Decision-making in COVID-19

By Kiran Dogra and Amanda Hecimovic


Anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can cause us to make irrational choices, like panic buying massive amounts of toilet paper! While businesses and workplaces are re-opening, we make decisions about things we haven’t had to think about before.

For instance, whether it’s safe for us to hug our friends, and then which friends, and when? Racing thoughts can make it hard to figure out what is the “right” choice. By calming our minds and learning how to decide what is right for us, we can make decisions easier.


Firstly, we need to slow down those racing thoughts! We can calm our minds by doing activities that make us distracted, happy, or relaxed. Some examples are exercising, reading, listening to music, cleaning, or cooking. I love to play my favourite music, and dance like nobody's watching. Since privacy can be hard to find these days, I like putting on some headphones, going into my bedroom, and dancing there. In just a few songs, my mind feels calmer and clearer.


Once we’re calm, we can try changing the way we speak to ourselves. Research shows by simply replacing “I/my” with one’s name it decreases feelings of overwhelm or confusion. For instance, it’s stressful deciding between wanting to hug our friend, or keeping safer with distance. Or, we may want to celebrate someone’s birthday with a small group of people, but we might feel uncomfortable if we don't know all the other people or if the celebration is held indoors. In this case, we can pretend that a kind coach or friend is talking to us. When we’re trying to make a decision, making a simple name change can keep us calm and helps us feel like we’re getting an outsider’s perspective. These are some questions we can ask ourselves when we feel confused to help serve as a guide for values-based, calm decisions:

  1. What is [your name] feeling? (e.g., overwhelmed, uncertain, anxious)

  2. Why is [your name] feeling this way? (e.g., pressure with self-expectations, others expectations, wanting more control of the unknown, conflict between thoughts and feelings)

  3. What is [your name] most important personal values?

  4. What is [your name]’s view on their role as a family member, friend, employee or member of the community?

Every decision isn’t going to be perfect. It’s okay to change our minds if things aren’t working out, especially if we learn new information about COVID-19. We can always ease our minds with a relaxing task, be our inner friend, and ask ourselves questions should the anxious and overwhelming thoughts reappear.

https://hbr.org/2020/03/slow-down-to-make-better-decisions-in-a-crisis

www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-couch/202007/why-is-decision-making-so-hard-during-pandemic

https://www.happinesslab.fm/coronavirus-bonus-episodes/episode-2-coach-yourself-through-a-crisis

https://towardsdatascience.com/smarter-covid-19-decision-making-39dbff2ab2ba

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