Okay, this Focus Area is a bit self-explanatory. In an emergency or in deep fear, it can be super helpful not to panic.
Happens to all of us, though. In an emergency, we may default to a fight, flight, or freeze response… in large part because we evolved that way to survive. Those things are not always helpful in the modern world – although there are definitely times they are. If your gut says to fight, flight, or freeze, you can check in with yourself in the moment in time and see what feels right. Remembering to not panic might help to think more clearly in those split seconds.
Remembering to not panic is a key, here, because panic is super easy in many situations. Almost by definition, though, it rarely helps.
To navigate disruption, we need to be able to think clearly. Not panicking, breathing, taking a moment – these are all things that can help us when the unexpected happens. Or, when fear strikes.
There is a science fiction / comedy book series by Douglas Adams that starts with the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” which is about exactly that: a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The fictional Guide has, per the story, become wildly popular in part because “it has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.” I read these books as a kid, and the "DON'T PANIC" advice has been useful since.
And now we're in a pandemic.
It's a disruption all right; exactly what this website was built for. We're all about seeing risk, finding or using tools to address it; and otherwise navigating disruption. Finding our way through.
A ubiquitous thing like a pandemic is vastly different than the kind of disruptions we've gotten used to - from car accidents to cancer to hurricanes to terrorist attacks. Nobody gets away from a ubiquitous, persistent, widespread infectious disease - even those with means and money. The effects go far and wide.
With that - there will be trauma. There is trauma now. There will be more. It's an an enormous, worldwide collective trauma. It's shared trauma in cities and families. It's shared trauma for those working in critical jobs. The lists go on and on and on and on and on.
We can perhaps mitigate, lessen, or help with some of that by not panicking (perhaps, because there's no guarantee, and it won't work for everyone).
We make better decisions when we're not panicked - which can help us get through this. Better, calmer, more informed, more strategic decision-making is one of the hugest reasons not to panic. Good decisions in this time will come from a place of grounding, cool thinking, strategic and tactical risk management, science, and public health practices and principles.
Bad decisions make things worse - as we see every day in the US. The bad decisions are caused by many factors, but panic is certainly one of them.
It is important to recognize that sometimes panic just happens. It's especially important to remember that in a widespread, prolonged crisis like this one.
Panic is inevitable. Handling it when it happens (and coming down from it sooner than we might have) are going to be critical tools. Figuring out how to do that is pretty much what we do here - countering fear- so check into coaching or, well, anything else on this website if you need more tools. We can come out of panic sometimes; especially when we recognize that we are panicking. There's a lot more to it, but again, digging in to all of that is what we do here.
Recognizing that others will have a panic response and may be in the trauma fight, flight, or freeze reaction can be helpful - and may actually be critical - as this pandemic unfolds. Just because you might get better at dealing with your own panic doesn't mean that you can talk people out of theirs. The sphere of influence tool can help a bit with that, as can recognizing that it happens - and that when it does, it can do damage. People panicking - sometimes at scale - is part of why this coronavirus situation will continue to intensify, with all kinds of unforeseen circumstances.
Breathe. There are ways through.
It's going to be bad. We know tragedy is here and coming. We know we're not all going to make it. We know all of that. Still: we can find ways through.
Breathe more. Work from your anchor point; find some grounding.
For more resources on countering fear and not panicking, check out the other focus areas for more ways through, the counterfear tools in the blog, the whole counterfear toolbox, or like anything else on the entire counterfear website.
This is what we do.
Be safe. Love people. Try not to get dead. We can all help pull each other forward.