How to think in a crisis 

click to enlarge Sacrificing the greater good for self-preservation can be human nature. - ZIGRES / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Zigres / Shutterstock.com
  • Sacrificing the greater good for self-preservation can be human nature.

Authorities thrust into the spotlight in a crisis must not only try to quell hysteria and correct wrong information but also deliver crucial calls to action. 

“Because of the ways we process information while under stress, when communicating with someone facing a crisis or disaster, messages should be simple, credible, and consistent,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

There is a need to discourage people from resorting to instinctive self-preservation behavior that disregards the greater public. 

Hoarding toilet paper is one example. 

Rather than making people feel good, like when President Trump promised the COVID-19 crisis wouldn’t be bad and would end soon, authorities should try to empower people to be part of the solution. Stay home. Wash your hands. 

The fact is, people living in a time of crisis hear messages differently because they may be struggling with information overload, juggling layers of facts and directives or trying to interpret confusing guidance. 

Here are a few suggestions for how to sort through what the professionals are telling you and find the most solid information: 

BE WILLING to let go of current and traditional beliefs and be prepared to act against those beliefs. For example, authorities might ask people to evacuate during calm weather because a hurricane is coming. Likewise, our workplaces have always seemed safe but now we’re being told to stay home. 

In the case of the COVID-19 virus, scientists tell us you can have the virus and not show symptoms, leading some people who should self-isolate, such as Sen. Rand Paul, to remain out in public — he attended meetings and worked out in the congressional gym while awaiting test results for the virus (he tested positive). 

Similarly, guard against accepting a message from a source that might not have necessary expertise to accurately guide you, like a neighbor or a talkshow host. 

Instead, turn to knowledgeable sources. UCHealth, for example, has been posting advisories on the virus in mid-January. Keep up with these advisories at uchealth.org/today/covid19-coronavirus-recent-updates. 

BE CAREFUL not to cling to the first message you hear from a person in authority. Trump, for example, downplayed the virus for weeks. It’s human nature to resist a change in your daily habits, but be flexible and accept new information from those who base their information on scientific evidence. 

BE SKEPTICAL of unfounded rumors that float about during any crisis, which can undermine the community’s group effort to work together.


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