How Panic Spreads

Reading Time: 8 minutes

There is a bit of wisdom we could use from Douglas Adams book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and that is Don’t Panic! I try not to date my posts as much as possible but believe that though this is centered on the Wuhan Flu otherwise known as Covid-19 or the Corona Virus. So yeah, this post is centered around an event happening in our life right now. Yet, I believe that this can help in any intense situation that may come up in your day to day life after everything settles. That topic is around panicking and how to maintain control of your facilities when the proverbial fit hits the shan.

We have seen the huge box stores being emptied out of all the basic items. From toilet, paper to meat and to baking supplies and water. The stores look like a plague of locusts just flew in devoured everything and took off. We have seen fights break out over hand sanitizer. When just washing your hands does a better job. We can take so many lessons from this societal response to prove that people never headed or took what our great grandparents had learned the century before. Which is actually a good thing because it just reinforces the lessons and skills we all need to have.

You as the father and head of your household have a very pivotal responsibility for your family and sons in particular. That is every day is a life lesson. You show your son how to react to different situations. You and your wife are the bedrock for your family and when you panic what are you showing your sons? You display more strength and the needed fortitude if you are able to remain calm in a high-stress situation yeah it can be tough to keep your cool. Yet it is possible. So let’s look at panic and see what can be gleaned from today’s situation and see if we can apply it to make ourselves a better anchor point for our kids.

What is panic?

Panicking as all emotions are created by a thought. Most of the time that thought is from a place of fear. You see that you were down to the last roll of toilet paper and you wanted to go pick up a roll. Sadly, you arrive at Wal-Mart and there is nothing. You go to the butt wipe aisle and nothing it is gone. You mutter to yourself and leave to go to another store. You find out that no store has toilet paper. You progress to the convince stores and even go out to the edge of town to the truck stop there is no toilet paper around. This sounds very familiar, right. Therefore, you start thinking about the scarcity mindset as everyone else does. You start making plans on getting up and waiting outside Walmart because they are no longer 24 hours they close at 8:30 when you get there at 6 a.m. you see that a crowd is there already. They may be somewhat jovial and sound upbeat yet there they are doing the very same thing you are waiting to get in so you can grab toilet paper, meat and other stores.

The door unlocks and the attendant says that they are allowing only the elderly first. The rest of the crowd gets outraged and as the little old ladies and gentlemen work their way through the crowd and file in other people start pushing their way through and suddenly it’s a mad rush. Panic sets in and it is a stampede. You see the older folks are shoved aside maybe a few fall over. Yet no one stops to help them because it is every man woman and child for themselves. Panic causes us to lose our humanity.

Mentally speaking a state of panic is when the emotional center of your brain takes full control. The amygdala is the reptilian part of the brain this is what is supposed to help keep you safe from bears and sabretooth tigers. This part of the brain still provides help in keeping us alive when we see a bus heading towards us. Yet, when there are dangers that are coming our way that don’t require split-second decisions this is where the amygdala creates its problems. The Reptilian part of our brain wants to keep us safe and secure but we excel when we have time to think the problem through.

Panicking also has problems when we are in groups. This often causes us even more problems. Enrico Quadrantile who ran the Center for Disaster Research explains it like this

Panic, rather than being antisocial, is a nonsocial behavior, this disintegration of social norms… sometimes results in the shattering of the strongest primary group ties.

Enrico Quadrantile

That is why we suddenly lose our humanity and we see people not caring about the elderly when they should have first dibs at the toilet paper and sandwich meat. Panicking in any situation does nobody any good, especially when it is in a group environment.  

Where does panic come from

The Coronavirus panic isn’t any different. The Spanish flu had people acting the very same way they gathered as many supplies as they could in a relatively short amount of time. The suppliers were having as hard of a time keeping the shelves stocked as Walmart is doing now. The panic in this situation is a herd mentality based in scarcity. Because we see what we don’t have, we forget that there is more where that came from. You have to plan and get information.

Getting only half of the story

One problem that we face is that we make our decisions on only half the story. You may have a friend who heard something from another friend that something is happening. As you know when reading blogs, we instinctually grab only the information we think is important. An example is a friend of mine got notice that her sister was given papers for essential travel. My friend rightfully so got concerned that the government was about to instigate martial law and you were about to start being required to have travel documents on hand at all times. Well, that wasn’t the full story. Yeah, the sister did get papers saying she was essential personnel. The devil was in the details. The pares weren’t from the government they were from her company. The state she was in wasn’t shutting the state down. There is no talk about martial law.

