Make Better Decisions Under Stress From the COVID-19 Pandemic
Leaders, as well as average people, are making big choices
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- 1. President Trump, fearing the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy, announced he wants the nation back to normal by Easter, then quickly walks back the decision under fire from critics.
- 2. You Aren’t Powerless
- 3. Control Your News Intake & Prioritize
- 4. Find Ways to Feel Good
- 5. Just Breathe
- 6. Look at the Bigger Picture
It’s very natural for us as humans, as parents, as individuals, to feel that heaviness on our chest. That is taking an emotional and physical toll on us.- Reena Patel, psychologist
President Trump, fearing the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy, announced he wants the nation back to normal by Easter, then quickly walks back the decision under fire from critics.
New York City hospitals, besieged by a surge of patients, let doctors choose not to resuscitate COVID-19 patients to avoid exposing frontline medical workers to the virus. They also expect to face heartbreaking ethical dilemmas regarding who should receive use of scarce ventilators.
In yet another, less critical example, the NCAA decides to grant an extra year of eligibility to college seniors who play spring sports and have had their seasons canceled by the pandemic, a decision that seems fair to seniors but will hurt schools financially and be unfair to younger athletes coming up.
The pandemic is forcing leaders, along with many people, to make tough decisions under historically stressful conditions. The most recent weekly Axios-Ipsos poll of Americans, launched in early March to track the effects of the pandemic, found growing anxiety. About 35% of people surveyed March 27-30 reported worsening mental health over the past week, up from 22% the week prior, and 43% said their “emotional well-being” had declined over the week, up from 29% the week earlier.
You Aren’t Powerless
Making decisions, depending on the type of thing that needs to be decided, can always be difficult, but especially during times of high stress. The coronavirus pandemic certainly qualifies. People are worried about how they’ll earn the income they need to pay their bills and feed their families. Kids can’t attend school. Some items are hard to find at the grocery store, and stores have reduced hours. Travel has been restricted to essential needs.
However, experts say there are things we can do to put ourselves in a better position to make decisions during this trying time.
“Many of us have never felt true anxiety or depression, or some of these moods and emotions that we are feeling, because we’ve never been in a situation like this,” said psychologist Reena Patel. “It’s very natural for us as humans, as parents, as individuals, to feel that heaviness on our chest. That is taking an emotional and physical toll on us.”
Control Your News Intake & Prioritize
Patel advises people to pick one time each day to watch or read news coverage of the pandemic.
“So you’re not constantly in front of that coverage 24 hours a day, where you don’t realize the big psychological toll it can take on you,” Patel said. “You don’t want to have your children around it. Of course, teenagers are aware of what’s going on but still, they have an adolescent mind.”
Furthermore, those who are furloughed or laid off from work can lessen financial stress by setting priorities on spending. Can you temporarily get by with a less costly cell phone plan or TV package?
“If you have to do that, just know that it’s temporary,” Patel said. “Look at it as a snippet of where you are right now and what’s going on with the times, but know you can always get that back.”
Find Ways to Feel Good
That sense of helplessness or loss of control also can be mitigated by doing things to inspire others. For example, Patel and her children recently wrote messages in sidewalk chalk on their driveway for passersby that included, “We are in this together,” and “We love our health care workers.”
“Finding ways to give back, even if they seem small, go a long way because you find you have a purpose,” she said.
Patel also advises that you need to pay attention to your physical health, being mindful of what you eat to help maintain a strong immune system. Step outside and exercise while maintaining social distancing.
“There’s a lot to be said for sun and Vitamin D, and the influence that being outside has on your mood,” Patel said. “Doing those things for even like 5, 10 minutes a day will help clear your mind so you can make rational decisions, so you can think about what needs to be done, and you have a little bit of time away from that grind.”
Intuitive life coach and numerologist Gina Roda said she has had many clients lately seeking help with making decisions during the crisis. It starts with finding “calmness” and “clarity,” Roda said.
“A few of the ways to do that is just to get a little more still, and to be a little more meditative, and also just to breathe,” Roda said. “I’m always directing my clients and everyone really to go inside, to be more still, and to breathe. Clarity comes. Confusion dissipates. People feel more whole, more joy and certainty.”
Now for those who’ve never meditated, Roda said it’s simple. Google “breath work” or “meditation for stress.” Take a few minutes starting or ending your day and either sit or lie down, focusing on slowly breathing in and out of your nose.
“Put your hand on your heart and go, ‘Oh OK, I’m feeling peaceful. I have clarity,’” Roda said. “You start with breath because breath is meditation, quite honestly. We make a big deal out of everything. I’m here to simplify. That’s the other message. Simplify your life. Less is more right now.”
Look at the Bigger Picture
Rhoda said she is asking people to try to look at things from a broader perspective.
“A lot of my clients are very wealthy, so they’re looking from the place of money concerns,” Roda said. “Am I losing all my money, am I losing my business? So I’m just asking people to broaden their lens and look at, oh OK, in this seemingly crashing adversity, how can we have a breakthrough in the breakdown? How to expand instead of contract? How to be a little more generous? How to have a little more compassion for people? See how you can serve.”
Finally, Roda often encourages people to search YouTube for “sound frequency therapy.” She lets the “vibrational medicine” play in the background all day and night, as she has done for 11 years.
“You just let that energy permeate in your house,” she said. “It calms all the energy down. I’ve referred every person I know in every direction. I can tell you from all the feedback, it’s been life-altering for people. A simple solution.”
I have worked as a reporter at daily newspapers for 25 years, and now cover local government and politics at The South Bend (IN) Tribune. I was honored in 2019 to win the Hoosier State Press Association's Ray Moscowitz Award,which recognizes those who foster advancement of the First Amendment, for my reporting on mismanagement at the city's mass transit agency.
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