In this episode on Social Isolation Mindset, we talk about:
- Extended Isolation Preparedness
- CDC - 15 Days to Slow the Spread
- Overcoming Normalcy Bias
- Everyone has Normalcy Bias
Extended Isolation Preparedness
What Do at Least 30 More Days More of Isolation Mean to Me, a Crazy Prepper and my Social Isolation Mindset?
First off, let me start by saying that while I am a prepper, this situation does not feel good. It feels anything other than good. And now, the plan is to stay my butt inside for another 30 days. Thirty days longer feels like, well, it feels like it may suck. And that's okay for me to feel that way right now.
It's okay for anyone and everyone to feel that way right now. And, for those who don't believe there's any reason to feel that way right now, I have several responses in my head, and only two words jump out at me. Those two words are normalcy bias, and I'll write more on that later. Yes, I know, many people probably have a few words for me as well.
Getting back on topic, in many ways, my rational mind, based upon my life experiences, understanding, and beliefs, acknowledges and accepts the next month or two, maybe challenging. Not only for myself as an individual, for all of my family and friends as well. Friends that, after a lifetime of accumulating them, now live around the globe.
In my opinion, the world may be at a relatively unique point in history. I believe that, because this may be one of those times when the entire planet feels and experiences the same struggle. Unfortunately, should the pandemic progress like many predict, it is possible that only a few people on earth will NOT experience some form of hardship in the coming month or possibly longer?
I'm a Crazy Prepper
Yes, I am a crazy prepper who now more than ever wants a hidden bunker stockpiled with ten years worth of food and video games. Instead, I'm the crazy prepper who is a bit ahead of the food game and just went 17+ days without being within 10' (~3m to my metric friends), in a 20' travel trailer, with a 90-pound golden retriever named Koah and two cats.
And yes, I am also the prepper whose emotional brain wants to shut down when thinking about the possibility that lays ahead. My emotional brain wants to do anything other than think about the next month. That's okay too because it's also normal for the human mind to avoid danger, struggle and all that comes with it.
Fortunately, I recognize that my brain wants to go elsewhere truly hoping we avoid any major problems. By recognizing how my brain meanders, I'm able to interject my rational brain at times so I can act when I'd prefer to be doing anything else. Likewise, if I need to let my rational brain cool off a bit, I can grab moments where I try to let my mind go to focus on small wins and the tiny things that I'm grateful for.
I don't have a bunker. Nor do I have an endless supply of food. What I also HAD was enough stuff set aside that I was able to help out some family and friends who led lives that didn't make preparing as well as myself possible. Now, they too are better off, which feeds back into my previous statement, if this goes as some predict, we will ALL be in it together.
Therefore, it's good to remember to take the safety of you, your family, friends, as well as complete strangers seriously. I say "safety" because until proven otherwise through testing, I may be the carrier of a deadly virus and not know it. Likewise, until shown otherwise, everyone I am not 100% certain of, also has the potential to pass on a lethal disease.
Because of that, now is as good of a time as any to stay away from others and limit all unnecessary contact with anyone whose level of social isolation for at least 15 days is not 100% certain. In my case, I am going 21 days to be sure not to infect others. After all, it's not like I don't have the time or opportunity.
Likewise, when I do venture out, I will always be cautious and deliberate in my actions. I want to avoid touching surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic, where a virus can live for hours and days. It's my deliberate and cautious actions that will allow me to come home safe and not transfer a potentially deadly disease.
Overcoming Normalcy Bias
When it came to diseases, while I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, a regular saying about sleeping around was not to, because people don't know where other people have been or the person they were with before, and so on. In other words, people shouldn't have sex with someone without using protection, unless they are 100% certain about the person, or are okay with becoming infected with a deadly disease.
Now, the same is true with a twist. That twist is that now you don't have to sleep with someone to become infected with a deadly disease. Today, in 2020, all a person needs to do to infect someone or get infected is get within a few feet of one another.