When you receive information, you need to turn off the emotional part of your brain. That way you can apply some thought to the information and ask questions. Get as much information you can grab. Yet also always verify that information when you get it. Your trusted source may only be getting half of the needed information. Therefore, you can trust but verify from other sources. You can get information from mainstream media but don’t stop there. Again, verify information from TV news networks want you in an emotional state so that you will stay tuned. They do have an agenda and it’s not for your betterment. You can even pit the news networks against each other to sift out the real truth. Take what the alarmist s is saying on MSNBC and compare that to what Fox News has to say. You will get a fuller more developed picture.

Get information

In today’s internet age, you can gather all the information you need but you can also get all the wrong information. With the coronavirus, you are getting a lot of half-truths and fake news. Therefore, though you may not like them it is good to go the utmost authority. That authority here is the CDC. This has all the information about the illness that does you any good. To worry about things out of your power does you no good. You can plan but after that to keep worrying isn’t helping the matters at all.

Reacting not responding

What is the difference between reacting and responding? Well, look at what doctors say. IF you are given meds that behave badly in your body, they say you have a reaction. When you are improving because of meds, you are responding. That is the same with how you act with your information. You can either react by being in an emotional state or you can respond and be in a better position with the information. America reacted in 2001 after 9/11 we made some very rash decisions and made some laws that don’t help us at all.

When you do get needed information make sure you are processing that information with a little emotion as you can. We as humans make our most mistakes when we commit to a decision when under an emotional load.

Getting too much information

Now another way we get ourselves into a panicked state is when we get too much information and it overwhelms us. Therefore, you want information but you need to take it in bite-sized chunks process before you take another piece of information and see if it fits into the grand scheme of things.

How to handle stress of a situation?

If you find yourself in a panic, it can often be too late but you can also rectify the problem by stopping right where you are or get out of the way. So that if you are in a panicked crowd find a safe place to stop and think of why people are panicking. If you are not to the point of panicking, you can actually mitigate the stress of the situation in a few different ways.

Deep Breaths

Take a deep full belly breath if things are getting intense. This signals to your brain to shift the thought process away from the reptile brain to your thinking part. A deep belly breathing is when your stomach is what goes out in when breathing in. Stressed people breathe from their top part of their lungs. While when you are not stressed, your breathing is more of a full deeper breath. You can use an app like Calm to take dep deliberate breaths this will help clear your head and give your thinking part of your brain a chance to process what’s happening and help you make better choices.

Don’t take immediate actions.

If there is a pressing problem, you are facing then decide to not take action on that decision for 24 hours. This allows your mind to really process the problem at hand and you can then make a confident decision on what needs to be done. You also have time to formulate a plan as to how you will approach the issue you have.

Talk to other people.

Another way you can calm down is to talk to other people. Find those who are not panicked and just talk to people who are calmer. You will take that calm demeanor and start changing your thoughts so that you will calm down also. You are also able to get other pieces of information that can often be the key to a problem you are facing.

Remember who you are responsible to.

When the rest of the world has lost its mind, keep those people who you are responsible for in mind. They need you to keep it together. You are actually letting them down when you go into panic mode. You are to be their rock and when you are going into a panic state of mind you are working off a place of fear and scarcity that holds you back. Your primary job is to protect them while also keeping your head. There are times that you will be scared but you can be scared and calm at the same time.

Make Plans

Now finally to keep the panic at bay is to be prepared yeah you may be called a prepper and that is fine you are preparing for the next situation. If you think you are going to plan for this situation, you are already too late. So start making plans on how you are going to mitigate the next pandemic which will be happening 4 – 10 years down the road. You can have enough food stores and toilet paper for 2 weeks. Gather what you will need and learn from this experience. It is interesting to watch and pick up where you failed to shore up and so you can make the needed changes. Therefore, be ready it will put your wife and kids minds at ease when they feel safe because of the work you did ahead of time.

So yeah, the coronavirus is here. The stocks of toilet paper will return to normal amounts. We will have movie theaters open once more and we can see the latest blockbuster. Our life will return to normal but you will be ready to go with your plans and people will look to you for help and assurance if you stay calm and don’t panic.

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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