You may be experiencing everything from panic, dread, and fear to anxiety, stress, and sadness. You’re not alone. Understanding emotions as you navigate the daily changes of a worldwide pandemic can be difficult, and it can take a toll. What concerns me the most is that the social distancing required to stop the spread of the virus will take another kind of toll.
Are you ignoring your feelings as you shelter in place? Is it your instinct to stuff down the strong sense of worry at not knowing what to expect next? Have you remained steady for the rest of your family because you are the one they look to for guidance? Is that at the expense of venting your own emotions so you can deal with them in a healthy way?
It may make some people feel better to know that every human being on the planet struggles with managing the uncertainty, lack of control, and fear of the unknown. But for some people, their personal experience matters most because it’s changing in real-time, and it’s scary.
Regardless of which camp you’re in, you’ll be able to process the emotions that arise during this global health crisis if you choose to face them and evolve through the changes in your circumstances.
In the spirit of helping as our lives change before our eyes, the following are five ways to manage the emotional roller coaster, shift your perspective and position you better for the duration and beyond.
Don’t Fight It—Acknowledge & Act
Pushing down emotions will only create the opportunity for them to rise again—usually, at the most inopportune time. So, taking care of them as they surface is the safest game plan.
To be at your best, for yourself and for those who depend on you, notice when strong emotions come up. For instance, where does fear land in your body? Is it a heaviness in your chest or throat? Perhaps you feel a stone in your stomach.
Get curious about it and describe the feeling. Write down some details about the fear you feel.
- What worries you?
- How can you mitigate the fear?
- What action can you take to make yourself feel better?
- If you could feel something else, what would it be?
Sometimes, you might need to vent the emotion literally—by crying uncontrollably or screaming into a pillow. If this will make you feel better, do that without hurting anyone else and then get curious about what you’re feeling.
When you take small steps to change the way you feel, you get to let go of the fear and choose to feel something that supports you. And you can use this same practice to manage any of the other emotions that may well-up in you—panic, anxiety, anger, sadness. Whatever it is, first notice it. Then, choose to do something with it. Processing your emotions in this way can help to mitigate their effect.
Change Your Habits
Your routine is upside down—if you even have one now that you’re working from home or out of work entirely. With the kids home, too, there is home-schooling and keeping them occupied. Your partner may be working from home, adding to the chaos.
Nerves are frazzled, tempers are short. Consequently, everyone is getting under your skin. And, it’s only been a couple of weeks. Can you imagine how you’ll feel after another week or two, or a month?
If you’re like me, when my routine is upset, I am an unhappy camper. And everyone around me feels the brunt of my anger. That’s when I need an attitude adjustment and a change of perspective. How else can I look at my situation and make it better?
What new routines can you create that make the best of your circumstances? Such as:
- Schedule computer time for everyone in the family to get their work done.
- Create a list of activities for family time, so you’re never at a loss for something to do together.
- Teach the kids to do new things that they haven’t had time to learn because they have been so busy with school, friends, sports, and the like.
- Plan “me-time” for everyone, so you each get some space, peace, and quiet.
- Find creative ways to stay in touch with family and friends, like playing a game together on FaceTime or Zoom.
- Do a workout routine at home rather than at the gym—involve the family in it.
Accept that the situation is what it is and find new ways to adapt to it. By changing your habits so you can minimize the emotional toll, you will reduce the anxiety and lack of control you feel. That will go a long way toward understanding emotions that arise.
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Control What You Can
The inability to control what is going on around you is probably the most unsettling feeling of all. I know it is for me. Consequently, strong emotions bubble up and create panic, fear, and stress.
You might be feeling an overwhelming sense of loss for your world as you knew it just a few short weeks ago. The sudden changes in your life, over which you have little or no control, are making you anxious and concerned about what’s next.
My best advice is to take a deep breath and focus on those things you can control. For instance, you can control:
- What time you get up in the morning and go to bed at night—part of your routine.
- How much television you watch to stay informed—reducing the exposure to information that feeds the fear.
- Your response to any situation—you get to make a choice every time.
- The thoughts in your head, consciously changing them to positive ones.
- How you focus on the moment and channel your good energy to uplift and support yourself and those around you.
My ‘go-to’ prayer in times likes this is: God grant me the Serenity to accept things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.
By understanding emotions and keeping them check, it will help you to keep things you can control under control.
There is nothing worse than isolation when our emotions are raw, and we feel vulnerable. For this reason alone, staying connected to your people is essential. Although we must remain physically distant for the time being, we can stay emotionally connected.
Getting creative and making it fun can add joy to your day. I recently attended a virtual networking meeting on Zoom that was a ton of laughs because everyone had a story to tell, and we all felt the collective camaraderie. After it was over, I felt uplifted and linked to this group of women, plus I felt hopeful as I ponder new ideas and insights that I hadn’t thought of myself.
Share your thoughts, process your feelings, allow them to come through, and open yourself to meaningful conversations. We are social creatures by nature, even those among us who are introverts. That means we need to feel connected, especially to those we trust and love.
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Reach Out to Help Others
You’ll feel better when you do. My husband’s health puts him into several of the high-risk categories, so he is hunkered down at home. In light of that, I am cautious about where I go, so I don’t bring any “nasties” home to him.
Our neighbors have been kind and generous to ask if we need anything every time they head to a store. They stocked our refrigerator and pantry, and we know people are watching over us in case we need anything else. We feel so blessed and grateful.
And, we had the chance to pay it back when a friend had to close his pub and gave us restaurant-sized portions of fish, meat, veggies—way too much for the two of us. So, we shared them with our two neighbor families who are taking such good care of us. Made my heart feel better that we could reciprocate in a small way.
Giving what you can for others in greater need expresses your compassion and love. When you are feeling those emotions, there is no room for fear and stress at the same time. Decide to do something beautiful for someone else and feel how your energy elevates, and your spirit lifts. Feeling better in these uncertain times becomes a precious commodity, and it’s one we can create at any time.
Deepen your awareness of what is going on within you, so processing your emotions becomes part of your everyday practice.
This world-changing event will be the cause of a fundamental transition for everyone. As we ride the wave and process our feelings along the way, we’ll land with both feet on the ground. We’ll be ready to take on the next chapter and see the opportunities coming through the windows that open.
The First Step
If you are facing adversity and living with uncertainty about how to move beyond it, you may wonder if it’s even possible. Making choices that move you forward can be hard, and getting some guidance may be just what you need. Start by exploring how change can impact you? And learn how to move through it with more dignity and grace by reading my free ebook, then let’s have a chat. Click here to take the first step: From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.