It's something that people should take seriously because it is a serious situation. And if it doesn't kill someone, it may through them, kill someone, you know and care for. That's my mantra because that is so important to understand the ramifications of our actions and inactions.
So, what does the extension through the end of April? Well, it means we will most likely have another 30 days of cabin fever coming. It also means that it may be time to get your mind around the possibility of another 30 days cooped up.
If you already haven't heard me talk about normalcy bias, you'll likely listen to me talk about it a lot. 70% of people have a normalcy bias, and it's not their fault. It's not something they can necessarily get rid of, because it's part of the human condition.
Normalcy bias wants life to be normal, and act is a disaster, pandemic, or other difficulty isn't happening. I talk about normalcy bias in my recent YouTube video "What is Normal Bias (Personal Resilience)" In that video, I review a Gizmodo article "The Frozen Calm of Normalcy Bias" that discusses the 1977 Tenerife plane crash in the Canary Islands
Overcrowding of planes on the runway due to a terrorist incident at another airport led to two planes crashing on the runway. Five hundred eighty-three people lost their lives in the tragedy. Normalcy bias comes into play because many of the people who perished did so because of normalcy bias.
Sadly, as a wall of flame marched through the cabin, passengers gripped with normalcy bias remained frozen in their seats. Survivors report seeing passengers remain buckled in their seats, in disbelief of what was happening. Instead of trying to run to safety, they lost their lives while disbelieving the events were happening.
Overcoming Normalcy Bias
One way to battle your own normalcy bias is to think about the situation that is unfolding around you. As you do, should you find yourself doubting the severity of what is happening, it may be time to do a reality check with yourself. It's that reality check that may help improve your situation, which in the case of emergencies, save lives.
Five Tips to Battle Normalcy Bias:
- Do I have an uneasy feeling about the situation or in general?
- Is the hair standing up on the back of my neck, arms, etc.?
- Given the current facts, would a reasonable person be concerned or take decisive action?
- Are people I know, who don't typically overreact, taking the situation seriously?
- Even though I disbelieve, the situation is dangerous, what are the positives and negatives of taking action if I'm wrong?
If a person answers yes to any of those questions, it may be time to reconsider the gravity of the situation. However, when people re-evaluate the seriousness of the situation, they should do so with the understanding that they may be one of the 70% of people who have normalcy bias. In other words, analyze the situation with all of the available information possible and the knowledge that we may be in denial.
One course of action I use is to think of people I know who are typically level headed when it comes to emergencies and stressful situations. When I use this method, I ask myself or speak with those people directly, and find out why they feel the way they do. I also find out what courses of action they are or plan to follow.
Asking what courses of action people recommend taking does not mean I need to follow that course of action. Instead, learning the possible actions others may take and their reasoning why, better prepares me to deal with adverse situations because I've, at a minimum, thought through it.
Ask people who live in areas prone to disasters, such as tornado alley, earthquake country, and areas frequented by hurricanes. Many will tell you they don't have to think about what to do when problems happen. They will also go on to list out, without much thought, many of the actions they take when a disaster they've somewhat grown accustomed to happens. It's these actions that they've either learned from the success of others or from their personal experiences that will often be the most beneficial to follow.
The Down Sides of Social Isolation
So, we are now, or at least should be, socially isolating for another 30-days. That means another month of spending a lot of time inside our homes and yards, which may be hard at times. After all, humans require social interaction.
Adding to the drama of social isolation is the fact that many people are struggling financially. It's no secret than money problems lead to stress, which can often make lesser problems seem that much worse. And for those people going through that, please understand that those feelings are entirely normal.
Agitation, short tempers, depression, and a host of other not so great emotions become more challenging to manage during prolonged, stressful times. As with normalcy bias, becoming emotional during hard times is normal.
Overcoming the Emotional Side of Social Isolation
The first step of overcoming social isolation is to understand that emotions tend to run high during stressful times. Next, understand that when people become emotionally activated, rational thought often suffers. It's when rational thought suffers due to an emotional event that people sometimes expose themselves to unnecessary danger.
