Adjustment Reactions before and during an Influenza Pandemic
You’re right to be afraid (A helpful view by ITW.)
A note from a psychologist friend of Flu Wiki:
In your bird flu prep plans, don’t forget mental health—you’ll need a hefty supply of strength, resolve and useful ways to manage stress and maintain resilience as much as you will need water and food. The good news is that psychological resilience has no expiration date, is something you can do anywhere and with work continues to strengthen across time. Go to the American Psychological Association’s help center, click on the menu “articles and information” scroll down to “disasters and terrorism” and open that screen. There you will find a number of articles on dealing with disasters, how to build resilience, how to help young children and teens. The pieces are well written and provide very practical help. I think one of the best is The Road to Resilience. I would strongly encourage you to download and print it and any others you think would be helpful and keep them available. Practical help in building and maintaining resilience and strength during a disastrous event is foundational to any other planning you are doing for you and your family’s well-being.
Just thinking about a pandemic may elicit an emotional reaction (if we are alive). Our reaction will be very personal, depending on our basic personality, on how we feel about other things, and on our particular circumstances. Our reaction will evolve if we think further, if we do something practical about it, or if the world changes around us. And all this is only because we’re imagining it! If or when there’s a real pandemic, many people (all people?) will go through their own “journey”.
We may try and categorize these inner and personal reactions into several “reaction situations”, which are of course rough simplifications. Let’s not call them “reaction stages” because they need not be sequential, and also because one is not necessarily “better” than the others.
We hope this page may be of help, but please realise it’s been written by fluwikie contributors who are not necessarily experts in psychology, counselling or anything of that sort. Just people talking to each other as peers, looking at what they see, and trying to find ways forward. We recognize feelings for what they are, and at the same time we want to move forward. Patronizing or helplessness are not allowed here, thank you! :-)
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Examples from other runs of life
A man has been diagnosed with a really bad case of cancer. His wife looks for other opinions, one doctor after another, and one therapy after another. She just can’t believe it’s happening.
A young girl finds out she’s pregnant. She didn’t expect it and she doesn’t like the news. She quits school and joins a circus.
Your company has merged with another. You know that there is an intention to find savings via staf “harmonization” over the next year or two. You love where you work and live. Your family is very tied to the community. But, the work you do is specialized and no similar jobs are within commuting distance.
… please add a few other examples for variety …
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Several possibilities. Is “yours now” here? Add what you have felt or seen
- Denial, disbelief
- Deciding that there is too much to think about, and comfortably relegating this to a low place on your list
- Worse than denial: not even willing to think about or look at it and angry at those who bring it up
- Helplessness, powerlessness
- Useless action
- Addicted to the FluWiki
- Talk, talk, talk (to yourself or to others); persuading others to act
- Blaming others (rightfully or not)
- “I will survive”
- Why don’t others care about this/believe this could happen yet?! (Maybe this is a certain kind of “loneliness”.)
- Feelings management with addictive behavior patterns
- Unrelated behaviour, perhaps with some “I’ll survive” in the mix
- Let’s get it over with already! (please see the comments too)
- (Please add your own!)
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Suggestions for each situation
The same action can be taken at different situations. Help yourself to whichever suits you!
- Work at things that improve the world in general, not just regarding a possible pandemic.
- Work at things that are specific to a possible pandemic.
- Enjoy life.
- Get more information, either general or specific, either supporting what you believe or the oposite.
- Anxiety. Your body is complaining and you are not getting enough sleep? Laugh a bit, go for a walk …
- Go out and do some exercise.
- Do something difficult so you must concentrate on that only.
- Focused thinking (“divide and conquer” strategy).
- Useful action (“one thing at a time” strategy).
- Alerting others in “detached” mode.
- Use “detached” mode for everything: you can control your next action, not the end results.
Finally, there’s one piece of (self) advice, specially useful if we feel “blocked”. If someone punches you in the face, your reaction is going to be fast, and maybe not the best possible reaction. In a pandemic, and much more so before a pandemic, we can give ourselves time to think, time to explore things in sequence (say 5 minutes for each question, 25 minutes total, maybe in a family group):
- What is going on right now?
- What may happen in the future?
- What good things do we have already?
- What can we do?
- How do we carry it out practically?
You may find that most of the times you do have 25 minutes! Or you may become good at it and run through those (or similar) questions in less time … Or you may teach others and maybe even “lead without leading”?
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Fear of What?
Fear is a diffuse feeling. When we look inside, we may find our fear is about one or more of several items.
It’s important to understand our own fear and the fear felt by others, both at the current prepping stage and later. Here’s a list of the “sources of fear”. Below is the same list with some “alternative actions”.
the text below needs more work
Sources of fear:
- The potential loss of anything with which we have formed an attachment.
- Dying before living the life we wanted to live.
- Seeing someone close to us die or suffer.
- Being right in our “prediction”.
- Being wrong in our “prediction”.
- Being Rejected (Aquinas called this “Man’s Central frustration”)
- Being caught without sufficient preparation … by the opposition party.
- Being afraid of the irrational actions of other, unprepared, panicking people.
Actions about our own fears and the fears of others:
|Source of fear
||Resolution for ourselves
||Resolution help for others
|Potential Loss of an “attachment”
||Make meaning out of the loss
||Help others find lessons in the loss
|Dying before living the life we wanted to live
||Accept death. Live
|Being wrong in our prediction
||Rephrase “prediction” as “possibility”
||Smile at yourself. Life isuncertanty. We live with the best data we have. You’ll be wrong many times in your life.
|Fear of Rejection
||Find Suportive friends, but be careful not to villify rejectors
||support friend, do not villify rejector(s)
|Feeling blocked by the enormity of the task
||Do the smallest thing in our list
||Suggest same to one other person
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- Peter Sandman, Adjustment Reactions: The Teachable Moment in Crisis Communication
- Dave Pollard, Spin, the Three P’s and the Politics of Learned Helplessness and Learned Optimism
- Bob Eckert, Stress and Coping Strategies
- How some Lords at the House of Lords react. See page 53, question 145 and so on. It’s only human.
- http://www.energybulletin.net/37091.html See how there are “adjustment reactions” in other realms, with experts classifying in a fun sort of way … to make it more acceptable.
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Suggestions for “activists”
Many of the people who come to this site (and also to the sister site which holds the forum) feel compelled to prepare on a personal, family, community or even country level. We can think of ourselves as “activists” of some sort: some louder, some quieter, but we’d like to see a better level of preparedness and we want to contribute with our energy.
Here are some links that may help you with the “adjustment reaction” that comes from realising, hey, what do I do with this feeling?:
Discuss this entry in the Forum.