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Could the way we react, ultimately determine our survival?

How do you respond in a crisis?

This piece is inspired by something my father shared on social media recently, in response to the currently COVID-19 pandemic (I have shared the full post at the bottom of this article). 

Please note, that I am not of the opinion that we are approaching the end of the world and my goal is not to scare you into thinking that! It is merely my observations over the past few weeks which has got me thinking about survival in more dire situations.

Obviously, people react differently in a crisis – we are all different people and therefore it’s no surprise that our responses would be different. 

But I wonder if these differences could, one day, be the difference between life or death. 

You see, I’m not an external panicker (I’m not convinced it’s a word but I’m using it today!). Generally, the more worked up someone gets in a situation, the more laid-back I appear to become and, unfortunately, this can come across as apathy or naivety of the severity of a situation. 

However, internally, I’m definitely freaking out somewhat! I just believe that the more people that panic, the worse a situation can seem. 

I’m also Little Miss Positive for the most part. I generally believe that everything will work out for the best eventually, I’m not sure if that’s due to my faith in God, or my sunny disposition! I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and can attest to the fact that believing in a higher power certainly helps with reducing fear and anxiety.

My husband has a different approach in a crisis. I credit this largely to his military upbringing and training; he will consider every possible worst-case scenario and ensure that we have adequately planned and prepared for it. 

Initially, I would tease him for overreacting and thought he was being a little unnecessary and wished he would “look on the bright side”. In turn, he thought I was being too naive and wasn’t concerned enough about the situation. 

The problem here is that we were looking at the other person’s perspective from our own point of view. As soon as we started to discuss our positions and perspective with each other, we actually started to meet in the middle.

My point is this though; if we ever do get to a situation where it’s zombie apocalypse, the actual end of the world or something equally terrifying, which approach do you think is more likely to guarantee survival? 

Exactly. As much as it pains me to admit it – my husband is right! 

However, I stand firm in my position that there is always room for a little positivity and humour to make a terrifying situation, marginally less scary. 

We need to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Burying our heads in the sand doesn’t make anything go away. Assuming we are untouchable doesn’t mean we won’t be affected, but panicking, buying all the toilet roll and pre-emptively saying our goodbyes also isn’t necessary.

So, what I’m saying is that if I’ve learned anything from this COVD-19 situation it is this:

  1. You can never be too prepared for anything
  2. It is better to look back and laugh at how much we overreacted than it is to look back and see how much more we could have done. 
  3. Everybody approaches a crisis differently, there is no right or wrong, but there are some ways that may assure your survival more than others.
  4. What other people think of how you respond in these situations means absolutely NOTHING.
  5. Nothing is certain.

So my friends – no matter where you sit on the spectrum of “prepper-for-end-of-days” to “everything’s gonna be alright”, please take away this:

PREPARE FOR THE WORST AND PRAY FOR THE BEST

The initial passage:

This crisis is traumatic for communities, the nation, the world. It’s not a shock-event like a fire or a terrorist attack, but a slow-building crisis – a crisis that shatters our assumptions that the world is generally safe and reliable, and that all that we’ve worked for in businesses, churches and communities will be fruitful. The loss of security and hope, the breaking down of supportive connections between people, and the fear that this crisis is overwhelming – all of these are characteristics of trauma.

Some of the wisdom that has been gained about trauma recently can help:

a) Our whole selves are affected – we may feel all sorts of strange symptoms, because our body is reacting to the fact that we don’t feel safe. Concentration and sleep may be difficult. We feel distracted, and find it hard to cope. Emotions will be all over the place in surprising ways. Knowing that in traumatic situations it’s normal to be up, down, energetic, exhausted, afraid – will help us to cope with it.

b) People react very differently, depending on different backgrounds and experiences, including past traumas. We need to be kind and understanding to others, and also to ourselves.

c) We respond best when we have clear, reliable information; when we have something practical that we can do; and when we can be connected to others, if not in person then by phone or through social media, T V and radio.

d) We make sense of things by making them part of our story – the story of our own life, and the stories of our communities and of our world. But this takes time. While the trauma is unfolding and we continue to experience the pain of losing what we once had, it’s very hard to make sense of it. We need to remember that holding on together is how we’ll eventually be able to come through and look back on what we’ve experienced.

Communities (and individuals) typically respond to disaster by first going through a ‘heroic phase’, full of energy and self-sacrifice. This eventually burns itself out, and is followed by a ‘disillusionment phase’, which may contain much mutual blame and suspicion. Only as the disillusionment phase loses its force can realistic, hopeful rebuilding take place.

This is a very confusing and draining time, a time when ordinary healthy rhythms are lost. We may be feeling in our minds and bodies the impact of trauma – feeling low and anxious one day when it’s hard to get your brain in gear, energetic the next day, and all at a time when we need to be able to change and adapt to unusual events. So taking care of ourselves and our own well-being is vital. That includes the basics of good rest, eating, and exercise. It also includes as far as possible having people we trust whom we can share with, and being in touch with them.

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