Four Basic Needs in Times of Crisis

“CHAOS!” That’s how my 98-year-old friend Don, currently in quarantine in his Care Home, immediately responded when asked to describe in one word what his experience with the pandemic had been like. The word chaos is defined as “complete disorder and confusion”.

“Things change every day … every hour”, Don lamented. “Even the information we are given is altered constantly. Everything is unpredictable. And that causes me a lot of anxiety.”

When everything in your life is turned upside down, it can become chaotic. Routines and protocols no longer provide the structure that was familiar, and that to say the least is unsettling. Questions like “Are we safe? Are we protected?” have no definite answers. Uncertainty and chaos is the root of anxiety.

The biggest fear we have as human beings is the fear of not being able to control things, and when there is chaos, things are out of control. I am sure people whose lives have been affected by this pandemic have felt this and it is important to acknowledge and validate it.

a) The Need for Stabilization

In such situations of crisis or tragedy, personally and organizationally, locally and nationally, there needs to be a sense of stabilization. Here is an important principle:

“Structure is a remedy for chaos.”

I will be suggesting some strategies later to enable us to implement some structure into this chaotic situation we find ourselves in these days.

b) The Need for Understanding

Stabilization is the foundation on which we build understanding. It is hard to grasp reality or comprehend the situation when your mind is in chaos. So the next principle is:

“Understanding is a remedy for fear.”

As we said earlier, the root of every phobia is the fear of not being able to control things. Reassurance backed by action helps things to become more manageable. We have to recognize the reason behind the reaction. Sometimes we are guilty of telling people the “what” and the “how”, and forgetting to tell them the why.

c) The Need for Emotional Release

No doubt you will see and experience a lot of emotions in these days ranging from confusion, frustration, anger guilt and a myriad of others. Patients in hospital; those quarantined in care facilities; families who cannot see loved ones, worrying that their structure has been disrupted, and indeed that their life could be in jeopardy. Not to mention the emotional investment of the front-line heroes who put their own lives on the line every day as they help others.

Every increase in the statistics makes you feel all the more vulnerable to the possibility of so many losses: losing loved ones by death or by distance, losing more freedoms, losing income, business, losing the summer, travel plans and how many more? That makes a tough situation even more difficult. So our principle is:

“Catharsis (Release) is a remedy for pressure.”

Thanks to this pandemic, every single one of us has lost something. Some much more than others, admittedly, but we all need to acknowledge that we have experienced a loss and articulate how we feel about that. Express your grief.

d) The Need for Reorganization

We have stated that the major issue in this situation is the fear generated by our inability to control the situation. Our final principle is very important:

Empowerment is the remedy for loss of control.

In its simplest definition, the empowerment of a person or group is the process of giving them power and status in a challenging situation. It is the subsequent gaining of some sense of control over that situation that will diminish to some extent the feelings of helplessness.

It means that even in the most difficult of life’s challenges, there are still things that we can do becoming stronger and more confident, especially in the area taking charge of our own lives. What can I control and what do I just need to accept. That is the question you need to answer.