak up and do the right thing.
Most disaster movies have a happy ending. Some hero helps to avert the crisis. The villain and his henchmen are imprisoned or killed, or some combination thereof. But, unfortunately, our real-world disaster may not have such a happy ending. Too many people have already died because of the incompetence of dismantling the pandemic team and ignoring scientists. And there are still a lot of villains who cling to power.
Acknowledge the fear, but don’t be ruled by it. Don’t get sidetracked. Follow the advice of those qualified to give it. Speak up and act against inequality and injustice, be an example of kindness and compassion in action.
(1) World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/