One way people expose themselves to unnecessary danger is by NOT taking the situation seriously enough. Another way people open themselves to problems is by letting the situation overwhelm them to the point of ineffectiveness. Regardless of the reason, both not taking a situation seriously enough and allowing oneself to remain overwhelmed can often lead to the same problem.
The problem that normalcy bias and overwhelm can lead to is inattention to basic needs. That inattention also applies to preparedness-minded people who spend years readying themselves for difficult times. Then, when difficult times are upon them, refuse to look past the conspiracy theories and other vitriol that feeds their emotional mindset. Instead of focusing on the adversity of the moment, they often focus on the politics of the situation or search and promote information that supports their mental bias.
It is when mental bias leads to inattention towards basic needs that some find themselves facing an even more difficult situation. For example, as we move into at least 30 additional days of isolation, how many people have thought to re-evaluate the amount of food and other NECESSITIES of life that they have on hand?
Have people asked themselves questions such as:
- Do they have enough supplies for another 30-days?
- If not, can they stretch it?
- If they must go to the store, what do they truly need?
- Are they consuming the soonest to expire or spoil food items first, saving the longer shelf-life food for later?
While these questions and planning to address them may not feel good to think about, not thinking about them may cause problems later.
Now comes the even more difficult question to ask. That question is, WHAT IF?
- What if the need to self-isolate goes longer than 30 days?
- Are there enough supplies to last 60 days?
- Is there something people can do to stretch what's in the cupboard or supplement it from elsewhere?
Other questions to ask are:
- How to stay busy and entertained?
- How to get physical activity?
- What if important appointments are coming up?
- How to make sure the children and others are doing okay?
- And so on...
The sooner people start wrapping their minds around the situation, the better off they will likely be.
Now that we all understand that normalcy bias and similar conditions often make it difficult for people, we should also realize that many who may be in denial are that way due to no fault of their own. After all, as I discussed earlier, normalcy bias is part of the human condition.
Therefore, as normalcy bias is part of the human condition, please do not argue with one another over the situation. Instead, agree to disagree and keep the isolation troubles to a minimum. Also, remember that no one is above, becoming impacted by a difficult situation. Because of this, when I question those around me, I try to put myself in their shoes and see things through their eyes.
As I examine the world through another person's eyes, I sometimes find I am wrong, and they are right, which lets me adjust my thinking. However, there are other times when I realize I am right, and the person I am speaking with is struggling with their normalcy bias or other issues. Armed with that information, I am then able to adjust my course of action to one that is more effective and beneficial.
What I do not do is tell people to "suck it up" or "deal with it." Doing so makes light of their beliefs and feelings. It can also anger people who are working through the problem in the way they know best. So, instead of belittling others, be positive and help GUIDE them through whatever it is that is happening. Notice I said "guide" and don't say "beath them into submission."
Acting kind is essential because 30 days cooped up in a house with may inflame tempers, test relationships, and cause unnecessary problems. Instead of becoming angry and frustrated, be kind and positive. That doesn't mean to fake kindness. Instead, understand that others are dealing with stress too and that they may not want to be confronted, lectured to, etc. Again, treat one another with kindness and understand that this is a difficult time for everyone.
The First Noble Truth
The first noble truth of Buddhism is another concept that is important to understand. The first noble truth was taught to me by Matt Quackenbush of the Finding Strength podcast. The first noble truth, as I know it, states that life is suffering.
In other words, we all will suffer at one point or another. Think about it this way; when we are born, we suffer. Well, not that I recall my birth and, no birth that I've ever witnessed seemed to be relaxing and comfortable. Likewise, as an experienced paramedic, I don't get the feeling that death is too pleasing, either. I can go on and on, and I think everyone should get the point.
Overcoming the Adversity Using a Positive Social Isolation Mindset
In the end, here are three things I help myself when I face adversity
- I've conquered adversity in the past
- I'm facing adversity in the present
- I'll overcome adversity in the future
Never forget, you’re just one prep away.
If you have any other thoughts or questions about social isolation mindset, please leave a comment below.
Stay safe, secure and prepared,
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