Mental Wellness and Decision-Making in the Noisy COVID Environment

African American woman in a mask looks up, points up.
The current conditions require optimal decision-making skills. Make decisions based on your values. Is truth one of your values?

 

The COVID-19 pandemic, triggered a plethora of negative impacts on the wellness and wellbeing of people worldwide. A heightened sense of anxiety, fear, guilt, sadness, lack of trust, and hopelessness paralyzes humanity right now. In the midst of this complexity, people seek answers and hope for these existential challenges.

Our mental discomfort stems from the fact that we tend to seek consistency in our attitudes and perceptions. But, right now, many of us are internally conflicted. And, these information conflicts arise when we have different, or insufficient information, or when we disagree over what data is relevant. Similarly, values conflicts arise within with respect to our own personal beliefs and actions. We are also seeing an escalation in relationship conflicts because of misperceptions, strong negative emotions, and poor communication.

Why is this an important discussion right now? The taking or not taking of the COVID-19 vaccine is an unwarranted and divisive issue, causing unnecessary distraction, resulting in fractured relationships and suffering. People argue about the vaccine’s efficacy or lack thereof. They argue whether it is constitutional to make the vaccine mandatory. They wonder if this is a matter of conscience. While political debates rage, some ethical issues emerge, too, such as when we consider who does and who does not have access to the vaccine, treatments, or healthcare.

What does it mean to know something, and what are the legitimate avenues for gaining knowledge? Good information must have some evidence to back it up. So, it is natural for a person to be skeptical about extravagant claims with little concrete evidence. If we didn’t have this built-in suspicion, we would be suckered into every hare-brained scheme that came along. Therefore, the current conditions require optimal decision-making skills.

Make the best decisions in this “noisy” environment

Adopt a Biblical Worldview

A worldview is “a set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that enable us to process new information and maintain a coherent view of reality” (Harris 2004). Our worldview supplies the interpretive framework for understanding our experiences and the events of the world, and it provides the values that form the basis for decision making.
Make decisions based on your beliefs and values. Is truth one of your values? What are the sources of truth?

Experiment, experience, observation and reason are the answers most epistemologies share. Notably, we must add revelation to the list for a Biblical epistemology because the Bible provides knowledge that cannot be gained through other means.

Finally, assess and evaluate all knowledge claims. “The people in Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica. They were so glad to hear the message Paul told them. They studied the Scriptures every day to make that what they heard was really true” (Acts 17:11 ERV).

Clear the Deck
Prevent Anxiety from Determining Our Decisions and Outcomes

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that almost 300 million people have an anxiety disorder. And, anxiety imposes itself into our lives, causing disruption for so many. One of the ways anxiety interrupts is by causing a decision-making imbalance. When anxiety erupts, it tends to propel our action towards the easiest, and not necessarily the safest option. Put succinctly, if allowed, anxiety can stand in the way of many important life’s decisions.
Neuroscience explains how anxiety works to disengage the pre-frontal cortex, at the front of the brain. The pre-frontal cortex brings flexibility into decision-making. It weighs up consequences, planning, and processes thoughts in a logical and rational way. It helps calm the amygdala, the area of the brain that runs on instinct, impulse and raw emotions, such as fear and worry.

We know that anxiety negatively affects decision-making by reducing the brain’s capacity to screen out distractions in all their forms. Those distractions can include physical things in the environment, and cognitive things such as thoughts and worries. We can stop anxiety intruding on our decisions, first by understanding what triggers it. This is mindfulness, and mindfulness strengthens the capacity of the brain to filter out distractions, enabling us to make more rational and relevant decisions.

Use Your Filter
When trying to make a decision what, or who should you listen to?

Listen to the experts and test the knowledge claims by filtering the information through our worldview they provide. Those values, in turn, form the basis for decision-making. And, never forget the revelatory God factor.

Why is this so important?

Satan is the originator of deceptions and fake news. Jesus called him “the father of lies” (John 8:44). He is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the “prince of this world” (John 12:31), and the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus declared: “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). This verse is especially relevant in light of the trials, troubles, and tribulations we face today.

“The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan for example has so blinded the minds of many that they think they can solve our most intractable problems without the help of our Omnipotent God. Many think “their truth” is the truth,” but self-reliance is spiritual suicide. John the beloved disciple says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6).

Compassionate Communication, Not Coercion

I believe that what people need is more education communicated with love and compassion rather than coercion and hostility. Let us be kind, caring, and polite and avoid labels. That can cut down on the noise and mental conflict created by it.

In my work and influence, I draw on Paul Mascetta’s persuasive method by triggering the emotions, captivating the mind, assessing the landscape, merging with the audience, and influencing thoughts and behaviors. White posits, “Christ’s method alone will bring true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, Follow Me” (Ministry of Healing, p.143).

 

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