With Victoria now in COVID-normal, how do we cope with constantly making decisions which require us to weigh up the risks?
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While COVID-normal allows us to return to many aspects of the life we enjoyed prior to the pandemic, people are now thinking more carefully about what they do in their day-to-day lives.VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio spoke with Raf Epstein on ABC Melbourne about the psychology of decision-making. In this article we look at:
- What drives our decision-making both physically and mentally?
- How can we arm ourselves to make better decisions?
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The pandemic has certainly changed the way we think about doing things. The possibility of border closures has us staying closer to home and the thought of attending events with large numbers or even just going to the cinema can seem daunting.
So what drives our thought process when it comes to these decisions? And how can we ensure we’re making good choices which will keep us and others safe?
The process of decision-making
Making a decision isn’t just simply seeing two (or more) options in front of you and making a decision, said Sandro. In fact, there’s quite a bit of work which goes into it.
“Decision making is a really complex physiological process, and it involves almost every aspect of our brain. It involves our memory, it involves our higher frontal lobe – insight, reasoning,” he said.
“It’s about balancing up things which have happened in the past with who we are naturally as a person and our personality, with the things we’re told, with the things that we think might happen.”
Although a decision in itself is a thought process, there are physical elements which can affect it as well.
“Things like fatigue and stress do affect [decision making] as well. If you’re not sleeping well or you have chronic stress, those things will also make difficult decisions harder to make,” Sandro said.
How to ensure you’re making an informed decision
The choices we once considered to be easy, can be ones we need to think more deeply about in COVID-normal.
ABC listener Carmel called in about her thought process when going to the cinema, which involved weighing up the risks and rewards, using the information available from trusted sources such as the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sandro agreed her approach was a sound one.
“I think Carmel summarised a great process. She’s well informed so she’s keeping up to date with the information to make sure she’s making a decision based on the best available evidence,” he said.
“She’s listening to reputable sources so she’s not getting stressed by misinformation or false news. She’s ultimately taking all of the precautions that are recommended and trusting authorities and the decisions they’re making on our behalf.
“Once she’s done that, she’s again doing the right things. Physical distancing, washing her hands, checking in to places if needed. All of those things reduce the risks and allow us to enjoy the benefits.”
Sandro said that ultimately it comes down to being settled in your thinking.
“You have to be comfortable with the decisions you’re making as an individual,” he said.
“It’s better to be more cautious and take a little longer if that’s what you’re comfortable with.”
VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio’s tips for good decision-making
- Make sure you’re looking after your mental and physical health. A healthy mind and body are able to make better decisions than when we are tired or stressed. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
- Stay up to date with relevant information. If you’re considering travelling interstate for example, it’s important to check what the coronavirus situation there is before you travel, as this could affect your journey to or from your destination.
- Base your decision on facts. It’s important to listen to the experts who have the most up-to-date information available to them and avoid misinformation.
- Try to take the emotion out of the decision if you can. Although we’re in a stressful time, try to make calm, considered decisions. It’s often better to take longer to make a choice, as this allows you to process more information before acting.
Coronavirus has required all of us to think a bit more about what we choose to do every day. But considered decisions can help keep everyone safe, while enjoying the activities we love.
For more VicHealth articles on how to look after your health into the new year, check out: