I haven’t been able to write because of the war in Ukraine.
I’m not going to talk about the why and the how, and how to help the victims of this terrorist action. There are many other sources for this.
I rather want to share a few thoughts on how to stay sane, even when things become overwhelming. Let’s call it Practical Stoicism.
Here in Finland life goes on as usual, with the only exception of the media focus on the war and charity ads. But it’s still hard to read the news every day and to live with expectations of what’s coming. The Winter War gets mentioned more and more these days, as there as chances it may happen again.
Bad news such as war events is always an Attention Magnet that captures people’s attention and consumes their thoughts.
The brain reacts to bad news the same way as to a threat. This makes it dedicate more “processing power” to the information and takes away priority over other thoughts.
This is an important survival mechanism, but this is also one of the main drivers of anxiety.
People may learn to filter bad news out, to be able to cope with reality and live their daily lives. The more adversity a person has experienced in their life, the easier it is for them to filter out bad news.
However, if there is a chance that bad events may come to where you live — you would be much more worried about possible future threats.
Many people are getting over-stressed about possible doomsday scenarios.
There are different possible ways of how things will go, and there is a lot of uncertainty right now.
Uncertainty induces more anxiety and even makes us physically feel bad. Especially the uncertainty of threats to the way of living or survival.
How to keep calm under uncertainty
The way to deal with uncertainty — is to turn uncertainty into certainty.
Knowing what to do in a certain situation gives certainty. Having some sort of plan, or a list of options would help restore the sense of control.
Preparing a Contingency Plan requires a bit of work, but otherwise, is pretty straightforward. You can use a text editor, or even better — a mind map.
Write down a list of bad things that can happen, based on your best judgement.
Let’s take as an example: “A gigantic meteorite destroys the whole city”.
Under every such item write all the possible scenarios between the best case and the worst case, e.g. “the meteorite is detected early and the population is alerted” and “it falls completely undetected, and my house is in the epicenter”
Strikeout those items, where there is absolutely nothing you can do to change the situation.
Your goal here is to stop thinking and worrying about such scenarios so that you can focus your thought process on those where you can actually do something.
For every case where you can do something — take some time to think through and to visualize how the events will unfold. Try to make a timeline.
Use existing content to make it easier, here is a great video about which meteorites to worry about.
For example, in the case of a meteorite warning: “People will start evacuating in panic, which would create traffic jams on main highways out of the city.”
Now, understanding this — you’re in a much better position to prepare.
For every case, you can write down what you’re going to do in a certain situation.
You can, for example, map out your shortest way out of the city, so that you know exactly where to go, which would help you leave before the panic congestion. You can prepare a backpack with extra clothes, cash and snacks and put it in your closet, etc.
Take some time to think all possible details through.
The more scenarios and the more details you can cover — the more in control you will start to feel.
Fortune favours the prepared mind.
— Louis Pasteur
In addition to the obvious benefits of increasing your chances for survival, preparing a contingency plan will clear up the fog of uncertainty and will free you from any anxiety or worrying about the future.
If you want to sleep even better, you can actually do some preparations, collect a survival kit and stock up on canned and dry food and a canister of water.
Here are some useful tips for disruptions and emergencies.
Take care and stay sane.
Until next time 👋
Humans are more resilient than this. Yes it helps to have a plan. Generally it is impossible to have a plan for multiple scenarios in life. So plans might help a few people few of the time. For the rest we’re adaptive race. We figure things out as life unfolds.