It’s Going to Be a Long Winter — Stockpile Your Coping Strategies
What would you do if you knew the world was about to end? Like any doomsday prepper, you’d probably stock up on the supplies you would need to survive the impending catastrophe: the nonperishable food, the bottled water, the first-aid kit.
Well, it’s not quite the apocalypse, but as we approach the darker, colder days of our pandemic winter, life as we’ve come to know it these past several months — our tenuous grasp on something resembling normalcy — is coming to an end. And a prepper mindset could help you make it through the long, isolated days ahead, only instead of stockpiling cans of beans, you’re building up your supply of coping strategies.
Natalie Dattilo, a psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says emotional doomsday prepping has a pretty simple scientific basis. Your own stress cuts you off from your resources because your brain can’t easily learn new things when it’s in fight-or-flight mode. “Under stress, the thinking centers of the brain basically go offline, and we don’t retain the ability to think clearly or problem-solve,” Dattilo says.
If you know you’ll need to cope with harder times down the road — say, during the isolation of a long winter — start learning and implementing new strategies now. Your stressed-out brain will thank you.
When you’re in a high-stress situation, your amygdala, the brain’s threat-detection system, “hijacks” your functioning, and all the mental energy that would go toward decision-making or rational thinking is diverted to getting you out of danger. That’s helpful when you’re trying to outrun a bear but not so helpful when you need to work or take care of kids. Dattilo says you can train your brain not to rush into a full-blown stress response, but you have to practice that emotional regulation ahead of time.