How to Manage Emotions in a Crisis

Prevent emotions spiralling out of control with this simple risk management strategy.

Emotions Spiral Out of Control in Unfamiliar Territory

Spiralling emotions wreck concentration, decision making, sleep and performance. In any crisis, it's vital to manage emotions well, so you can think clearly and navigate through the dangers. 

Few of us are well-practised in managing risks that are a matter of life or death, or financial jeopardy. The corona crisis is a double whammy for most of us in this respect.

In an attempt to assess unfamiliar risks, your unconscious can go into overdrive. Speculation and endless what ifs drive stress and anxiety. Emotions spiral. Rational thought crashes. Perspective goes out the window.

In these situations, ill-informed actions can have huge downstream consequences to health, financial security and relationships. So I want to share with you the COMET risk management strategy.

Simple 5-Step Strategy to Evaluate Risks and Manage Emotions in a Crisis (COMET)

There's no rocket science in this strategy. It's intentionally simple. In many ways it's what we do naturally when our emotions are well-balanced.

Manage the presenting risk through each of these 5 steps:

Step 1 - Consequences of the risk happening

Step 2 - Odds of risk happening, then odds of the consequences

Step 3 - Mitigation by reducing above odds

Step 4 - Evaluate options

Step 5 - Take action

Here's a simple example to make it more tangible...

Example: How to manage emotions in the corona crisis using the COMET risk management strategy

Let's look at how this strategy maps onto the simple example of someone considering going to the supermarket during coronavirus lockdown. 

Let's imagine they won't starve as they have a food delivery arriving in 2 weeks. But they would have to ration and live off brussels sprouts until that delivery - a seriously dire situation in my book!

When the think about going to the supermarket their mind fixates on the horrors we see in the media. Death, suffering and a life without toilet roll....

Here's how they could apply the COMET risk management strategy to manage their emotions and make informed decisions:

Step 1 - Consequences of contracting coronavirus could include transmitting the virus, severe illness, or death.

Step 2 - The odds of contracting the virus may assessed using data from a reputable source, such as the NHS or WHO. You want data not drama. What are the odds of contracting the virus?... Then, if that were to happen, what are the subsequent odds of transmitting, of severe illness or death?

Step 3 - Mitigation options: Follow guidance to mitigate the odds of contracting the virus (e.g. minimise viral load by washing hands, social distancing, staying home). Research how the virus is transmitted (again, use a reliable source for data not drama)... Then, research ways to minimise the risk of transmission to others and boost your immune system, so it can better fight off viruses and speed recovery. 

Step 4 - Evaluation of options is now based on best available data. Pair this with your level of certainty in the data and appetite for risk. Write down your evaluations, so you can refer back to them as the situation evolves, or you need reassurance.

Step 5 - What action do you take? Remember this is a decision for now. It can be re-evaluated at a later date as new information becomes available.

Note it's important to think about the range of consequences first (positive and negative), then the odds for each of the consequences second. Assessing odds for each consequence before having the range of consequences could lead to a premature decision - with disastrous consequences!

You can apply this risk management strategy to health, finances, career, sport and more. In fact, I discovered this process during off-piste skiing/snowboarding adventures. I found it useful for quickly evaluating high mountain dangers such as avalanche risk and managing emotions at critical times.

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For more strategies to manage emotions, download our free ebook Freedom from Stress and Anxiety below.