How to Stay Calm During a Pandemic - Are we in a Stockholm Syndrome ?

Two Errors Our Minds Make When Trying to Grasp the Pandemic

Mental and physical health are inevitably intertwined. It is about like the old song "Love and Marriage", You can't have one without the other.  As the lockdown proceeds the financial and emotional toll will mount.

Disappointment and uncertainty are inevitable. But we don’t have to turn them into suffering.


It is a good time to reevaluate our lives, where we have been, and where we want to go. Some of us will try to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and security. Others will use their energy to move on. Some fortunate people will be able to resume a near-normal life. Those who have some assets or are in the top 10% may be able to adjust and carry on.  For most that will be impossible.

A key quality for survival is adaptability and the ability to think and do outside the box. Look around you and separate your wants from your needs (ie food and shelter) No matter how we plan life takes you on a path.  No one escapes it. Rich or poor, we all have regrets, and they are as painful when you are rich.  Material things don't hug you or love you.  If that is what gives you jollies, you are missing the most important thing about life as a human being.

My own life experiences brought me up short 30 years ago. It took me another ten years to grasp reality.  My initial response was I would bounce back, after all, I was young, less than 40 years old. I could always file bankruptcy, wait 7 years, and resume life...I was not business-wise and did not separate my business from personal life. I mixed funds between business and private.

When you wake up every day, are your first thoughts are about what would have been doing if it weren’t for the virus. Do you spend hours reading and watching everything she can about what the models are projecting and what the experts are saying about the crisis?  

A lot of people are feeling this way as the quarantine drags on. There’s so much we are missing from our old lives—graduations, weddings, family get-togethers, religious celebrations. There’s so much uncertainty about what we can expect in the coming weeks and months.

It’s natural to feel this way, of course. But many of us are likely fueling these negative feelings more than necessary, because of subtle cognitive errors. With knowledge and a little practice, these errors are easy to correct. By doing so, we can improve our outlook on the current situation and learn to be better thinkers in the future. 

ERROR 1: CONFUSING DISAPPOINTMENT WITH REGRET
My late father was a notorious pessimist. I remember once during a long road trip in rural Montana, he announced that we were probably going to run out of gas and have to spend the night in the car on the side of the road. I looked at the gas gauge and saw that the tank was more than half full. I asked why he assumed the absolute worst-case scenario was going to happen. “If I assume the worst, I’m less likely to be disappointed,” he told me.

ERROR 2: CONFUSING UNCERTAINTY WITH RISK
Why does my friend spend so much time-consuming information about the coronavirus? She isn’t a scientist and doesn’t work on anything related to the pandemic. Still, she visits the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center every day to see if the curve of cases and deaths is flattening. She watches hours of news in which experts are interviewed about the pandemic’s trajectory and when they think life will return to normal.

She is making another cognitive error: She is mistaking uncertainty for risk. Uncertainty involves unknown possible outcomes and thus unknowable probabilities. Risk involves known possible outcomes and probabilities that we can estimate. Risk is not especially scary, because it can be managed—indeed, risk management is the core business of the insurance industry. Uncertainty, on the other hand, is scary, because it is not manageable: We can’t measure the likelihood and impacts of the unknowable.

At present, COVID-19 is more of uncertainty than a risk. Will you get the virus? What happens if you do? When will the crisis end? Are we creating an economic depression? People can opine and make informed guesses, but no one really knows the answers to these questions.

Read: Regret is the price of free will

"I could have done more. I should have done more."

Most of us have probably thought this very thing at several points in our lives, but this particular quote was from Bob Ebeling, who was an engineer on the space shuttle Challenger. Last January, on the 30th anniversary of the shuttle’s explosion, NPR ran a heartbreaking interview with Ebeling about his attempt to warn NASA that it was too cold to launch, and his regret that he failed to convince them.

Feeling in control of your life is good for you, but it can also lead to heartbreak over mistakes and lost opportunities.
















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