Decision-making during a pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused increased anxiety for people around the world. A lot of aspects of the future are up in the air for a lot of people, and the stress that comes with making big decisions is only exacerbated by the uncertainty.

This anxiety can be especially great for young adults, who are facing a period of their lives when several big decisions need to be made.

Dr. Mark C. Foote, a psychiatrist at Intermountain Healthcare, said a lot of this anxiety comes from the lack of trust people feel for the world around them and that this lack of trust often leads people to pick the option that seems safest when faced with an important decision.

“I think it affects how you view your world. Do you view your world as a safe place, or do you view your world as a place where it’s basically unsafe, where things aren’t going the way you trust that they will go? I think a lot of our decision-making is based on our basic trust in the world, and right now I think that trust in the world is pretty questionable,” Foote said.

The Daily Universe conducted a poll on social media, asking BYU students if they are more stressed about this coming Fall Semester than other semesters they’ve attended at BYU and which things stressed them out the most. While the casual method means the results can’t be scientifically conclusive, the poll does give a basic idea of what some BYU students are feeling anxious about.

The Daily Universe conducted a poll on social media asking students what they were most stressed about for Fall Semester and classes took the lead for being most stressful. (Emily Andersen)

Of the 250 people that responded to the first question (Are you more stressed about this semester than past semesters?), 204 answered yes. The second question asked which of four options — classes, housing, health concerns or traveling to BYU — is the most stressful for students. Of the 277 people that responded to this question, 138 said that classes were the most stressful aspect. Health concern was the second most popular response, followed by housing and then traveling to BYU.

Students also sent in several questions that they have regarding school in the fall. Questions included “What will blended classes look like?,” “How do I handle reckless roommates?” and “How can I relieve stress when a lot of my time is usually spent watching sports?”

Many of the students said they have also dealt with personal decisions like where to live, how to earn money and how much to interact with family. Foote said when making important decisions it’s important to look at things long-term and remember that challenges won’t last forever.

“That’s kind of the history of society, of humankind. We’re good at facing challenges. That doesn’t mean in the short term that things can’t be very, very difficult, but if you’re making decisions, for instance about finishing school or relationships, things like that, really take the long view and have confidence that we will work through our problems,” Foote said.

Foote also suggested that students who are feeling overly stressed should look for ways to improve the world now by voting or protesting or getting involved in other ways. He also said it’s important to be aware of mental health and do things to help relieve anxiety before making big decisions.

“I think that people are looking for other things, more solitary things like meditation, yoga, exercise — things where they can have a little internal peace, time to get through some of the external craziness that we’re living with,” Foote said.

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