3 Tips for Thinking Clearly During a Crisis - THINKERS Notebook

This section doesn’t currently include any content. Add content to this section using the sidebar.

Image caption appears here

Add your deal, information or promotional text

3 Tips for Thinking Clearly During a Crisis

Fellow thinker,

I know you are probably scared. 

It's hard not to be. 

News of the COVID-19 pandemic is everywhere and presented in stark and scary terms. The world is in a crisis and our daily routines are disrupted. Our emotions are frazzled with fear. Uncertainty and doubt permeate our every decision.

In times like these, thinking clearly is a challenge. 

But there are a few things that may help you navigate your emotions and clear your head as you consider how to move forward.

1. Recognize that the news is sensationalized.

They want your attention and the ad dollars that come from it, so they continue to run stories that are designed to elicit powerful emotions from you.

This does not mean that you should ignore the news, but you should limit your consumption to just the facts and details and ignore the commentary. After all, there is a reason why we call news segments "stories,"

So filter the fiction and stay with the facts.

2. Do your own research.

There are numerous initial studies that have been published on the COVID-19 outbreak based on research done with patients in China.

Sites like the CDC, Johns Hopkins, The Lancet, and the Journal of the American Medical Association have excellent reports and detailed facts on the current state of the pandemic.

By taking the time to research from authoritative sources, you will be better informed, and, in turn, find confidence in knowing the facts. 

3. Know the history.

The current SARS-Cov-2 that causes the COVID-19 infection is actually a derivative of the SARS virus that first spread in 2002 and 2003.

Like now, entire populations in Toronto, Canada and Asia were quarantined, with schools and businesses closed and public gatherings restricted. And while SARS had little impact in the USA, the measures and responses from other countries to that outbreak can provide some perspective on the challenges and likely outcomes we will face in the near future.

Hopefully, you will see a pattern emerge from these recommendations: protect yourself with knowledge first. 

Don't let your emotions -- agitated by all the news and social media -- drive your decision making. Stay calm by taking the time to do your own research and learn from how similar crises were handled in the past. 

Yes, this current crisis is scary. But all crises are scary at first. Why? Because you don't understand them, and this lack of understanding leads to your thinking being hijacked by your base emotions. 

By taking a few breaths and realizing that you don't know everything, you can start filling that knowledge void and take the time to do your own research. This will help you make decisions from a higher place of reasoning instead of simply reacting to what is on the news. 

We know the days ahead will be difficult for many. We know that you will need to make decisions that will be hard. 

And we also know that you are capable of getting through this and, with a little bit of thinking, you will be better prepared to meet the challenges ahead. 

-- Sean

In this week's THINKERS Roundup, you will find three links that provide additional insight on how to think better in a crisis situation. We also have a series of videos on this topic inside of the THINKERS Workshop.

This Week in the THINKERS Workshop

If you want additional insight on how to think better in a crisis situation, consider checking out our mini course inside of the THINKERS Workshop.

It's called How to Think Clearly During a Crisis.

The individual lessons cover:


  • 3 Steps for Managing Your Fears During a Crisis
  • How to Use the L-C-D Framework to Manage a Crisis
  • 5 Questions That Will Help You Learn From a Crisis

If you are already a member of the THINKERS Workshop, you can access those video lessons at any time. And if you have questions or ideas for follow-up lessons, please leave a comment on the lesson itself (or reply to this email).

Now on to this week's links ...

Stop the chain reaction in its tracks

Even without a constant barrage of bad or worrisome news, your mind’s natural tendency is to get distracted. Our most recent study found that 58% of employees reported an inability to regulate their attention at work. As the mind wanders, research has shown that it easily gets trapped into patterns and negative thinking.

During times of crisis — such as those we are living through now — this tendency is exacerbated, and the mind can become even more hooked by obsessive thinking, as well as feelings of fear and helplessness. It’s why we find ourselves reading story after horrible story of quarantined passengers on a cruise ship, even though we’ve never stepped foot on a cruise ship, nor do we plan to.

When your mind gets stuck in this state, a chain reaction begins. Fear begins to narrow your field of vision, and it becomes harder to see the bigger picture and the positive, creative possibilities in front of you.  As perspective shrinks, so too does our tendency to connect with others. Right now, the realities of how the coronavirus spreads can play into our worst fears about others and increase our feelings of isolation, which only adds fuel to our worries.

Read: Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis (Harvard Business Review)

Practical strategies for moving past emotion to rational thought

Apart from in an emergency situation where an emotion such as fear will prompt you into fight-or-flight mode, most situations need clear, calm thinking rather than blind, emotional responses.

Take a moment to think of, and write down, the sort of situations that you know will trigger your emotions. If you can force the thinking part of your brain to work when you start to feel overwhelmed, you can overcome the rampaging emotional part.

Read: Think clearly in a crisis by managing your emotions (Nursing Times)

How do you prepare for a crisis you can't predict?

In most crisis situations, there is no definite right or wrong. There is no perfect way – only the best we can do. The most important thing is to do something. In almost every case, an imperfect plan is better than no plan, and action is better than inaction.

Remember, if you depend on everyone else to take care of you, you’re leaving the most important person out. Don’t wait to make a plan. Know yourself, know your situation, and be prepared to save your own life.

Read: This is Your Brain on Emergencies (CDC)

Quote of the week

"Losing your head in a crisis is a good way to become the crisis."

-- C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance

Jerod Morris
Chief Creative Thinker